Sheriff Joe Arpaio Contempt of Court Hearing

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio took the witness stand in his ongoing contempt of court hearing. This follows days of testimony by his top deputy and former defense attorney. Sheriff Arpaio is facing civil contempt of court charges for violating a federal judge’s orders in a racial profiling case.
Paul Charlton, former U.S. attorney for Arizona and also a partner at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson and Steve Gallardo, Maricopa county supervisor for District 5 discuss the hearing.

JOSE CARDENAS: Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. We'll talk about the contempt of court hearing against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And find out the history behind Arizona's first boys and girls club and what is being done to further help kids who are involved in the organization. All this coming up on "Horizonte."

VIDEO: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

JOSE CARDENAS: Thank you for joining us. Sheriff Joe Arpaio took the witness stand this week in his ongoing civil contempt hearing. This follows days of testimony by his top deputy, Jerry Sheridan, and his former defense attorney, Tim Casey. The sheriff and four others are facing civil contempt of court charges for violating a federal judge's orders in a long-standing racial profiling case. Joining me to talk about the hearing is Paul Charlton, former U.S. attorney for Arizona and a partner at the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson. Also here is Steve Gallardo, Maricopa county supervisor for district 5. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

PAUL CHARLTON: Thank you.

JOSE CARDENAS: Paul, the last time you were on the show, it was kind of -- we were waiting for a decision by the Court of Appeals on whether Judge Snow should be recused or should have recused himself and waiting for next set of hearings to get underway. Give us kind of a quick overview of what happened since.

PAUL CHARLTON: Joe Arpaio's lawyers appealed as you said to the ninth circuit Court of Appeals asking that the ninth circuit Court of Appeals remove Judge Snow because they believe he's no longer fair and impartial. The ninth circuit disagreed and they denied the motion to remove Judge Snow so the hearings have begun again and we've heard from Jerry Sheridan and surprisingly from Joe Arpaio's own former lawyer, Tim Casey, and now, Joe Arpaio himself.

JOSE CARDENAS: And that's as of Wednesday. That's kind of what we've heard so far. I want to come back and get some details about what's taken place so far but supervisor, you've been very vocal about what's been going on. In the introduction we talked about this long-standing profiling case. It's long and it's been very costly.

STEVE GALLARDO: Yes, not only costly. We have a sheriff's office that's in disarray right now. You have the shop commanders and the sheriff right now in court. Who's running that sheriff's office? That's my question. And also you have a sheriff's office that has a huge problem with lack of not only respect but trust from the community. And that's -- any law enforcement officer will tell you you have to have some type of respect and trust from the community. On top of that, we have a very expensive case. It is costing the taxpayers of Maricopa county hundreds of millions of dollars and we need to put a stop to it. The fact is you look going back, going back to day one from the sheriff taking office we're spending over $100 million on settlements, lawyer fees, that's only over the last three years! At what point do the taxpayers and Maricopa county say enough is enough, we need to stop the bleeding, we need to stop the spending that the sheriff's office is costing the taxpayers of Maricopa county. Think about it, Jose! What could we do with $100 million? What could we do in terms of services to the people of Maricopa county, the problems we can address with $100 million? Instead, it's going to settlements and attorneys. It's ridiculous.

JOSE CARDENAS: Well, what can be done, though? These costs have already been incurred, you've got more costs that are going to be incurred, the county's not in a position to simply pull back and not provide a defense for the sheriff. So what as a practical matter can you, the citizens of Maricopa county do about these expenses?

STEVE GALLARDO: As a member of the county board of supervisors, we have a fiduciary responsibility. We have a fiduciary responsibility to look over the budget of the sheriff's office. We need to hold him accountable. We need to start looking at his budget, we need zero base budgeting on his office. We need to have an account of every dollar being spent. No taxpayer's money should be used for retribution or to investigate a federal judge, whether it be a superior court our federal judge. This has to stop. The fact is he's costing the taxpayers of Maricopa county hundreds of millions of dollars, it has to end. Just in the last two years on this case alone, nearly $50 million and we anticipate that to double! I mean, it is unknown exactly how much it's going to cost the taxpayers of Maricopa county. It has to stop. I think we can hold him accountable on his budget. We should have him come into the county board's office and tell us exactly how he is spending every nickel. We need to stop wasting taxpayer dollars and we need to stop spending that money on retribution and false investigations of public officials.

JOSE CARDENAS: So Paul, in terms of something coming to a stop, this hearing is focused solely on contempt of court charges and as I understand it, the real issue is whether it's civil or criminal and not whether it's civil but whether it is criminal?

