Joe Arpaio's Posse Pal Mike Zullo Lashes Out at Judge, Lawyers

Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Cold Case Posse commander Mike Zullo is madder than Donald Trump at a mariachi convention.

Zullo's latest, hotheaded filing in Arpaio's contempt case before federal Judge G. Murray Snow takes aim at Snow, the ACLU, the law firm of Covington and Burling, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer, once head of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department. 

What does Breuer have to do with Arpaio's ongoing contempt case?

Um, nothing, save that Breuer, long a bugbear to the far right, was one of those named in the phony, anti-Arpaio conspiracy that the MCSO's confidential informant, ex-CIA subcontractor and alleged computer whiz Dennis Montgomery, helped Arpaio flesh out, for about $120,000 in cash payments.
See, there's a lot of misdirected animosity in Zullo's screed, which was filed pro se, meaning that Zullo's currently representing himself.

He disses the ACLU for opposing his bid for an extension of time to find a lawyer, promises to appeal Snow's recent denial of Zullo's request for an extension, and blasts the ACLU's co-counsel, the international firm of Covington and Burling, for getting paid legal fees after proving the MCSO guilty of racial profiling in Melendres v. Arpaio.
Note to Zullo: That's the way lawsuits work: loser pays. Also, it has zip to do with you.

The putative reason for Zullo's most recent motion is to seek a stay from Snow so Zullo can appeal the judge's rejection of his request for a 30-day delay to score a lawyer.

But it's tough to imagine Snow's being receptive to a motion that spends so much time trashing him. 

For instance, Zullo dredges up the issue of Snow's brother-in-law working for the DC office of Covington and Burling, though Covington and Burling is a mega-firm, and boasts more than 850 "lawyers and advisers" worldwide, according to its website.

Meaning Snow's in-law is one schmo among many. 
Actually, this in-law issue was raised by the plaintiffs in 2012, but none other than Arpaio himself put the kibosh on the matter.

"I'm confident in this judge and the judicial system, and I'm not asking for the judge to be removed from this case," Arpaio told the local press at the time. "In my opinion, this is just a ploy by the plaintiffs to delay the trial."

The matter came up again this year, long after Arpaio's 2013 loss in Melendres, when Arpaio's lawyers tried, and failed, to have Snow recuse himself from the case.

Zullo nastily insinuates that Snow was doing his brother-in-law's firm a favor when the judge "ordered million of dollars in legal fees awarded to Covington and Burling."
It's the sort of broadside one might expect in a legal filing by someone with an extreme ideological bent, feeding into the ridiculous conspiracy theories of the far right. 

But Zullo's problem, supposedly, is that he doesn't have an attorney paid for by Maricopa County. And that is a problem that neither Snow nor the plaintiffs nor the DOJ, has anything to do with.

In fact, the position taken by the county is that it doesn't have to do squat for Zullo. This, despite the civil attorneys now heading up Arpaio's defense — John Masterson and Joe Popolizio of Jones, Skelton, Hochuli — having given everyone the impression, including the court, Zullo and the media, that it represented Zullo.  
Indeed, in late September, Masterson filed a motion to partially quash a subpoena filed by the plaintiffs' seeking documents from Zullo. 

Technically, Masterson did this on Arpaio's behalf, but the motion itself is all about how Zullo was inconvenienced by the subpoena, which subjected the posse man to an "undue burden."

Masterson's move scored an amended subpoena from the plaintiffs to Zullo. 

Then, during an October 6 telephonic status conference, Masterson's co-counsel Popolizio informed the court and the plaintiffs that he was kinda-sorta Zullo's attorney.

Popolizio said he was in contact with Zullo over complying with the subpoena. And he seemed to affirm that he represented Zullo when asked by plaintiffs.

Snow sought clarification, and Popolizio offered the following bit of legalese:

"I am representing him, Your Honor," Popolizio told the court. "Within the, you know, to protect the privilege, and within the Arizona state statute confines as an agent representative or employee type of the Sheriff's Office, but with regard to personal representation as other people may have in this suit, no."

This was akin to the answer Masterson gave on October 8, when New Times asked him if Jones, Skelton represented Zullo.

Masterson replied that, yes, Jones, Skelton was representing Zullo, in the sense that Zullo, as a volunteer posse-man, was following Arpaio's direction while involved in the Seattle investigation and, therefore, was under the sheriff's authority.

