Judge Questions Sheriff Joe Arpaio Directly, Again

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 9:44pm
Updated: Saturday, October 17, 2015 - 12:06am
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.82 MB)

For the second time in his ongoing contempt of court hearing against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow questioned the sheriff directly from the bench. And just like when the judge questioned Arpaio for the first time in April, the sheriff again insisted the judge had not been investigated.

Snow ordered the contempt of court hearing when it became apparent the sheriff and four other sheriff’s office personnel had violated his orders in a racial profiling case.

In April, Snow surprised the courtroom when he asked Arpaio if he was familiar with a Phoenix New Times article that alleged the judge himself was involved in a conspiracy with the U.S. Department of Justice to collude against the sheriff.

"Did you ever — you see that the article says that what Montgomery was actually doing was investigating me. You see that that's what the article says?" Snow asked the sheriff on April 23.

"It's not true," Arpaio said at the time.

“Are you aware that I've ever been investigated by anyone?” Snow asked.

"You investigated?" Arpaio asked back. "No, no."

Since then, Arpaio has acknowledged he received timelines and flowcharts from Montgomery illustrating that alleged conspiracy theory involving Snow. He also testified that in response to Montgomery trying to sell the sheriff’s office on the supposed conspiracy theory, his chief deputy instructed the sheriff’s personnel not to investigate the judge.   

From the bench on Thursday, Snow asked Arpaio why he had answered ‘no' to the judge’s questions in April given the sheriff’s awareness of what Montgomery was up to.

“I don’t think there was an investigation,” Arpaio said. “He just came up with a flowchart. I don’t call that an investigation.”

Earlier that morning, Arpaio’s defense attorney John Masterson tried to hammer that point home by asking the sheriff a series of questions, including “Did you investigate judge snow?” and “Did you ask Dennis Montgomery to investigate Judge Snow?” To each one Arpaio responded, “No.”

“When you received information from Dennis Montgomery about Judge Snow, what did you do?” Masterson asked.

“I recall the chief deputy told the investigators never to investigate the judge, that is my recollection,” Arpaio said.

Arpaio insisted he only hired Montgomery, who is a self-described CIA and National Security Agency whistleblower, because Montgomery said he had information that federal agencies were hacking into bank accounts and there were 150,000 victims in Maricopa County. The sheriff has also testified that he was told Snow was on that list of victims.

Arpaio has also testified he was concerned by some information Montgomery turned over showing wiretaps on the sheriff’s cellphone and the chief deputy’s cellphone.

Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan have testified they now do not believe Montgomery is credible. Montgomery has previously been accused of scamming the federal government by selling bogus counter-terrorism software to the Bush administration.

Sheridan has testified the sheriff’s office spent $250,000 on Montgomery’s investigation that was ultimately fruitless. Some testimony suggested the sheriff is still waiting for a final report from that investigation.

After court, a reporter asked Masterson if Arpaio was still working with or paying Montgomery.

“I hope not,” Masterson said. “I really don’t think so.”

The attorney said he would check with his client to be sure.

Snow also took the opportunity to question the sheriff about his failure to initially turn over to the court 50 hard drives Montgomery had given the sheriff’s office. After the judge questioned Arpaio in April, he had asked the sheriff to turn over all documents relating to Montgomery’s investigation and a second investigation into comments allegedly made by the judge’s wife.

But over the summer it became apparent the sheriff’s office had only turned in one hard drive from Montgomery when in fact there were 50. Snow sent U.S. Marshals to take the rest of the drives into the court’s custody in July.

On Thursday Snow asked what Arpaio did in response to the April 23 court order to collect and turn over all the documents from Montgomery’s investigation.

Arpaio said it was intent to comply with the order. But in response to the judge’s persistent questioning, the sheriff said he could not recall any specific conversations in which he delegated the responsibility to anyone.

Later in the day Lt. Joseph Sousa took the stand. Sousa was in charge of the sheriff’s Human Smuggling Unit when Snow ordered the sheriff’s office in 2011 to stop detaining suspected unauthorized immigrants who couldn’t be charged with state crimes. Sousa is facing contempt of court for the department’s failure to implement that order.

Sousa said his chain of command was to blame, which implicates three of the others facing contempt of court in this case, former Executive Chief Brian Sands, Sheridan and Arpaio.

The lieutenant also contested testimony that Arpaio’s former lawyer Tim Casey gave earlier in the contempt hearing, suggesting the defendants may be trying to blame the violations of the 2011 order on the sheriff’s former attorney.

Casey testified he had explained to Sousa and others the 2011 order meant deputies had to either arrest suspected unauthorized immigrants on state charges, or release them —they could no longer hold them and turn them over to federal agents for deportation.

Sousa said he believed that under the court order the sheriff’s office could legally continue detaining immigrants for ICE as long as ICE authorized it, and he had never heard Casey’s “arrest or release” explanation.

“That direction was never given to me,” Sousa testified. “The first time I heard that term was in courtroom.”

Sousa, like all of the sheriff’s personnel facing contempt of court, has retained a criminal defense lawyer in case the judge decides to refer the case to a prosecutor to pursue criminal contempt charges. The county is paying for civil defense lawyers, but each defendant must retain his own criminal lawyer.

In late September, a “Go Fund Me” fundraising page popped up online for Sousa’s legal defense. The text alleges Sheridan initially promised to pay Sousa’s criminal defense fees through the sheriff’s legal defense fund but had since rescinded the offer.

“Initially, Joe was told by the chief deputy, ‘we are all in this together,’ and that the Sheriff's Legal Defense Fund would cover his attorney fees, which began incurring the early part of 2015,” the text reads. “However, two months ago, Joe's attorney was [sic] notifed that his fees would no longer be covered by the legal fund. Upon speaking with the Chief Deputy for reconsideration of that decision, Joe was told that there was barely enough money in the fund to pay for ‘me and the sheriff.’”

MCSO Captain John Kleinheinz is credited as the author of the text. As of Thursday evening, the site had raised $5,610 toward a goal of $20,000.

Both Sousa and his criminal defense attorney declined to comment when asked about the fundraiser and the allegations that Sheridan had excluded Sousa from the legal defense fund.

Sheridan did not respond to questions on the matter after court on Thursday.

Arpaio’s private criminal defense attorney, Mel McDonald only said, “No comment on how I am paid or what I am paid.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to reflect the correct spelling of John Masterson's name.

Updated 10/9/2015 at 4:55 p.m.

If you like this story, Donate Now!