PAUL CHARTLTON: Joe Arpaio's lawyers in an early tactical move decided they would come before Judge Snow and admit that they had not followed Judge Snow's orders, that they were in contempt of court but they wanted it to be civil contempt. They wanted to pay a fine, they wanted a new order but they didn't want criminal contempt proceedings. Now, we've heard more evidence that I think will eventually if the judge so decides support a criminal prosecution. The judge has the option of taking this information and referring it to the U.S. attorney's office and asking them to prosecute this case. One of the things that supervisor Gallardo mentioned, too, the metric for the amount of money that's been spent for all the lawyers and all the costs in these different trials and different payments that we the taxpayers have had to make are significant, but there's an important point that you made that I want to underscore as a former individual who had a leadership position in law enforcement. There are deputies out there right now who are looking to Joe Arpaio, an individual who's no longer at the helm, he's in court, the chief deputy no longer at the helm. This new individual who the judge has found violated the U.S. Constitution. If you don't have good leadership at the top of law enforcement, the law enforcement agency itself suffers and that's a very important point that I wanted to underscore.

JOSE CARDENAS: Well, I want to come back to that because I also want to talk about the role of the county attorney's office. But the legal test that we're looking at here, what is it? Is it whether the sheriff and the other people who are involved in this contempt hearing willfully disobeyed the court's order?

PAUL CHARLTON: The law seems to suggest that all Judge Snow needs to find is that there's probable cause to believe that Joe Arpaio, perhaps Jerry Sheridan and others willfully violated his order and if that's true, then he can refer it to the U.S. attorney's office for a potential prosecution and we've heard recently evidence that might support such a conclusion.

JOSE CARDENAS: So let's start with Jerry Sheridan. What did he say that you think would support such a finding?

PAUL CHARLTON: One of the things that Jerry Sheridan said when he testified was that he didn't recall any information that he had seen or reviewed that indicated that there was an investigation relating to wrongdoing by Judge Snow. In fact, what he admitted on the stand perhaps as recently as Wednesday and Tuesday was that he had seen such information, that an individual by the name of Montgomery in Washington state had been hired by the sheriff's office, paid by his own testimony up to $250,000 and that there was information there that they were using or reviewing that indicated that Judge Snow falsely, it's not accurate, that Judge Snow had been working cooperatively with the department of justice. You also heard from Joe Arpaio's former lawyer, surprisingly, who said that he had advised Joe Arpaio how it is he should comply with Judge Snow's orders and that one of the reasons that Tim Casey, Joe Arpaio's former lawyer, no longer represents Joe Arpaio is because he felt Joe Arpaio was not following that advice.

JOSE CARDENAS: So there's a basis you think right now for the judge to make a finding that would be a basis for referring this to the U.S. attorney's office.

PAUL CHARTLON: We certainly heard more information than we had available to us in the past.

JOSE CARDENAS: Supervisor Gallardo, focusing specifically on the question of moneys paid to this gentleman, Montgomery, from Washington, what could the supervisors do specifically about that, either now or just as a basis for taking action in the future, regarding the sheriff's budget?

STEVE GALLARDO: Again, it goes back to how he's spending the money. At the beginning of this particular court case, it was mentioned that possibly rico dollars were used in order to --

JOSE CARDENAS: Moneys that the sheriff's office collects from criminal defendants involved in racketeering.

STEVE GALLARDO: Exactly. I believe that we need to have a full account exactly how much money do we have in the rico fund, exactly how it's being spent. It is under control of the county attorney's office so if the sheriff wants money for the actual rico expense, he has to go to the county attorney's office, county attorney's office will then write him a check so he can pay for whatever investigation. I believe we need a full accounting of what's in the rico fund and how it's being spent. I think we owe it to the taxpayers of Maricopa county to have that type of fiduciary look. I think it's required. And I also believe that should this be referred to by the judge for a criminal investigation, absolutely no taxpayer dollars should be spent in order to defend the sheriff or anyone who is found to be under investigation on the criminal side. It's one thing to defend the sheriff and his officers on the civil side but once you've been found that you have possibly violated a law criminally, I think you are on your own and no taxpayer dollars should be used to defend you. I believe the sheriff should be held accountable. I believe the sheriff should be investigated and let the chips fall where they may but taxpayers should not have to pay for it.

JOSE CARDENAS: Paul, as you've indicated, it's highly unusual that a lawyer would testify. All of us lawyers and nonlawyers assume that anything you say to your lawyer is confidential and nobody can get to it. How did that happen here?

PAUL CHARTLON: It's a bad day for a new lawyer when that lawyer is testifying about his client, and it's a worse way for that client. Here one of the reasons Judge Snow felt that it was permissible that Tim Casey testify about statements he would otherwise have had protected, that he made to Joe Arpaio was because Joe Arpaio had indicated that one of the reasons he wasn't complying with Judge Snow's order was because of advice he had received from his lawyer, advice of counsel is a defense but once you raise that defense, you waive the attorney-client privilege so now, Mr. Casey is compelled to testify about thoughts and words that he shared with Joe Arpaio.

