Monday, November 30, 2009

Phoenix On My Mind UPDATED

It's getting interesting out there in Maricopa County.

You remember Maricopa. That's the place where Detention Officer Adam Stoddard read confidential legal papers from defense attorney Joanne Cuccia's file, then arranged to have a page photocopied. All this in open court while the judge and prosecutors looked on with complete disinterest.

You remember Maricopa. That's the place where, to the surprise of pretty much everyone who was paying much attention to it, Presiding Judge Donahoe held Stoddard in civil contempt and ordered him to hold a press conference no later than today and issue an apology satisfactory to Cuccia or go to jail. And where Sheriff Joe Arpaio promptly announced that Stoddard would do no such thing.

You remember Maricopa. That's the place where Judge Donahoe refused this afternoon to extend that deadline, and where god only knows what will happen next.

You remember Maricopa. That's the place where two defense lawyers have been sequentially charged with trying to smuggle things to Jesse Alejandro, an involuntary guest of Sheriff Joe's county hoosegow.

You remember Maricopa. That's the place where blawger Matt Brown ignited a firestorm by discussing some implications of the accusations against the second lawyer without first deciding that they were unfounded.

You remember Maricopa. That's the place where another of Sheriff Joe's deputies arrested five activists during a meeting of the County Supervisors when they clapped at public comments critical of Sheriff Joe. They were acquitted of all charges by Justice of the Peace McMurry.

You remember Maricopa. That's the place where JP McMurry just awarded those same activists their attorney fees. I haven't found a press report of this or an on-line copy of McMurry's order to link to, nor have I yet mastered how to move a copy of McMurry's order from my computer to this post. But a press release accurately notes:
Judge McMurry “sadly concluded” that one of the defendants’ description of [Deputy] Acritelli as “facist,” “is more balanced and objectively accurate than that of the County Attorney.”
In making the award, McMurry wrote,
This is such an extreme case with Sheriff's Deputies trampling on the First Amendment and being aided and abetted by the County Attorney. It has to stop.
I learned of McMurry's order from a criminal defense lawyer in Scottsdale, Arizona who suggested that it be pointed out to bloggers who claim Maricopa County defense lawyers don't stand up to Sheriff Joe.

I don't think I'm one of those bloggers. Not really sure who any of them are. What I'm waiting to see is what happens now.

Will Stoddard issue his apology? Will it be sufficient to satisfy Cuccia? If not, will Judge Donahoe order his arrest? Will Sheriff Joe actually arrest him? And will those attorney fees get paid?

Looking in from the outside, I don't think the problem is that defense counsel won't stand up to Sheriff Joe. I think the problem is that nobody - including the court - has figured out how to make him back down.

Heat City reports that Stoddard has a press conference scheduled for 8:30 local time, which is about a half hour from now. It's far from clear that the press conference will include an apology.

But maybe.

You remember Maricopa. It's the place we're going to be watching.

Current temperature: 66. Partly Cloudy.


Fox News, Phoenix reports that Stoddard refused to apologize. Instead, he issued this statement:

I am Maricopa County Detention Officer Adam Stoddard. I work in the Court Security Division of the Sheriff’s Office and have been with the Sheriff’s Office for five years.

Recently, Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe ordered me to hold a press conference to publicly apologize for doing the job I have been trained to do.

Part of my job in providing security to the court is to inspect documents brought into the courtroom. On October 19th, I saw a document that I had not yet screened, and that raised security concerns. I retrieved that document in plain sight and had court personnel copy it to preserve it as evidence in case it was a security breach.

It was a split second decision and I do not regret my actions.

Judge Donahoe has ordered me to feel something I do not and say something I cannot. I cannot apologize for putting court safety first.

The judge therefore puts me in a position where I must lie or go to jail. And I will not lie.

It's true that the judge's order was bizarre and probably illegal. To order a sincere apology is, in fact, to order an attitude as well as a set of words, and attitude doesn't emerge on command.

Still . . . .

Judge Donahoe, the ball is in your court.

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