Maricopa deputy steals defender's paperwork during a court case

Tom sends us video of a Maricopa County Sheriff's Deputy named Adam Stoddard stealing a public defender's paperwork, during a court proceeding, in front of the court's security camera. Tom adds, "The local news clip is really worth seeing, if only for the reporter's incredulous lead-in: 'The Maricopa County Sheriff's office backing one of its deputies after he takes away a lawyer's paperwork in court.' If you live in Arizona you're subject to the daily outrage from Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It's a bit like Philadelphia during the Rizzo years."

The deputy claims he wasn't stealing the paper, he was searching it for contraband. H's been found in contempt of court, and the judge has ordered him to apologize:

Those conditions are:

1) On or before November 30th, 2009, at a time convenient for Ms. Cuccia, a news conference to take place in the plaza on the north side of the central court building where he is to give Ms. Cuccia a sincere verbal and written apology for invading her defense file and for the damage that his conduct may have caused to her professional reputation.

2) If at the news conference, Ms. Cuccia does not state that the apology is sufficient, Stoddard will report to the jail on December 1, 2009 and be detained until further order upon a finding that he has complied with the purge clause.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio responded to the ruling early Wednesday, saying Superior Court judges do not order his staff to hold press conferences.

MCSO officer who took lawyer's paperwork might go to jail (Thanks, Tom!)

Update: Dan Gillmor points out that the Heat City blog has done great work on this, breaking the story.


  1. Wow, that’s unbelievable! There must be a line of lawyers waiting to jump on this one. That Deputy should be fired outright for the fees he’ll cost his department to fight this.

  2. Who does that? The Deputy should be fired, the defendant might need to go free as a matter of law, and I wouldn’t be unhappy if the deputy went to jail. And, I would be ecstatic if the Sheriff himself was sent to jail.

  3. Joe and his guys have gotten increasingly bold over the years. They pretty much think themselves bulletproof when it comes to contempt. And the locals keep… voting… him… in.

    1. “And the locals keep… voting… him… in.”

      This is why we invented the boycott. Let the locals learn the hard way that there are consequences for sanctioning bad behavior.

  4. This is certainly not the first time appalling behaviour from maricopa law enforcement has been on boingboing. That law enforcement has gone off the rails is bad, but less shocking than the fact that Maricopa’s voters keep putting this fascist clown back in office – Arpaio has been voted sheriff four times now, each term lasting four years.

    I personally resolved years ago to keep well away from maricopa.

  5. Sheriff Joe’s war on everybody continues. It is utterly and entirely illegal for a deputy to even read the document, much less take it and photocopy it. He should simply be fired, the sheriff’s office should retrain their personnel, and apologies should come without request. But this being Arpaio’s personal fiefdom, it won’t happen that way.

    Of course, if the court persists in ordering the sheriff’s office, they might get “investigated,” as local politicians and journalists have found themselves after speaking out against Arpaio’s policies. His office is now under FBI investigation.

  6. Well, it’s not that bad throughout the rest of Arizona, but this is still a pretty rough state to tolerate sometimes.

    Arpaio is a vile, hateful man, and his unbroken reign as Sheriff in Maricopa county has done incalculable damage to the environment of tolerance and diversity in the Phoenix area.

  7. If I was that judge, I would have ordered that the deputy be “cavity” searched. By the other deputy. Can’t have any contraband in my courtroom!

  8. If all you read about Sheriff Arpaio is true, he’d better be careful if he travels outside the United States; he could easily find himself on trial for human rights violation.

  9. It’s amazing how brazen it is, as if the deputy just assumed that of course he could futz around with confidential defense documents in full view of the judge and everybody in the courtroom, including the surveillance camera. No need to be sneaky about it. He didn’t even bother to cook up a good excuse being called to explain himself.

  10. I’m far outside of Arizona, but I’ve often heard or read people’s defense, and praise, of “Sheriff Joe” and his antics. From tent cities to bologna sandwiches to pink uniforms, they seem to think that the dehumanization of their fellow citizens (many of whom are in for petty offenses and/or simply being unable to bail themselves out) is justified, or even funny.