JOSE CARDENAS: And he said as I understand it that he told the sheriff you have to comply and that the sheriff basically said at least at certain points in time I'm not going to do that.

PAUL CHARLTON: That was one of the reasons that he said he had to actually withdraw from his representation of Joe Arpaio because he felt that Joe Arpaio wasn't compliant with the advice he was giving him.

JOSE CARDENAS: Now, specifically as it comes to payments to this Montgomery fellow, there was discussions that the sheriff had with his lawyer.

PAUL CHARLTON: One of the discussions, an important discussion that Tim Casey testified about was that there was a point in time in which Tom Liddy, the deputy county attorney, Tim Casey who was Joe Arpaio's lawyer, both of whom were there, were presented with what purported to be evidence of this conspiracy between Judge Snow and the department of justice against Joe Arpaio. That has since been found to be untrue. There was no such evidence. And Tim Casey and according to Tim Casey's testimony, Tom Liddy both recognized it was untrue. What isn't clear, but what should be made clear is what, if anything, those lawyers did to stop that investigation at that point in time. It's a lawyer's job to say yes but it is also a lawyer's job and a more difficult job to say no. And someone, perhaps the county attorney, should have been saying no.

STEVE GALLARDO: We have a sheriff right now that has a reputation of going after his political enemies, whether it be elected officials, a superior court judge, and now, federal court judge. So this isn't the first time. I think that should have been the first red flag. I think the county attorney's office should have stepped in and said wait a minute enough is enough. We've seen this, we've gone through this, we've down this road over and over again. We are not going after a federal judge without any evidence. And that's unfortunate that this case, $250,000! Was spent on a man who should never have been hired but the attorney's office did not intervene.

JOSE CARDENAS: Paul, how do you respond to that? The fact is that the U.S. attorney's office well after your tenure there purported to have investigated the sheriff for abuse of power and it would include the kinds of things that the supervisor's talking about going after political enemies or people he presumed to be enemies, including other judges on the Maricopa county superior court and at the end of the day, they gave him a slap on the wrist and said you need to promise not to violate anybody's constitutional rights again. What's going on there?

PAUL CHARLTON: That was a disappointing aspect of the settlement that the department of justice civil rights division reached with the county attorney's office. They made him promise never to punish his political enemies again or investigate political enemies again. That's hardly a punishment for Joe Arpaio. We don't know why the department of justice agreed to settle the case in that fashion and as an individual, as you know who represented Don Stapley, a former supervisor who was a target of that political investigation and persecution and Andrew Thomas, I'm disappointed that the department of justice didn't pursue those allegations more strenuously.

JOSE CARDENAS: Supervisor Gallardo, as a practical matter, what can the board of supervisors do beyond perhaps tightening up on the sheriff's budget and what can you do to deal with all the concerns that you've raised?

STEVE GALLARDO: You know, and the unfortunate part is we're not even close for this being resolved. The fact is if the sheriff was to go away tomorrow, I think we're still on the hook of many different claims out there. We're still on the hook of having a federal monitor which I believe their role will be expanded and their term there at the county is going to be expanded or extended, as well. I think we're not done with the monitor, as well. But we have a responsibility to make sure that the sheriff is doing his job. I think we have that responsibility. The fact that you have a sheriff that's doing a lot of activities that are not his responsibility and continue to cost taxpayers millions of dollars, I think that falls in lines for the county supervisor. We need to make sure he's doing his job. If he's not doing his job, we need to yank those dollars away from him. If he continues to do the types of activities he's doing, it's going to cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. There's no end in sight and that's the unfortunate part. I think that's the important thing. Taxpayers have to realize, it's not the sheriff that's paying for this. You have attorneys now that are having to have legal representation.

JOSE CARDENAS: The bills keep adding up.

STEVE GALLARDO: It is the taxpayers, it's you, I, and the hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in Maricopa county that are having to pay for this.

JOSE CARDENAS: Paul, last question and we're almost out of time. The sheriff did take the stand late in the day Wednesday. Give us a sense for what he said and what you expect to hear and when we think this is going to wrap up.

PAUL CHARLTON: We're not going to expect much from Joe Arpaio. Joe Arpaio is very artful in his forgetfulness, he's very artful in his ability to take responsibility for any wrongs that take place within the sheriff's office. He has two personas it appears, one that is a very public in charge kind of person, and then another individual who under oath indicates he's not that person at all.

STEVE GALLARDO: Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

JOSE CARDENAS: The costs continue to rise and the proceedings go on. I'm sure we'll be talking to both of you again about this case. Thank you so much for joining us on "Horizonte."

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Paul Charlton: Former U.S. attorney for Arizona and partner at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, Steve Gallardo: Maricopa County Supervisor for District 5

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