Last week, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery shipped off a letter to the Justice Department, demanding the department's evidence of botched sex crimes by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Montgomery wrote that withholding that evidence "may needlessly jeopardize prosecutions," and also asked for any evidence of racial profiling by the MCSO.
The Justice Department apparently thinks Montgomery's up to something, noting that Montgomery's requesting information "startlingly similar" to the requests from the Sheriff Joe Arpaio/MCSO defense team.
Aside from questioning a potential conflict of interest for Montgomery, the DOJ also gave a little explanation of how sex-crime prosecution works if Montgomery's really requesting the information for prosecution duties.
The letter from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin, first obtained by the Arizona Republic, claims the Justice Department already told Montgomery that most of the information collected during the investigation of bungled sex crimes was either available through public sources or through the El Mirage Police Department.
"If you have not done so already, we encourage you to contact El Mirage for a complete set of their records," Austin writes. "We frankly assumed you have already obtained information from El Mirage and other publicly available sources.
"In addition, as the County Attorney, you presumably have greater access to MCSO and other county records than we do," Austin continues. "As such, it is inaccurate, perplexing, and disappointing that you would suggest we are somehow withholding evidence in the area, when we have already outlined are sources of information, which are narrower than yours."
Austin then goes on to explain to Montgomery exactly what the Justice Department's doing in the investigation of sex crimes at the sheriff's office -- the DOJ isn't deciding whether sex crimes are prosecutable, Austin says, but looking at whether the policing is in proper and Constitutional order.
Austin then again explains why there's an investigation involving bungled sex crimes, and why the system's currently not working.
"What has become apparent thus far from our review of sex crimes cases is that there are an alarmingly large number of cases involving serious allegations of sex crimes where MCSO either did no investigation, or a wholly inadequate investigation," he writes. "Sex crimes, like so many other crimes, require prompt attention so that evidence does not become stale. At a minimum, it is unclear to us what sorts of policies and practices MCSO had or has in place to investigate sex crimes."
If Montgomery really didn't know all of this, Austin points out the potential conflict of interest.
"Your requests for information are startlingly similar to the requests for information made by the MCSO lawyers as part of their preparation to defend against litigation," Austin writes. "Your information requests, including but not limited to your requests pertaining to sex crimes, highlight a potential conflict of interest between your role as defense counsel for the County and MCSO in civil matters and your role as chief prosecutor for victims of crime."
Austin also points out some smaller details, like meetings and correspondences, that don't make it seem as if Montgomery was previously disinterested in the material he's now requesting.
"The precise role of the County Attorney's Office with respect to the federal investigation of the MCSO remains unclear to us," Austin writes. "As you may know, during the course of our investigation, the County Attorney's Office has taken conflicting positions on its role in this investigation and its relationship to MCSO. It would be useful to obtain clarity on this important issue."
Plainly, Austin asks, "...[W]hat precisely is the relationship between the County Attorney's Office and MCSO in connection with this ongoing federal civil rights investigation of MCSO?"
Austin says the DOJ's civil rights division "would like to learn more about" the perceived conflict of interest -- which means this pen-pal saga will probably continue.
The letters referenced can be found below:
Letter from Austin to Arpaio's lawyer, Joseph Popolizio.
Letter from Montgomery to Austin.
Letter from Austin to Montgomery.