In a strongly-worded letter dated November 6, Phoenix attorney Mike Manning demanded that all of the players in the arrests of New Times founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin not destroy any documents related to the case.
Addressed to Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Pinal County Attorney James Walsh, former Special Prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, and Fran McCarroll, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, the hand-delivered letter warns that "our clients are investigating and intending to pursue all their legal options for actions leading up to and arising out of the unlawful arrests of Mssrs. Lacey and Larkin on October 18, 2007 by deputies of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."
As a result, "all information, physical and electronic" bearing on the financial relationships amongst the parties, the decision to convene a grand jury, the decision to arrest Lacey and Larkin, and so forth is required to be preserved. The letter also asks for all billing records provided by Wilenchik's law firm to Maricopa County clients from 2004 to the present, and all communications between and amongst the recipients of the letter.
The letter can be read in its entirety, here.
Village Voice Media Executive Editor Mike Lacey said that Manning was hired for the purpose of sending the letter. Though the letter warns of possible legal action, Lacey stated that, "We have not made the decision yet about the lawsuit."
Asked if the sending of this sort of communication was typical when dealing with government agencies, Manning replied that dealing with the MCSO was a special situation that required special precautions.
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"When you're dealing with government agencies with the reputation for integrity, you typically don't have to do that," explained Manning. "But with the Sheriff's department and Andrew Thomas' office, you've got to be sure that you've warned them not to destroy documents."
Manning continued, "The Sheriff's office in particular is very aggressive in destroying evidence when they feel they need to. We don't want that evidence destroyed. And if they do destroy it, we want to show the court and the jury that we warned them not to destroy it."
In the legal correspondence, Manning informs the addressees that "this preservation demand is a pre-litigation hold," covering everything from preliminary drafts of documents and e-mails to phone messages, CDs, DVDs, and so on. The addressees are admonished to inform anyone who may be in possession of such evidence of this pre-litigation hold. Should such evidence not be preserved and litigation occurs, "sanctions can be imposed for the willful destruction of evidence."
More as it comes...