Court Orders Arizona Deputy to Jail After He Refuses to Apologize for Swiping Attorney’s Notes in Court

Officer Adam Stoddard of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has added contempt of court to his prior violation of attorney-client confidentiality. At the urging of his boss, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Stoddard has refused to apologize to defense attorney Joanne Cuccia after he swiped handwritten notes from her papers — caught in the videotape above. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe ordered Stoddard to either apologize or report to jail — a remarkably light sentence. However, Arpaio encouraged his officer to go to jail — just the latest outrageous act by Arpaio who has been widely accused of acting more like a petty dictator than a police officer in Arizona.

Stoddard’s punishment was light in my view and he should have been barred from work in the courthouse or jail. Yet, he seems to believe that swiping confidential notes is a noble deed — a view clearly reinforced by his boss. On Monday he issued the following statement: “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. 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.”

The statement is nonsensical. Officers are allowed to flip through papers to see if there is contraband or weapons. They are not supposed to read confidential notes for their content or make copies of them. It is clear that the judges in the courthouse have allowed Arpaio and his officers too much discretion. This was an outrageous act and should not be countenanced by any judge on appeal. What is equally disturbing is the decision of county attorney Andrew Thomas to fight to defend such an outrage.

Just because Arpaio has declared that an appeal will be taken does not mean that prosecutors must follow his lead over a cliff. The prosecutors have a right to stand aside on principle and not fight to defend such conduct. They can decline and, if necessary, arrange for private counsel to represent the officer.

Stoddard self-surrendered to jail after a court order was issued. Arpaio was quick to the cameras and declared “[m]y officer will go to jail; we’ll appeal it, I’m very angry about this. . . . For political reasons, he was thrown to the wolves.”
Deputy county attorney Tom Liddy objected that the order stated that Cuccia had to be satisfied by the apology or the officer would face jail: “She’s going to decide if Officer Stoddard is going to go to jail on December 1st? You know what? That’s nuts. That’s absolutely nuts.” I agree. It is absolutely nuts that a simply apology would suffice for this violation. It is also absolutely nuts that Liddy and his boss Andrew Thomas have turned their back on the legal system and are defending such an outrageous abuse by the officer.

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35 thoughts on “Court Orders Arizona Deputy to Jail After He Refuses to Apologize for Swiping Attorney’s Notes in Court”

  1. if you dont mind i’ve got a question…I’m not a lawyer…i’ve only been in a courtroom a few times as a jurior or with business dealings and most of the stuff I have ever seen was on tv programs….I was shocked by the judge in this case…I always thought judges were the kings or queens of their courtrooms…this person seemed milktoast at best and maybe thats a compliment…I mean conservative or liberal or middle of the road judges…to allow something like that to happen in there courtrooms I would have expected at least some degree of anger…am I wrong? maybe what we witnessed in that vid is the norm…just asking?

  2. I’m amazed that when the Sherrif said, “For political reasons, he was thrown to the wolves,” he didn’t go for the trifecta of BS: blame “the media” (in front of the cameras, of course) and blame “outsiders fer stirrin’ up trouble.”

  3. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Oh look, there it is.

  4. Aren’t papers explicitly protected by the 4th amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches? This should be a no brainer.

  5. @ Mike S:
    “collegiality, corruption, intimidation and fear often negate accountability”

    You identify the greatest unfixable rot that isn’t reliably controllable in any organisation anywhere: the “band of brothers” culture that set their own internal ethics barometer. I moved a lot and so never got into the “join the crew” conviviality. Still now I don’t join associations or clubs (he stated with a slightly aloof pomposity, sorry) because I feel uncomfortably that loyalty and honesty are opposed concepts at all levels. Members of the same group are expected to “stand up for their member-brother” (aka lie to protect him in a pinch) and I’m squeamish about getting caught between the choice of failing “my side” who are counting on me or alternatively lying to favour and maintain a flawed ideal of solidarity.

