Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio can be deposed in a lawsuit against him by Chandler police officer Thomas Lovejoy, an ex-K9 cop who let his dog die in a hot car.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled this week in a dispute over the demand by Lovejoy's attorney, Mike Manning, that Arpaio be interviewed. In Thursday's order, Wake told the lawyers that he rejects the idea that Arpaio can't be deposed, and he instructed the lawyers to confer on the details of the planned deposition. If they can't agree on the details, Arpaio's lawyers can file another briefing to Wake by May 6. The case has already dragged on for two years.
Wake's latest order was in response to a official court statement this week by the lawyers on both sides about the dispute.
Arpaio doesn't think he should be deposed "becasue he claims to have had virtually no involvement in the investigation and arrest of Sgt. Lovejoy and no firsthand knowledge of anything relevant to this matter," Manning argues in the statement.
In fact, Lovejoy's attorney states, Arpaio was directly involved.
Manning then briefly describes why -- and his argument makes perfect sense.
Recall that the Lovejoy's case was extremely well-publicized back in 2008, an election year for both Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas. The law enforcement duo, hell-bent on portraying themselves to the public as corruption fighters, went after Lovejoy with obvious zeal. But, as Manning argues, they did that in spite of objections by prosecutors in Thomas' office.
Manning says the prosecutors assigned to the case have testified that they requested further review of the incident, "because they did not feel they had probable cause to continue to the proseuction, (but) that the request was denied and that subsequently Lisa Aubuchon took the case to trial and lost."
Aubuchon, remember, was Thomas' attack-dog deputy county attorney who was assigned to handle her boss' most sensitive political cases. Both Aubucon and Thomas are now in the fight of their lives to prevent being disbarred over wide-ranging allegationis that they failed to practice law ethically.
Thomas, Manning asserts, admitted that it was his decision to deny his underlings' request for an incident review, but his memory of the circumstances of the case under questioning by Lovejoy's attorneys "was practically absent."
Thomas "did recall discussing the case with the Sheriff throughout the prosecution, but can remember no specifics of the conversation."
Well, isn't that frickin' convenient! Since Thomas is acting like he downed a bottle of roofies about conversations with Arpaio about Lovejoy, then clearly the sheriff needs to have his own brain picked. (Naturally, though, the chances are higher that Arpaio will suffer even more acute senior moments when it comes to dredging up the gist of those conversations.)
Scott Zwillinger, Arpaio's attorney, argues in the joint statement that Arpaio should not be desposed because it's a waste of the sheriff's precious time. Only in "extraordinary circumstances" should a high-ranking official like Arpaio be "burdened" with giving a desposition, and those circumstances haven't been shown, Zwillinger claims.
Besides, Arpaio's side says, members of Arpaio's animal cruelty unit "will confirm that the decision to arrest Sgt. Lovejoy was theirs alone." Deputy Chief David Trombi took full responsibility for the decision back in 2008, media reports show.
Manning doesn't buy Arpaio's "I'm not responsible" line any more than you do.
But more than that, a recent federal court order by U.S. District Judge David Campbell in the Julio Mora racial profiling case states that the Lovejoy case has already decided the issue.
"It is well settled that 'Sheriff Arpaio is a final policymaker for Maricopa County in the context of criminal law enforcement,'" Campbell wrote.
Arpaio can run from responsibility as his office's chief decision-maker on law enforcement issues, but he can't hide.