    A good metric of how to judge a society is how it treats it’s jailed, it’s elderly and its sick. A pretty scary thought for most Americans.

  11. Remember folks, if you don’t like something you can always change it from within the system. Don’t go outside the system! The system works. All is WELL! ALL IS WELL!

  12. The judge may not have the power to order the deputy to a press conference(don’t know). But the judge sure has the power to put the deputy in jail. Don’t show up mister deputy. That will show the judge.

  13. I have no problems with pink jail uniforms, but a lot of Arpaio’s other little tricks cross all sorts of lines in my opinion.

    In any case, Arpaio is probably right that the judge has no authority to order his deputy to hold a press conference. The judge does, however, have the right to sentence the deputy to jail time for contempt of court.

    Of course, Arpaio is unlikely to jail his deputy, and if the judge sentences Arpaio for contempt he’s not going to jail himself – just ignore the judge, or perhaps raid his house and shoot his dogs for being threatening.

  14. “He’s been found in contempt of court, and the judge has ordered him to apologize”

    ahem. not only should he have been found to have been in contempt, there are a couple other charges that any CIVILIAN doing the same thing would be facing, such as obstruction of justice, perjury, attempting to destroy evidence, and probably a half dozen others. IANAL so here’s a grain of salt, but jesus, this guy should be discharged dishonorably and put in jail for a year or so.

  15. If you watch again, you see that the deputy walked over to that area as if he specificly had in mind to look at her paperwork, it wasn’t just happenstance. How could ANY attorney EVER feel comfortable doing business with that deputy in the same room?

  16. Anyone have the under/over on how long it’ll take Sheriff Joe to arrest the D.A. on trumped up charges?

    My gut says six weeks, but they might drag it out a bit longer because of the FBI investigation.

  17. I thought judges could pretty much do whatever they wanted in their court. Fine, don’t hold a press conference, just go to jail until you do. Then find a reason to put the sheriff in there also.

  18. Whether or not permission or orders or allowances to act in this way are passed down from above, this is a reflection of Sheriff Arpaio’s dysfunctional department. My guess is that county residents will have little negative reaction to this though. The reason he’s been reelected so many times is that he acts in ways in which many residents would like to act themselves. If you’ve spent much time in Maricopa County, you understand why the man is an elected official.

  19. As a resident of Phoenix, I’ve got to say we’ve grown a little too complacent with the tenure of our sheriff. The New Times loves to skewer him and his department, sometimes even over the tiniest infractions, just because when Joe makes a legal land grab, he always manages to piss off the “right” people. I’m sure you’re all familiar with what he tried to do to the New Times staff when they, for instance, published his home address.

    This, though, is beyond brazen. Usually our sheriff and his deputies have the good sense to keep any civil rights violations under cover of secrecy, even going so far as to harass protestors photographing or video taping the “crime sweeps” that are thinly veiled extensions of his anti-illegal-immigration crusade. (Harassment sometimes includes rough handling of people or breakage of cameras. Thankfully, most of the protestors aren’t so easily intimidated that they give up their right to use a camera in a public space.)

    Now we have a deputy stealing documents subject to attorney-client privilege. It’s the judge who rules in a courtroom — it’s their jurisdiction, and the bailiff is there to enforce the judge’s authority. This deputy was undermining the judge’s authority, and clearly was in contempt of court. Should be cut-and-dried, right? So why is the sheriff also undermining the judge’s authority? He’s clearly wrong — the judge can order any remedy he or she desires, within certain bounds, and I think a humiliating public apology is a lot better than spending time in jail.

    Assuming Arpaio allows his deputy to be jailed. Since Arpaio runs the jails, I wonder how this will work out?

    I know first-hand about the jail conditions here. Got arrested the first (and I hope only) time in my life last year, thrown into one of the actual brick-and-mortar jails (not tent city), and had none of my medical needs taken care of for 24 hours. I was having trouble with just about every bodily function you could imagine — the cop who dropped me off told them what my medical needs were in no uncertain terms, since the EMTs had to be called in when I was arrested, but my meds got sealed in with all the other belongings that got confiscated. And yes, I signed a form allowing the medical staff at the jail to administer medication.

