Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Will Arpaio jail one of his own officers?

On October 19 of this year, Maricopa County, Arizona, Detention Officer Adam Stoddard was caught by surveillance cameras helping himself to a document from a defense attorney's files. He and his colleagues photocopied the document before returning it to attorney Joanne Cuccia. Responding to a formal complaint, Judge Gary Donahoe ordered the errant lawman to apologize at a press conference. Egged on by the county sheriff, Stoddard publicly refused. Now the officer has been ordered to jail. But will he go?

The showdown may have been inevitable as soon as Judge Donahoe issued his unusual (and possibly unconstitutional) order in what may have been a misguided attempt to spare the officer a fine or jail time -- the usual penalties for contempt of court. But Maricopa County's Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- the self-proclaimed "America's toughest sheriff" -- isn't known for apologizing, or for observing legal niceties. Arpaio announced, "My officer was doing his job, and I will not stand by and allow him to be thrown to the wolves by the courts because they feel pressure from the media on this situation." He added, "I decide who holds press conferences and when they are held regarding this Sheriff's Office."

Adhering to Arpaio's line, Stoddard held a press conference on the last day allowed by Donahoe's order, but what he said wasn't exactly what the judge had in mind.
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.
See a video of the conference below.
Now, surprise, surprise, the Maricopa County Superior Court says that Officer Stoddard will have to do what any mere civilian would have been forced to do to begin with -- report to jail to serve out the usual sentence for his offense.

But ... the jails in Maricopa County are run by Stoddard's boss, Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- the same guy who instructed his underling to flip the bird to Judge Donahoe to begin with. Will Arpaio actually cooperate with the court and throw the officer behind bars?

And what about making escaping a stretch in jail conditional on obeying a kiddy-time order to apologize? Judges normally can't compel people to espouse opinions they don't hold; will that complicate matters as Stoddard and company appeal the sentence up the judicial food chain?

Stay tuned to developments in Maricopa County to see whether the police will agree to submit to punishment for an act the court has already held to be a crime.



Blogger liberranter said...

The answer to your title question is too obvious to require elaboration. What did surprise (and concern) me, however, was attorney Joanne Cuccia's expression of surprise not only at Adam Stoddard's refusal to apologize, but his insistence on going to jail instead. Perhaps we should give Ms. Cuccia the benefit of the doubt here and assume that she was being diplomatic. Otherwise I have to question the competence of any seasoned defense lawyer (Ms. Cuccia stated in the video of the original incident that she's been practicing law for over ten years) who would be "shocked" at what is pro forma behavior for cops in general and Joke Arpiggo's gangbangers in particular: closing ranks, flouting their criminal behavior, defying the law they're supposed to uphold, and subtly (or not) threatening anyone and everyone who would hold them accountable for their behavior.

December 2, 2009 10:39 AM  

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