The Arizona Attorney General's Office has declined to prosecute Sheriff Joe Arpaio's favorite deputy, Brian Mackiewicz, on allegations that Mackiewicz abused his overtime while working on the MCSO's notorious Seattle investigation, which involved a 13-month probe of a kooky anti-Arpaio conspiracy theory that supposedly included federal Judge G. Murray Snow as well as many others.
As was revealed during Arpaio's civil contempt trial last year, Arpaio ran the operation himself, dispatching Mackiewicz, another deputy, and Cold Case Posse commander Mike Zullo to Seattle to babysit a paid confidential informant and alleged computer whiz by the name of Dennis Montgomery.
A full accounting of the cost of the probe has yet to be provided, though sources tell this reporter that the total cost could run as high as $1 million. During his testimony at the civil trial, Arpaio's Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan claimed that the Seattle investigation cost $250,000, drawn largely from RICO funds. Public records previously have revealed that Montgomery was paid $120,000 in cash for his work as a computer consultant.
According to the AG's official turn-down notice on the case, made public today, Mackiewicz was accused of theft and fraud, specifically of padding his overtime during the Seattle probe, and going on dates with various women while claiming overtime.
But the investigation, performed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, provided "insufficient evidence" of wrongdoing, according to the document, leaving the AG's office with "no reasonable likelihood of conviction."
The notice also relates the following:
"The investigators learned that Mackiewicz had women he was dating fly to Washington [state] to meet with him while he was there on assignment. Investigators interviewed these women and learned that the women did visit Mackiewicz, but that he continuously used his cell phone to communicate with others while he was out on dates."
As the notice explains, the cell phone provider's records were incomplete, and the company did not maintain text message records. Investigators obtained the cell phone Mackiewicz used on the assignment, only to find that it "had been restored to factory settings prior to Mackiewicz returning his phone to MCSO."
Asked about that wording of that phrase, AG spokeswoman Mia Garcia told New Times that it was her understanding that restoring the cell phone to factory setting essentially deletes all of its content.
Another problem was that Sheriff Arpaio, whom Garcia says was interviewed by DPS as part of the investigation, essentially gave Mackiewicz carte blanche for the deputy's escapades in Seattle. According to the turn-down document, investigators found that Arpaio had given Mackiewicz "broad authority" to pursue the Seattle probe outside of the chain of command, and without any administrative restrictions.
Contacted by phone for this article, Mackiewicz bragged that he knew all along that he would not be prosecuted. He claimed not to know what the AG was talking about in reference to his cell phone being restored to factory settings and denied making any changes to the phone. He also declined to discuss the allegations regarding his amorous pursuits in Seattle.
"You know I'm not going to talk to you about anything," Mackiewicz told me. "I think you've done enough damage to me when there's plenty of other people you can focus on in the office."
Indeed, it seems my reporting on an MCSO internal investigation into allegations that Mackiewicz had slept with three female crime victims bore some interesting fruit. You may recall that Mackiewicz admitted the affairs to MCSO investigators, one having taken place after he had been ordered by a superior officer not to sleep with the woman. The internal investigation resulted in Mackiewicz being placed on suspension for 80 hours, the most severe punishment for a deputy, barring termination.
As a result of a recent public records request to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, I learned that Mackiewicz had been placed on the so-called "Brady list" of law enforcement officers in the county whose prior bad behavior must be revealed to defense attorneys before trials where the cops may testify. An e-mail obtained through the records request revealed that the county attorney's law enforcement liaison Keith Manning asked MCSO for the file on Mackiewicz's sleeping with victims after reading my March 4 article on the case.
Mackiewicz declined to comment about being placed on the Brady list. He is still employed by the MCSO, though in previous conversations, he told me that he planned to retire this year. During this latest conversation, I asked him if he still planned to retire soon, but he would not answer the question.
The deputy may also face an investigation by Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training, the regulatory body which certifies peace officers in state. Arizona POST's executive director Jack Lane told me via e-mail today that POST had received the file on Mackiewicz from the MCSO several weeks ago, and that it will be reviewed to determine if there is any evidence that POST rules were violated and if a POST investigation is necessary. He expects a decision within 60 to 90 days.
Mackiewicz has faced repeated allegations that he enjoys a protected status at the MCSO because he is favored by both Arpaio and Sheridan. When asked about this characterization, Mackiewicz has denied it, stating that he receives more scrutiny than any other deputy at MCSO.
Yet, during Arpaio's testimony in the 2015 contempt trial, the sheriff acknowledged that Mackiewicz was "very important to me personally," because of the work Mackiewicz had done involving alleged threats against the sheriff.
Also, Sheridan admitted during the trial that his realtor wife, Stacie Sheridan, had a business relationship with Mackiewicz, having sold Mackiewicz properties, and that she stood to make $100,000 in commissions in transactions with Mackiewicz's girlfriend.
Ultimately, both Sheridan and Arpaio were found guilty of civil contempt by Judge Snow, the trial judge in the civil rights case Melendres v. Arpaio, from which the contempt allegations arose.
Snow has since referred Sheridan, Arpaio, and two others — MCSO Captain Steve Bailey and former Arpaio attorney Michele Iafrate — for criminal contempt charges, which the U.S. Department of Justice will prosecute.
The Seattle investigation figures prominently in Snow's 32-page order in August on the criminal contempt allegations. In it, Snow accuses both Arpaio and Sheridan of lying under oath about the Seattle probe, and of withholding evidence about the controversial investigation. The first hearing in their criminal case is scheduled for October 11 before federal Judge Susan R. Bolton.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.