Though not quite the "raid" that some local media depicted it as, Friday's events were nonetheless dramatic, with U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow calling an "emergency meeting" for 3 p.m. at the request of his monitor Robert Warshaw, whose team has been in town for the week.
According to Snow's order setting the hearing, the meeting pertained to Warshaw's "request to access certain documents and tangible things on an immediate basis from Defendants, which Defendants have declined."
Seems the monitor had learned of an additional 50 hard drives of material from the so-called "Seattle operation," involving MCSO confidential informant Dennis Montgomery, whom the MCSO hired to ferret out a nonexistent conspiracy involving Snow, the U.S. Department of Justice, former U.S. Attorney Eric Holder and others.
The monitor also was tipped off to the existence of nearly 1,500 IDs that had been seized by the MCSO over the course of several years and were apparently days away from being destroyed.
During the afternoon hearing, according to those present, Snow was livid that these documents had not been surrendered to his court.
The judge argued with Arpaio's attorneys over the matter, ultimately instructing the MCSO to turn over all of the disputed material to the U.S. Marshal.
Defendants are hereby ordered to turn over all items of evidence associated with [Departmental Report number] 14-007250, including hard drives, documents, and/or any other and materials, to the custody of the United States Marshals Service by the end of the day today, July 24, 2015. The Marshals shall store this evidence in a secure location and make it available, upon request and under secure conditions, to the parties and to the United States Government for copying pursuant to the Court’s previous orders. Defendants are further ordered to produce to the Marshals the 1,459 identifications that lack an associated DR number.
According to my sources, the MCSO complied with the judge's order late Friday, relinquishing the hard drives and the IDs to six deputy U.S. Marshals, who had been sent to seize the material from the MCSO's evidence and property lockers, at a facility near 35th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road.
Interestingly, I had been told two months back by sources that "DR 14-007250" is a "found property report," and that it was being used to mask the true nature of material related to the Montgomery investigation.
In fact, in May, I put in a lawful public records request to the MCSO asking for this report number.
I was told the following by an MCSO PIO:
"In researching this request, it has been determined that there is an ongoing investigation and all records related to Incident Report 14-007250 authored by [Detective] Brian Mackiewicz ref: Seattle Washington, or any related investigations are under protective order by the court and shall not be disclosed until authorized and ordered by the court."
Mackiewicz was the lead detective on the Seattle investigation.
But back to Friday afternoon, when, following Snow's order, reporters gathered outside MCSO headquarters near 5th Avenue and Jackson Street.
Arpaio's Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan and Arpaio's attorney Joe Popolizio (one of many lawyers paid for by county taxpayers) fielded questions.
Asked why the marshals had to get involved, Sheridan, who along with Arpaio has admitted to civil contempt of Snow's court and faces possible criminal contempt charges, did a poor spin job.
"No one has asked us to turn them over before," Sheridan stated.
That, however, is plainly incorrect.
Back on April 23, when Snow first grilled Arpaio about the Seattle investigation during the initial round of hearings in the sheriff's contempt trial, Snow ordered that all materials related to the probe be preserved and turned over to his monitor.
More than once during his interrogation of Arpaio, Snow made his wishes clear in the broadest language possible.
For example at one point, he told the sheriff:
I'm referring to the investigation that Mr. Montgomery was undertaking with [Deputy Brian] Mackiewicz, [Sergeant Travis] Anglin, [Cold Case Posse commander Mike] Zullo, anybody else from your staff, anybody else from the MCSO, or anyone else from the posse. I want all records that in any way relate to it, all electronic data or anything else, or the financing, funding of that operation, all phone records, e-mails, reports, I want it all preserved.
And I think I will send the monitor to begin taking possession of those records and we'll do it confidentially, imminently. But I don't want in the interim any of those records lost, inadvertently or otherwise. You understand what I'm saying?
Arpaio replied, "Yes."
Snow pressed him: "And you'll so direct your people?"
Snow: "All right. Thank you, sir."
Subsequently, Snow repeated these instructions and required the MCSO and defense counsel to cooperate with his monitor.
As to the IDs involved, Snow issued an order on February 12, ordering the MCSO to produce several categories of documents related to the contempt hearings, one being, "Copies of identification documents seized by MCSO personnel from apparent members of the Plaintiff Class."
The production of documents pursuant to Judge Snow's orders and plaintiff's discovery requests have been an ongoing issue throughout the Melendres case and are part of the current contempt hearings against Arpaio, Sheridan and three other current and former MCSO honchos.
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More recently, in an admission of civil contempt lodged with the court by Sheridan and Arpaio, both men admitted to, among other things, pre-trial discovery violations, which involved a failure to turn over hundreds of hours of videotaped traffic stops and "confiscated personal identifications and items of personal property" taken from Latinos during MCSO enforcement actions.
Friday's shenanigans are only the latest in a perpetual game of chicken played by Arpaio, Sheridan and others at the MCSO with the federal court, and it will not end until there is some punishment meted out to the perpetrators. Criminal punishment. Time spent cooling heels in a federal jail cell. Even if just for 24 hours at a time.
And it must begin with Arpaio. Believe me, one night in the federal pen will break Arpaio and his flunkies of all resistance.
In lieu of that, more of the same from the sheriff's contemptuous cabal is all we should expect.