Detention Officer Flap Causes Judge to Recuse Herself From Case; Sheriff's Office Not Taking Inmates to Hearings

A judge has recused herself from the case that sparked a contempt-of-court order for a detention officer who removed papers from a defense attorney's file.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Lisa Flores filed a minute entry this morning saying the court can't rely on the Sheriff's Office to get a man to court in time for his December 14 sentencing hearing. Antonio Solis Lozano, had been awaiting sentencing for his role in a 2008 jail fight when detention officer Adam Stoddard took the papers from his attorney's file. (The video of Stoddard taking the papers has drawn more than 112,000 views on YouTube).

After Lozano's public defender, Joanna Cuccia, raised a fuss, the court's criminal presiding judge, Gary Donahoe, ordered Stoddard to either apologize or report to jail. Stoddard has been in jail for a week now, though authorities admit he's getting special treatment.

 As we reported yesterday, Flores' court has been among those affected by a scarcity of detention officers these days. But when Flores' assistant called the Sheriff's Office to find out why inmates weren't being delivered to their scheduled hearings, she was told -- twice -- that Flores' detention officer was in jail. While that's true, it seems rather flip to bring up -- after all, the defendants who are relying on the legal system for timely hearings don't care whether the detention officer is sick or in jail.

Flores' minute entry says none of the jailed defendants who were supposed to attend hearings in her court on December 2, yesterday or today. On other days last week, inmates were brought to the court late.

To make sure Lozano gets to his sentencing in a timely fashion, Flores orders his case to be reassigned.

See Flores' minute entry below:

The above-named Defendant is scheduled for sentencing in this Division on December 14, 2009 at 8:30 am. Although this Court has prepared to sentence the Defendant in this matter as scheduled and expected to go forward that day, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has elected not to assign a deputy or detention officer to this Division to bring in-custody defendants for hearings. No in-custody defendants were transported to this courtroom on December 2, 2009 at 8:30 am for the morning calendar. On December 3 and December 4, 2009 in-custody defendants were transported at approximately 9:45 each morning for the 8:30 calendar, after some matters had already been reset because the MCSO refused to confirm a time that the defendants would be transported and some attorneys were unable to wait. On December 7, 2009, no in-custody defendants were transported to the courtroom. (MCSO Deputy Gonzales called at 11:52, more than three hours after the 8:30 am calendar start time.) On December 8, 2009, no in-custody defendants were transported to the courtroom. As of 10:35 am, when this ruling was being completed, no MCSO personnel had communicated with the Court's staff about transportation of the in-custody defendants for that day.

This Court is unable to rely on the MCSO to transport the Defendant to this Division for the sentencing proceeding set December 14, 2009. This Court finds it necessary to recuse itself from the matter and have the case assigned to another judicial officer not because of any bias or conflict on its part, but only for the purpose of assuring that the Defendant is sentenced as scheduled, within time limits prescribed by Rule 26.3.

IT IS ORDERED referring this matter to Judge Donahoe for reassignment.

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