    It gets better. Most people grouse about Joe Arpaio but don’t mention much about our county AG, Andrew Thomas. Thomas or one of his flunkies outright lied about me in jail court, which helped justify the judge’s excessive bail (6X the amount for another accused who had the same charge X2). My attorney called Thomas’ office to discuss my case and it was instantly scratched, with a promise to refer it to the city attorney. By that point, the economic damage was already done.

    In case you’re wondering why I say “Thomas or one of his flunkies,” it’s because I was having trouble focusing on the man’s face. Because by that point, I hadn’t eaten in 8 hours and had no medication. (OK, they did come around right before court and gave us a pittance of food after I hadn’t eaten for 8 hours, but I could eat little because of medical concerns with the carb-rich food and being surrounded by opportunists who were more than happy to take your share when you weren’t looking.)

    I could go on about how jail population isn’t segregated at all (e.g., murderers get mixed in with petty criminals), or how even most of the police in this county despise the MCSO. Even the corrupt cops hate the MCSO. I could even tell you about the Puerto Rican man I met in jail who was repeatedly badgered by a deputy who apparently thought he was an illegal alien because he didn’t have any “papers.” (He tried to explain to her that he’s a US citizen, as all Puerto Ricans are, and doesn’t need a passport or visa to visit the States. She didn’t believe it.) But you’ve probably seen or heard it all before. We all get incensed about the SWAT-style raids that result in deaths of innocent people, but most folks don’t usually feel too sympathetic toward defendants in court. Especially ones wearing jail stripes, because they must’ve done something bad to deserve being treated badly by the system, right? What this article and video tell me is that the MCSO isn’t even making a pretense of upholding the rule of law, just the rule of some law and one strongman.

    Posted anonymously for obvious reasons. Apologies for the length.

    1. If you’re not just making stuff up (and I assume you’re being honest) then no apologies for the length are necessary. Just the opposite — personally, I’m shocked. I don’t think I would have believed this if not for the video. That, plus the comments, make me as a stranger to this county, think this county must have some deep, deep, problems. What the hell is going on here? I hope that portion of my tax dollars devoted to the FBI goes to good use.

  20. 1. This is outrageous.

    2. I’m also appalled at the spelling mistakes in the captions on the video.

  21. I just want it to be clear, I also wasn’t the prosecuting attorney during the main part of this trial, they just got me from a temp agency, and I don’t want my name associated with this soon-to-be Federal Supreme Court case.

  22. If Maricopa is not a totalitarian state (I’m not judging, this just conjecture), that deputy should be charged with a crime and sent to prison if convicted.

  23. Jail is not prison. The conditions people go threw under Arpaio’s jail have yet to be convicted of a crime!

  24. What was sickening, and telling, was the meek, conciliatory, and tentative tone of the presiding judge as she asked the deputy whether he had taken something from the attorney’s podium. A crime had just been committed in front of her eyes, in HER court, and she’s asking the deputy to own up to his actions in the way a scared substitute teacher might ask the thrice-flunked bully about what was in his hand (as it emerged from the purse of the girl in the next desk.) I think I heard her voice cracking.

    I’m unfamiliar with the history of Arpaio’s reign, but the judge’s tone and mannerisms say a lot about the climate under the regime.

  25. The more I read this site, the more I am amazed at the blatant comfustication of the law that goes on in the ‘modern west’. I always thought the benefit of living in a rich country was that you didn’t SEE injustice, which made it easier to generate outrage over the rare cases where it happens. I’m starting to think that I was wrong…

    It also made me think, reading this… What would happen if I walked into starbucks or something and simply took someone’s laptop in front of them. I know I’d get arrested for theft eventually, but I wonder how the person would react… Not that I’d try it :-p

  26. I read this story about this guy Ron Grotjan who was a punk rock lead singer for the Mighty Sphincter. I guess he suffered a stroke and was in a hit and run accident…the charges were dropped, but he’s still in prison in Maricopa County and there are no new charges…now his condition is so bad that they might have to amputate his leg. Don’t go to prison in Phoenix!

    1. The Ron Reckless/Ronald Denton Grotjan story, Aug. 2010 update – Ron was not found to have any stroke and/or amputation. He is currently awaiting trial for manslaughter, fleeing, etc. Look up his case – CR2009-145880.

  27. What I do wonder: There’s always so much 2nd-Amendment-Porn on the net, people who claim that they take their guns and shoot this and that because of such and so – and yet apparently nobody shoots this guy and his kind.

  28. What was as offensive as the deputy violating attorney client privilege and committing the crimes of conversion and theft is how quickly the supposed-t0-be-neutral judge came to the deputy’s defense.

  29. Contempt is just the easy, throw away charge. The meaty charges are obstruction of justice and conspiracy*. This is going to be messy, but the unholy terror of Sheriff Joe’s reign may finally come to an appropriate end.

    *IANAL, but lots of people think I should have been. I have no tolerance for this kind of horseshit. Never have, never will. If that were my courtroom, that deputy would be in a holding cell with a charge of contempt. Let that SOB eat those green bologna sandwiches while he rots in his pink jumpsuit for a good year.

  30. No question the deputy should be jailed for this level of contempt of court. And frankly, I suspect this is a clear case of mistrial. About as clear as it gets!

  31. I very much expect for the Sheriff to announce the “ongoing” investigation into the Judge for “unrelated” matters. That is usually what happens.

    Remember, this is a guy who once, during a re-election campaign, ordered his deputies to investigate the other candidate for the “totally unrelated to the campaign” allegation that he had, as a teenager, had sex with his mother.

    You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  32. Posting anonymously again as a follow-up. Just wanted to make clear, the reason I mentioned Andrew Thomas is that during the last election, he and Arpaio were actively stumping for each other, because their positions were both viewed as being in jeopardy.

    Thomas is well known for his anti-meth billboards and signage in malls, so he gets a lot of respect from the average people for that. He also seems to confer an aura of respectability over the MCSO. There’s understandably a lot of collusion between the sheriff’s office and the county attorney’s office, but it seems to extend into covering up or signing off on each others’ misdeeds and injustices. Even the mainstream press (Arizona Republic) reports on the financial shenanigans now.

  33. I’m an AZ attorney. Either that “detention officer” goes to jail for contempt, regardless of apology, or we perform a citizens arrest of Arpaio.

  34. One wonders how the captioners managed to misspell “counsel” twice, in two different ways (“council” and “counsil”), in such a short time.

    Also: IAAL, and if some moron did this to me I’d be livid.

  35. This is clearly tampering with confidential defense documents. Nobody who isn’t a lawyer, judge or defendent is allowed to touch them. That goes beyond contempt if you ask me. I can’t doubt he was looking for a specific document for reasons of obstruction.

    That isn’t an apology that’s jail. WTF.

  36. Everything Anonymous #23 reports is true, but it is much worse to actually be there than to read about it. I am a 7th generation Arizonan (very hard to find) and am saddened by the reputation that my state is earning at the hands of the thugs that seem to have gained public office. I now find myself a victim of this system where every citizen is viewed as a criminal. I am sure everyone is used to those arrested saying they, “didn’t do it” but in my case it is true. The police came to faulty conclusions, the Sheriff arrested me and violated my human rights and Andrew Thomas lied about me and the facts of the case. When I was found not guilty, Andrew Thomas came after me with a different set of charges. I was already out of money and so had to depend on the judge to save me but you have seen in the video how the judges cower in the corner when confronted by the Sheriff and the Prosecutor and it was no different in my case. I now am seeing more of Sheriff Joe than I ever wanted and I have to ask how my beautiful state ever became the target of thugs wearing a badge and why these infamous public officials who are constantly on the world stage for human rights violations are allowed to continue their work of injustice?

  37. it seems that according to arizona law, if the sheriff orders the deputy not to comply, he can go to jail too.

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