Raid on County Computers by Sheriff's Office: Restraining Order Argued in Superior Court


Issue: The county is seeking a restraining order against the sheriff's office following yesterday's raid by deputies on a building containing county computers

The courtroom is packed with private lawyers, county officials, reporters and other observers. Barnett Lotstein, a top aide under Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, came to watch. County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and Wade Swanson, director of the county's civil litigation department, took seats before the bench on the plaintiff's side.

Heilman comes out and quips that he should have sold tickets...


Heilman says he reviewed a motion to dismiss this case by Arpaio's side.

Motion is denied.

First order: Arpaio's side filed a motion for emergency change of venue.

The sheriff's lawyer says there may be a potential for bias.

A strong likelihood " a member of the county superior court" may be called as a witness, says the lawyer. Says the presiding judge and court is now a party to this action, so they want to get it in a different venue.

Also, the sheriff's lawyer says they got a call from the Arizona Department of Public Safety who said someone from the state attorney general's office called and gave bogus info about the nature of the raid.

The potential for bias and "nefarious" phone call gives Arpaio's side "pause and concern" about this venue.

Arpaio's lawyer says the presiding judge of the superior court called a meeting of judges after news of the restraining order hearing broke.

Heilman says he did not attend that meeting, but he has something to disclose:

He ate at Willcox's Phoenix restaurant this afternoon.

Laughter in audience...

More discussion between judge and sheriff's lawyer...

Response from David Selden, lawyer for county.

Selden says he found two cases that prove the sheriff's request for an emergency change of venue isn't well founded.

Selden says the sheriff's office waited to long to file this motion. He notes the sheriff filed a lawsuit against the county regarding computers in this court in April.

Because they've already had participation in court proceedings in this case, it constitutes a waiver of the possibility of change of venue.

Heilman: But no one knew until the last 24 hours this was going to happen.

Selden says the issues in the case have been present from the beginning. The court is a user of the computer system, he says.

What's ironic is they have now tried to fabricate issues to manipulate the court system and engineer judge shopping, or a change of judge," Selden says.

Says the motion only labels the court as a party, when there are really many county departments that are parties. He says they're doing this to judge-shop.

Says this "11th hour" emergency motion for change of venue is a delaying tactic so they can keep sifting through the database, unlawfully.

Selden now covers the alleged call to the attorney general's office.

Says the statement was made by an unnmaed court affiliate or official, who said "guns drawn and blazing."

For a law enforcement officer and for a counsel for a law enforcement officer ... to allege "guns blazing," is such an outlandish accusation, it exceeds the bounds of "even what the sheriff of the county is capable of."

Acting upon "triple hearsay" of something so incredible is not grounds for a change of venue. Also says there was nothing improper about the AG's office talking to DPS about this.

On the meeting of the judges: There has been no evidence that would influence this court, Selden says.

So.... they request the motion for change of venue be denied. Selden says the sheriff "took the law into his own hands" and "usurped" the role of the court.

Sheriff's lawyer: Argues that it was the Board of Supervisors that "fabricated the whole controversy" on the restraining order. There's no judge-shopping here, he says.

Judge asks why it's just the court named in the motion.

Lawyer says they aren't necessarily parties if their interests are going to be prejudiced by this action.

The BOS has no standing in this case, the lawyer argues.

Judge: But aren't they the supervising authority in the county?

Lawyer: Yes, but they aren't a party to the law enforcement database systems.

Says he sued the county (in the original lawsuit).

Judge seems to be getting at the fact that the county is named as a party in the original lawsuit concerning the computers, but not in the emergency change of venue motion.

Lawyer says we have quotes from the county manager describing the sheriff as a "thug."

Judge looks at clock and says we have to move on.

Judge denies the motion for emergency change of venue.

Judge tells sheriff's lawyer he needs to sit down and talk to the presiding judge about relationships with other judges. Says they don't operate in lockstep -- it's more like "herding cats."

Heilman says he's spoken to no one about this case.

Judge declares 10-minute recess. 2:20 p.m.

To be continued...

Continues here and here.

















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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.