Fast-forward to October 23, when Zullo showed up for his scheduled deposition in Arpaio's contempt case, only to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, because, he said, Jones, Skelton's legal beagles recently had informed him that they were not his attorneys.

"Until two days ago, I thought I was going to have representation in this deposition," Zullo told plaintiffs' attorney Stanley Young. "It's come to light that I don't."

Zullo had turned over documents related to the Seattle probe to Jones, Skelton, and asked that they withhold 87 items from the plaintiffs, because they might be protected by Zullo's 5th and 4th Amendment and due-process privileges.

Snow already has said he does not believe Zullo's Fifth Amendment rights apply to the disputed documents, but the judge is willing to entertain Zullo's arguments, with or without an attorney. 

In his initial pro se motion, Zullo stated that he needed the time to dicker with the county about it paying for his counsel. As for the Jones, Skelton crew, Zullo contended that "these lawyers have violated my constitutional rights."

Snow shot down that motion so Zullo filed another, mostly blasting those mentioned above, but saving some spleen for Jones, Skelton, slamming them for "false statements" meant to "fraudulently induce me to turn over documents."

Zullo has a point, in that the posse operates under the MCSO's authority and is covered by the county's self-insurance policy, referred to as "risk management." 

But Melendres is not a risk-management case, as it is not seeking damages but relief in the form of altered behavior and policies. 

Nevertheless, the county is paying for the legal fees of those associated in Arpaio's contempt trial, save for any criminal attorneys, which all of the five co-defendants have retained.

Richard Walker, the county's representative in the contempt trial, filed a response to Zullo's first motion, stating:

"Based on information presently available to the County and current County policy, the County does not consider Mr. Zullo to be eligible to have counsel provided for him in this matter at County expense."

Asked about this statement by New Times, County Attorney spokesman Jerry Cobb explained that it was his understanding that Zullo "believes he needs representation to address possible criminal allegations."

The county will not pay for criminal attorneys, he said.

Regarding possible civil counsel for the posse commander, Zullo "has not asked for representation nor have we made a decision not to represent him," Cobb claimed.

Zullo's hyperbolic, ideological attacks aside, the posse commander has a good case for being represented, at least civilly, at Maricopa County's expense.

For instance, Detective Brian Mackiewicz has testified that Zullo was under his command while the pair were in Seattle, overseeing Dennis Montgomery's work.

Zullo also took direct orders from Arpaio, as evidenced by Arpaio's sending him to San Diego in late 2013 to track down an allegation from an Arpaio-friendly photographer that Arpaio and his wife Ava's phones were getting tapped by the DOJ.

Arpaio assigned Zullo and Mackiewicz to the Seattle caper, you see. And Sergeant Travis Anglin, Mackiewicz's supervisor for part of the time Mackiewicz was in Seattle, testified that at one point that he got Zullo removed from the case, only to have Arpaio put Zullo right back on.

MCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan signed off on airfare, lodging, and travel expenses for Zullo. MCSO documents also show that Zullo was assigned a vendor number by the county, expressly so he could be paid a per diem while in Seattle of $71 per day. 

You know, just like a county employee.

Of course, Zullo's expenses are some of the many incurred by Arpaio in the course of the Melendres case, which all told will have cost the county more than $50 million by the end of Fiscal Year 2016.

According to Sheridan, the Seattle investigation cost at least $250,000.

County spokesman Fields Moseley says the Board of Supervisors has not ordered an audit of the Seattle investigation, as it did in 2012 with Zullo and Mackiewicz's excursion to Hawaii to investigate President Obama's birth certificate.

Though the Hawaii trip only cost a fraction of Arpaio's loony Seattle operation. 

Now, suddenly, the county has discovered its fiduciary responsibility in refusing to pay for Zullo's lawyer? 

Some things never change. The Board of Supervisors publicly cowers in fear of Arpaio, while this year it  was forced to raise property taxes to fill the gap left by Arpaio's costly monkeyshines. 

Outrage from taxpayers over the Melendres morass and the waste of public money by the sheriff would be helpful in forcing the Supervisors to act.

In the absence of such outrage, the Board allows Arpaio to reign supreme.

Zullo is the plaintiffs' last witness, if they can get him deposed. The defense has a couple of witnesses, then case should wrap up after oral arguments. 

Then all of these games will be done, while we await Snow's decision on whether he refers Arpaio and Sheridan to the U.S. Attorney for possible criminal prosecution.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons