Feathered Bastard

David Hendershott's Depo: Kris Kobach Under Contract for $250-$300 Per Hour, Paid for by RICO Slush Fund

The local press' lead on the recent deposition of MCSO Chief Deputy David Hendershott in the federal racial-profiling lawsuit Melendres vs. Arpaio was Hendershott's contention that a vast lefty conspiracy is out to get his boss Sheriff Joe Arpaio. 

Actually, Hendershott had made the same basic claim in previous statements to a reporter from the New Yorker.

But the deposition itself, the transcript of which you can read in three PDF files here -- part one,  part two, and part three -- contains revealing exchanges between the Chief Deputy and his interrogator, Steptoe & Johnson attorney David Bodney. Hendershott also coughs up some info on the MCSO's new immigration tutor, far-right nativist attorney Kris Kobach.

Kobach -- an attorney for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the nativist hate group FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform -- was recently announced by Sheriff Joe to be the guy responsible for training all of Arpaio's nearly 900 deputies on how to enforce federal immigration law, minus any grant of authority to do so by the feds.

Both Arpaio and Kobach have been elusive on how much he's being paid and who's paying him. But under oath Hendershott stated that Kobach is being paid "either $250 an hour or $300 an hour," out of county RICO coffers, that is, money derived from the confiscation of criminal assets. 

Hendershott said Kobach came highly recommended by deputy Maricopa County Attorney Clarisse McCormick, that a contract with Kobach is already in effect, and that Kobach's billing clock is ticking.

(In the past, both the MCSO and the MCAO have used RICO money like a personal slush fund to do with as each office pleases, whether it's been for Herndershott's strange, still unexplained missions to Honduras to train traffic cops down there or for County Attorney Andrew Thomas' newspaper insertions featuring himself prominently during an election year. The hiring of Kobach is only the latest example of the squandering of county RICO dollars.)

The Chief Deputy seemed unconcerned when confronted with Kobach's ties to nativist extremist groups. Hendershott's lawyer Tim Casey claimed not to know what a "nativist" is, but perhaps Casey was just jealous that Kobach's getting about $100 more per hour from the legal honey pot than Casey himself. (Casey makes $190 per hour according to the county.) 

Among the other revelations: Hendershott admitted that he hasn't had any instruction on how to avoid racial profiling since he was in the police academy in 1978 (back "when Jesus bought his sandles," he cracked); the fact that he has at least three e-mail accounts he does business on, an MCSO account, a family account and at least one other; and that, if deleted, county e-mails supposedly vanish within 28 days, and are thereafter unrecoverable.

Hendershott feigned ignorance of two federal statutes that make it illegal to profile based on race. He repeatedly insisted that the MCSO doesn't racial profile, and he could cite no instance where the MCSO has ever punished an employee for racial profiling. The Chief Deputy also asserted the color-blindness of the MCSO, saying, "everybody is khaki in our organization."

Bodney and Casey got into the occasional verbal donnybrook, and Hendershott made constant accusations that Bodney was playing to the media. But Bodney never swayed from his mission, establishing that the MCSO had never opened an investigation into the primary complaint in the lawsuit, that there was almost no oversight into the choice of locations for the MCSO's anti-immigrant sweeps, nor any real follow-up training for deputies regarding racial profiling.

Hendershott stated that the MCSO has never seriously considered videotaping or audiotaping traffic stops as a measure to combat racial profiling, nor has it ever compared its operations to other big-city police departments to learn how they avoid racial profiling.

Hendershott claimed the reason the MCSO would not cooperate with investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice looking to MCSO civil rights violations was because one DOJ lawyer Shanetta Cutlar had allegedly "lied" to the MCSO regarding the probe. Hendershott insisted Cutlar knew the DOJ and other federal agencies such as ICE were working together in collusion against the MCSO. Yet Cutlar supposedly told him there was no such arrangement. He used the expletive "shit" once in recalling her name.

The pugnacious Chief Deputy also admitted to secretly taping a meeting that involved himself and several DOJ lawyers. This was the same meeting about which Hendershott made an infamous quip to New Yorker reporter William Finnegan, saying that he (Hendershott) was going to "shove it up their ass" when the MCSO met with the DOJ. The discussion of this prompted the following exchange between Bodney and Hendershott regarding the DOJ's six attorneys:

Bodney: And did you have animus towards all six of these lawyers?

Hendershott: I had no animus towards any of them.

Bodney: Well, you said you were going to shove it up their ass...

Towards the end of the depo, there was much discussion of the East Valley Tribune's Pulitzer Prize-winning series "Reasonable Doubt." The series prompted an internal MCSO investigation into claims by reporter Ryan Gabrielson that an MCSO Detective Cosme did not have probable cause to pull over a vehicle later found to be transporting illegal immigrants. 

Hendershott concluded Gabrielson was wrong after Gabrielson declined to be interviewed by MCSO. This, despite the fact that Cosme apparently claimed -- ahem -- that he couldn't recall Gabrielson doing a ride-along with him, though even Hendershott admits there was one.

The Cosme matter offered a point of irony for Bodney, who noted that Hendershott was critical of the Justice Department for investigating the MCSO based on media accounts. And yet, Hendershott had to admit he'd done exactly the same thing when he'd opened an internal investigation into Cosme based on Gabrielson's report in the Tribune.

Additionally, Hendershott made clear during the depo that he's the MCSO's jefe: Pretty much everyone at the MCSO, save for Arpaio, reports to Hendershott. "You cannot launch an internal investigation without me," he said at one point.

The powerful top cop even admitted to breaking department policy concerning internal investigations by not reporting the Cosme probe to Arpaio, as MCSO policy states he should. Hendershott conceded he's been departing from this policy for years.

Throughout the six hour depo, you get a portrait of a man who can do whatever he wants, and needs only rationalize his actions to himself.

At one point, he accused Bodney of "asking questions of me to benefit and extort information from me." Bodney confronted Hendershot on the point, asking Hendershott if extortion is a crime. 

"Yeah, extortion is a crime," Hendershott replied. The Chief Deputy took pains to note that his use of the word "extort" was only semantics.

Still, Bodney asked, "Are you conducting an investigation of me?" To which Hendershott responded in the negative. 

Wise move on Bodney's part, as the counselor was throughout this depo jousting with a dangerous man. Far more dangerous than Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons