An upper echelon that willfully defies the orders of a federal judge and may have committed perjury on the witness stand.
A county sheriff and chief deputy with enough chutzpah to "investigate" the U.S. Department of Justice, the CIA, and federal judges, all on the word of a Seattle scammer.
A bogus "investigation" into the wife of the aforementioned federal judge for something that's not even a crime.
This is just some of the ground covered during a four-day hearing before U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow in which Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, tried mightily to save themselves from criminal-contempt charges in the ACLU's big racial profiling case Melendres v. Arpaio.
Sheridan and Arpaio already have conceded that they are guilty of civil contempt, admitting they did not comply with Snow's December 2011 preliminary injunction in the case, which ordered the MCSO not to enforce federal civil immigration law.
The pair also have copped to defying a direct order from Snow in May 2014 concerning the gathering of thousands of videos taken by deputies, which should have been turned over to the plaintiffs before the 2012 trial in Melendres.
All that's left is for Snow to find that there's enough evidence that Sheridan and Arpaio acted willfully, so he can turn over the matter to another judge and the U.S. Attorney's Office for possible prosecution.
See also: -Arpaio's Chief Deputy Confirms Wack Investigations of Judge's Wife, CIA, DOJ, etc. -Arpaio Cops to Investigating Federal Judge, Judge's Wife -Noose Tightens Around Arpaio's Neck as He Channels Ronnie Reagan in Day Two of Contempt Trial -MCSO Sergeant Implicates Arpaio in Willful Defiance of Federal Judge
That shouldn't be too hard because Arpaio and Sheridan were condemned by their own words under direct examination by plaintiffs' counsels Stanley Young and Cecillia Wang.
Young confronted Arpaio with numerous statements the sheriff made in TV interviews and press releases, blustering that he would continue to enforce all immigration laws come hell or high water, despite the 2011 injunction.
But Arpaio contended that he was not referring to federal civil immigration laws.
Arpaio said he delegated dealing with the order to subordinates and disagreed with former Executive Chief Brian Sands' opinion that all deputies should be informed of the order, not just Arpaio's notorious Human Smuggling Unit.
Sheridan, paid close to $200,000 annually to be Arpaio's second in command and run the MCSO, said he did not recall knowing about the 2011 order until his March 2014 deposition in the Department of Justice's abuse-of-power lawsuit against the office.
This would be after Snow found the MCSO guilty of racial profiling in 2013, making the preliminary injunction permanent.
Even harder to buy is Sheridan's excuse for defying a direct order from Snow on May 14, 2014, when the judge told Sheridan and Arpaio to develop a plan to "quietly" gather thousands of videos taken by deputies that had not been disclosed to the court or the plaintiffs, and to get the monitor's approval for it.
Not even 30 minutes after Snow told him what to do, Sheridan ordered Deputy Chief David Trombi to fire off an e-mail to 27 Sheriff's Office commanders, thereby giving them a heads-up and a chance to destroy damning evidence.
Witnessing this order to Trombi were Arpaio and the sheriff's attorney Tim Casey, plus MCAO attorneys Tom Liddy and Christine Stutz.
At a meeting with the monitor that same day, Sheridan said nada about his countermanding the judge's order. Later, Trombi and Stutz reminded Sheridan of his order to Trombi.
Still, in a letter to the monitor written that evening, Sheridan avowed that it was unknown who had given Trombi the order to send the offending e-mail.
Only afterward did Sheridan come clean to the monitor.
Sheridan cited "fatigue and confusion" as reasons why he so royally screwed up.
Apparently, this case of the vapors was brought on by a "slight migraine" he was suffering that day.
The chief deputy explained that he's been getting migraines for "approximately 40 years" and takes medication for them.
In any case, I don't think the "migraine defense" will save him here.
Snow seems likely to refer Arpaio and Sheridan for charges of criminal contempt, based on their testimonies.
Arpaio and Sheridan's co-defendants, former Executive Chief Sands, Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre, and Lieutenant Joe Sousa, may bear varying degrees of responsibility for one or more of the civil-contempt allegations.
But Sands, MacIntyre, and Sousa have not conceded guilt, and it's difficult for me to see them on the hook for some sort of criminal violation.
Certainly, their culpability is by no means on the same level as Sheridan's and Arpaio's, with Arpaio playing Emperor Palpatine to Sheridan's dutiful and rather dimwitted Darth Vader.
The trial isn't over. There's another four-day hearing in mid-June, and that hearing may prove even more taxing for the defendants.
My sources suggest that documents sought by the plaintiffs and by the court-appointed monitor will open a Pandora's box of corruption into matters not yet considered by the court.
Additionally, these documents and other testimony may further enlighten us on two issues I've written about previously and which were confirmed by Judge Snow's questioning of Arpaio and Sheridan during their time on the stand.
The first is the investigation into allegations purportedly made by Dennis Montgomery, a Seattle computer guy infamous as "The Man Who Conned the Pentagon," as Playboy dubbed him in a 2009 exposé by Aram Roston.
A year ago, I revealed in a column that Montgomery had been hired by the MCSO as a confidential informant to dig up evidence of some cockamamie conspiracy involving the Justice Department and Snow.
The MCSO was paying him as much as $10,000 a month, my sources said, and the offfice had purchased $50,000 worth of computer equipment for Montgomery.
The investigation had Arpaio's approval, and the MCSO was sending sheriff's deputies Travis Anglin and Brian Mackiewicz to Seattle for extended periods to watch over Montgomery as he did his research.
The MCSO also sent Cold Case Posse honcho and Obama birth-certificate investigator Mike Zullo to Seattle at government expense.
At the time, I was told that the investigation had run through at least $100,000.
A year later, I'm told it's cost as much as $500,000 to $1 million.
Which should raise nary an eyebrow, given Arpaio's costly shenanigans so far.
With Snow's using my column in court to question Arpaio and Sheridan, the two men offered bizarre, abstruse explanations for this weird RICO-funded endeavor.
Arpaio said Montgomery had been "investigating the DOJ" for the MCSO, and the probe involved allegations of "computer tampering" and "bank fraud."
"Many" judges were infiltrated by the DOJ, Arpaio told Snow under oath.
"You were one of the judges," he said.
Sheridan told Snow that Montgomery "had information that the CIA hacked into individual bank accounts" and that "approximately 50,000 of them" were Maricopa County residents.
The chief deputy insisted that the MCSO had not been investigating an alleged conspiracy involving Snow and the DOJ, though he did admit that an e-mail from the DOJ to Snow was involved in the probe.
The DOJ also was supposed to have hacked into law firms doing work on Arpaio's behalf, according to this colossal canard. Sheridan claimed that the CIA allegedly was in on the action, too.
It took Sheridan and Arpaio a while, but these super-sleuths finally figured out that Montgomery was "stringing us along."
Snow's ordered all material related to the Montgomery investigation to be turned over. So the truth will come out. Maybe in June.
My information always has been that Arpaio was up to his old tricks, attempting to conflict the judge, find dirt on him, and retaliate for adverse rulings.
Which is no doubt why a Facebook message to Arpaio in 2013 from a Tempe woman named Karen Grissom got Sheridan and Arpaio all excited.
The message read: "I know [Judge Snow's] wife and talked to her one day. [She] recognized me from our childhood. She told me that her husband hates [you] and will do anything to get [you] out of office. This has bothered me since last year when I saw her."
According to Arpaio and Sheridan, they got Casey, whose firm has billed about $1.6 million in Melendres, to hire a private detective to investigate Snow's wife.
Well, Sheridan says it wasn't really an investigation.
"It depends on how you define, 'investigated your wife,'" Sheridan told the judge, his face redder than a choirboy's knees during confession.
Casey's since issued a statement through his "ethics attorney," claiming that when all is said and done, it will be revealed that Casey was never involved in an investigation of Judge Snow or his family.
If those involved didn't believe that questioning Grissom and members of her family was an investigation, is Casey's press statement merely a clever bit of lawyer-ese?
Sheridan said the PI determined Grissom's account of the 2012 meeting to be credible.
Which is what Arpaio wanted: a possible conflict to use against Snow at an opportune moment.
When I first reported on the investigation into Snow's wife in January, a column that apparently tipped off the judge, I had been told that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office somehow was involved.
In January, a County Attorney's Office spokesman told me the office does not confirm or deny investigations. (The MCAO is not an investigatory agency, per se, though it does have investigators.)
Deputy County Attorney Liddy, who had represented the Sheriff's Office in Melendres, took himself off the case on the first day of the contempt trial.
Later, he informed the court that he possessed confidential information that would affect his ability to represent the sheriff.
Outside the courthouse, I asked Liddy if he knew about the investigation into Snow's wife. But he only gave me cute non-answers, like, "That's a very interesting question."
Another interesting question: Will the U.S. Attorney's Office do a damn thing about all this breaking of federal laws by MCSO satraps, like intimidating a judge, for instance?
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Sadly, I have no faith in the federal law dogs, considering they've been spineless in the past when it came to Joe.
Sure, I hope they will grow a pair, but I'm told by those who should know that the federal office is seriously "risk-averse."
Which no doubt is what Arpaio and Sheridan are betting on.