    In non-paramilitary/non-gungho branches of government I’ve seen internally in a few areas how the corruption issue has been finally benchmarked and quantified to be removed pretty well through honed Quality Management practices developed after case review-after-review. Now we have very effective, Government certified procedures that are a virtual “how to” in prevention setting out specific and effective policy controls, protocols, China Walls between departments, etc. etc.

    The Oz government (again – just the non-police part) is, in my 10 years experience there, 100% corruption free as far as I even heard, all the way up to at least the elected official level. They rigorously instituted TQM policy in the ’80’s and it worked. But Ozzie cops? I’ve had troubles. They’re decent by default but all on THEIR terms and seem “cocked” to go off when you “irk” one like I did (no crime)but I was thrown in a cell overnight (never charged) in Perth W.A. for (I guess) telling the cop he was a public servant, yada yada when asked to present ID for no reason. Pushed out the back door (since I was never formally logged in) the next morning with a finger-wagging and a warning (I quote)” Not to be such a bloody Dinga-Ling in the future, awright?”. Luckily too scared to laugh at “Dinga-Ling”. These guys have a culture that set solid sometime in 1953.

    O/T – I was surprised when I heard the first effective bureaucracy control of corruption was China. Ironic when you see their standards today. I misunderstood for years thinking that the “China Wall” referred to in financial companies was just a fanciful metaphor referencing the Great Wall of China to portray an image of some internal conflict division. Only about 5 years ago I discovered it referenced the actual system and division of The Emperor’s Palace’s civil servants to ensure internal corruption control. Smart cookies. They had it worked out 500 years ago and then forgot it completely again.

  6. The rule of law is being dethroned in the U.S.A. on both the State and Federal levels.

    The only justice that could come out of this incident is the initiation of dethroning Sheriff Arp’s firebrand style of law enforcement in Arizona.

    I am a tough on crime, pro law enforcement kind of a guy; however, Arpaio stands with his full biased weight on one side of the scales of justice.

    Oh, and Public Defender Cuccia is one hot attorney; however, I know nothing of her legal competency, just what I viewed on the News 15 video during her interview.

  7. “if you do no wrong, you’ve got no worries, right?”

    Hidflect,
    I like your point and petard hoisting is to me the best punishment. I wonder though how readily access will be available to those video’s showing police in a bad light? We’ve had cases that JT has put up, which show LEO’s doing bad things and yet many times there is no justice offered. Remember Rodney King? The bottom line is that it is vital to any society’s freedom that LEO’s too are also accountable to justice. However,
    collegiality, corruption, intimidation and fear often negate accountability. Part of the problem, as I see it, is that in most venues including the US & UK, the police are used by society’s elite to control the masses. Not being stupid officers know this and expect the same treatment that is given to the privileged, to be their right as a perk of the job. The knowledge of their true purpose, social control of the mass, also tends to make experienced officers cynical.

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

    **************

    I am told that he added –under his breath –“Now, violating people’s rights and intimidating justice, well … that’s ok with me.”

    That Stoddard doesn’t recognize the seriousness of his offense tells me all I need to know about Stoddard and his defenders.

  9. rafflaw,

    This is incredible to say the least. I think that you have a good point. Maybe the Judge should issue an arrest warrant for criminal conspiracy against the sheriff. Respondent/Superior, Mater/Servant.

    Loyalty caused that little German to try and escape to England and he parachuted on down.

    Ok, so say that he goes to jail. What is the punishment? Will he get out because of over crowding? Will be have to sleep as the rest of the inmates do? So many questions.

  10. That poor defendant! See how meek he was speaking up at witnessing blatant abuse of his day in court. How long has that cop being pulling shocking stunts like that? The way he acted so nonchalant, it certainly can7t be his first time. This is the kind of guy you dread being pulled over by on some lonely road just when he’s feeling kinda bored and sore at his lot in life.

    Blair’s vision policy for the UK put in 4 million cameras to keep the creep-eye on its own citizens. Right idea, wrong target. Cops have the power to wreck your life in 10 minutes if they get the urge. Every hour on duty should be monitored. As the authorities like to point out so grandly; if you do no wrong, you’ve got no worries, right?

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