You know there's trouble when the chief law enforcement officer announces that he will defy a judge's orders. But we're talking Maricopa County, Arizona.
When Superior Court Judge Gary E. Donahoe found Detention Officer Adam Stoddard in contempt for reading, pilfering, and copying a paper from defense counsel Joanne Cuccia's file while she was making a sentencing argument in open court, he drew a line in the desert sand. Donahoe ordered Stoddard to hold a press conference and apologize to Cuccia. Stoddard's boss,
Lord Voldemort Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that Stoddard wouldn't do it.
And he didn't.
There were two questions.
- Was Donahoe bluffing? Would he really try to lock Stoddard up, which would mean taking on Sheriff Joe in a power struggle?
- Would Sheriff Joe continue his defiance (through his proxy Stoddard) or would he acknowledge that a judicial order had to be obeyed?
All day, Stoddard was in court, doing his job (peering at papers he no right to view, intimidating counsel, looking tough around judges, whatever he thinks his job is). His lawyer said the judge's order wasn't enforceable.
And then, then Arpaio blinked.
Via Phoenix New Times and Scott Greenfield's, second update, we learn that Stoddard will go to jail.
"My officer will surrender," Arpaio said during a news conference, adding that he wouldn't say exactly where officer Adam Stoddard will be, because of security concerns.
Of course, Arpaio isn't backing off quietly.
Arpaio claims Donahoe has a "vendetta" against him and will soon release information about the judge that proves it. "For political reasons, [Stoddard's] been thrown to the wolves," Arpaio said.
One wonders, of course, if it isn't Arpaio rather than Donahoe who's throwing Stoddard "to the wolves." It's certainly Donahoe rather than Arpaio who's named in a racketeering lawsuit announced today.
But that's just Maricopa County.
Still, Sheriff Joe went toe to toe with the court. And Sheriff Joe blinked.