The Mississippi of the West

Via Simple Justice, this video of Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Stoddard raiding the file of a criminal-defense lawyer while her back is turned:

Notice the pathetic weak passive behavior of Judge Lisa Flores.

Also note that the defense lawyer’s first reaction is to want to know if she’s being accused of wrongdoing.

Here’s the followup by Nick R. Martin of Heat City, who broke the story, and who was the only media person in the followup hearing before Judge Gary Donahoe:

At first, Stoddard testified that the document he yanked from the file — a handwritten letter — contained “keywords” that led him to believe Lozano was some sort of security risk. Later, however, the detention officer admitted the document had been reviewed by court or sheriff’s officials beforehand and was quite literally given a stamp of approval.

“I guess, yeah, he would be legally entitled to have whatever he had on him,” Stoddard said, adding that the letter had been “date stamped by a notoriety [sic notary] or the sheriff’s office.”

Stoddard also said he thought the document might have been somehow illegally passed between Lozano and his defense attorney. But later in the hearing, he admitted that there was really nothing unusual or illegal about a handwritten letter being passed between attorney and client.

And so forth. In other words, Deputy Stoddard told a lie, got caught, told another lie, got caught, told another lie, got caught, told another lie, got caught.

That’s AZCentral.com bases its account on the story of Tom Liddy, who represented the Sheriff’s Office at the hearing before Judge Donahoe but apparently didn’t hear the same testimony Nick Martin heard:

Stoddard told the judge that when he walked near the defense attorney’s table he recognized some documents that weren’t previously screened, [Maricopa County lawyer Tom] Liddy said, so he had the paperwork copied for the record and returned it to the defendant’s table.

Here’s my favorite part, from Nick Martin’s story:

One of the complication’s of the hearing was Donahoe’s decision that the handwritten letter falls under attorney-client privilege. Because of that, no one was allowed to talk about the contents of the letter, including the supposed “keywords” that possibly provoked the seizure.

This, Donahoe said, made it impossible for Stoddard or Campillo to mount a defense against a possible contempt of court charge. Donahoe said he would not even consider holding the sheriff’s employees in contempt for the seizure unless Lozano waived his attorney-client privilege.

It’s a novel theory: that in order to get relief for the government’s violation of the attorney-client privilege, the accused must waive that privilege. I’d call that a knight fork. It’s not the rule, though, for obvious reasons.

How complicated is this? It was privileged and Deputy Stoddard violated the privilege. In the hearing before Judge Donahoe, Deputy Stoddard committed what appears to be prosecutable perjury (that is, he told a story under oath, then told an inconsistent story under oath). It does not matter what the content of the privileged letter was, much less what Deputy Stoddard might claim the content was.

Moreover, if employees of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office are to be believed, Deputy Stoddard (as well as everyone else in the Sheriff’s Office) does not know what the paper said:

“The original papers were given back to the defense attorney, and the copy that was made was sealed in an envelope and given to county counsel. When county counsel read them, they gave them back to the defense attorney,” [Sheriff's Deputy Jack] MacIntyre said. “Nobody from the Sheriff’s Office ever read them.”

Simple, right? Deputy Stoddard never read the papers. Therefore he can’t talk about their contents. Therefore the waiver of privilege is a non-issue.

What the hell is wrong with Phoenix?

(Post title is from an October 30, 2009 3:15 p.m. comment by “ankaa” to the AZCentral.com story.)

About Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett got his letter of marque from the Supreme Court of Texas in May 1995. He is famous for having no sense of humor when it comes to totalitarianism.
This entry was posted in criminal practice, ethics and/or professionalism, privilege and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Mississippi of the West

  1. Deputy Stoddard should be fired. Period. That is unacceptable behavior. Why is this judge not throwing his ass in jail?

    • Kael Garvey says:

      The judge did NOTHING because the judge would be “on a list” by the Deputy’s office (unofficial of course). Remember, these guys protect her, so she MUST protect them, unless she wants to end up on the wrong side of some contraband that made its way into the courtroom. Any questions?

      In the video, I especially liked the Deputy pulling the paper out to get a better “read” that never occurred.

  2. Jdog says:

    Probably for about the same reasons that badged miscreants rarely find their buttocks so thrown. .

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  4. Mike Trent says:

    OMG. I had to see it to believe it. To me this looks like the product of the lack of decorum so many courts suffer from; the casual, familiar atmosphere in which the participants (and observers and staff such as bailiffs) seem to think that anything goes. Formality is no substitute for honesty or respect for following the rules, but as Mark already noted, had the judge taken a stronger role in controlling her courtroom, this never would have happened. And the response was even more appalling. Even in Harris County, that deputy would have faced some kind of discipline. Unbelievable!

  5. Mickey Fox says:

    But what about the prosecutor who stood silently by and watched the deputy not only read, but reach into, the defense file? I believe that lawyers, as officers of the court, (even in those far-away locals) have an affirmative obligation to report such conduct. Furthermore, the state’s attorney (or DA) was also a material witness to the act….

    wow.

  6. Clay S. Conrad says:

    Time to start carrying a briefcase with a big strong LOCK.

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