UPDATE: Judge Wake issued an order saying the parties will meet on Monday to discuss moving the trial date to the week after the board of supervisors meeting.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office announced today that lawyers agreed to a $175,000 settlement for Chandler police officer Thomas Lovejoy in his lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, stemming from Lovejoy's 2007 arrest for the death of his K-9.
There are a couple of problems with that.
First, the deal hasn't been approved by the county Board of Supervisors. Second, the tentative settlement -- which the Sheriff's Office is calling a "good business decision" -- actually is for a bit more than the MCSO announced. It's $775,000.
County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick tells New Times the agreement includes $175,000 to Lovejoy, but also $600,000 to his attorney. On top of that, the tab for the county's legal defense is currently at $306,000, although the billing numbers are a few weeks behind, so that number's likely to grow.
For those who left their abacuses at home, that's more than a million friggin' dollars on the tab.
Lovejoy's lawsuit claimed Arpaio violated several of his constitutional rights by ordering his arrest in 2007 after the officer accidentally let his K-9 partner, Bandit, die in a hot patrol car while he was tending to family matters.
Under Arpaio's watch, Lovejoy's arrest naturally turned into a publicity stunt, with a press conference, "staged" arrest, and the whole bit, according to the lawsuit.
The trial is scheduled for next week, and since the settlement hasn't yet been approved, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake says everyone's going to court on Tuesday unless the settlement can be made final before that. That's a problem, seeing as the Supervisors' meeting is on April 23.
If everyone wants to wager that the supervisors will approve the settlement, they can vacate the trial date -- but Wake says that means there's "no possibility" for a later trial.
Still, that may not even be the most interesting order made by Wake today. Hours before the notice of the settlement was filed, Wake ordered Arpaio to produce a financial statement in this case.
"IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendant Arpaio produce to his counsel his most current financial statement reflecting his personal, individual, and community assets and liabilities, no later than noon on Monday, April 16, 2012," the order states. "Failure of Defendant Arpaio to comply with this order will result in sanctions against Defendant Arpaio to be paid personally."
Maybe it's a coincidence that this order came in hours before the notification that a settlement was reached, but it sure isn't the first time Arpaio's refused to release financial details. Veteran New Times readers may recall that questions over Arpaio's finances have caused quite a bit of drama (that's an understatement) in previous years.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Office is acting like it's already a done deal, and is taking jabs at Lovejoy.
"We can only guess why Sgt. Lovejoy and his attorney agreed at the last minute to reduce his client's portion of the settlement amount so significantly," Brad Keogh, director of the county's Risk Management division, says in an MCSO press release. "But whatever the reason, it provided us the opportunity to make a prudent financial decision."
Arpaio's quoted in the press release as saying he'll "continue to enforce animal cruelty laws at every turn," and one of his man flaks Lisa Allen also has an interesting statement.
"As for today's settlement, our hope here at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is that those who financially benefitted from the death of Bandit will consider a sizeable contribution to the Humane Society in his memory," Allen says.
On the other hand, we're sure there are some people who probably wish Lovejoy was never arrested, so the county didn't have to make that sizable contribution to him and his lawyer.
We'll keep you updated on how this one plays out.
And yes, as a reader mentions (and I missed), freshly disbarred former Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon is the one who took Lovejoy to trial -- and lost.
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