Maricopa County Craziness

Thomas Lovejoy Trial Postponed by Judge Neil Wake Due to Possible Settlement; Sheriff Arpaio Doesn't Have to Divulge Financial Info

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake moved the start-date of a potential defamation trial against Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio to May 1, after County Supervisors have the chance to approve a settlement.

The trial for the lawsuit launched by Thomas Lovejoy, a Chandler police officer who accidentally let his dog die in a hot patrol car, had been scheduled to begin tomorrow.

Last week, Wake ordered Arpaio to turn over his financial statements to the court. Within hours, Arpaio offered to settle the case. His office claims the two events are coincidental.

Mike Manning, Lovejoy's lawyer, says he's not sure if the order about the financial statements was what spurred Arpaio to settle. Rather, it was the knowledge that the Sheriff's Office would probably lose the case and put the county on the hook for a payout to Lovejoy anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million, plus another $800,000 in lawyers' fees.

"We had a missile lock on them," Manning says.

As it turned out, the Sheriff's Office offered to settle for $775,000. Manning disputed reports from county sources that the settlement represented a payout of $175,000 for Lovejoy and $600,000 for him, but he declined to give details.

The Board of Supervisors has a meeting scheduled for April 24 to discuss the case. Wake wants to know the status of the settlement no later than April 26.

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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.

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