Lawyers for Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, have told a federal judge there’s no need for him to refer the sheriff to prosecutors for consideration of criminal contempt charges because there’s no evidence of a willful failure on his part to follow court orders.
The fight is over instructions from the judge to change procedures in the sheriff’s department on how to arrest, or not arrest, illegal aliens, and a report from KPHO in Phoenix suggests that the judge, Murray Snow, could make a ruling as early as Friday.
The judge already has ruled that Arpaio and several others were in civil contempt, and Arpaio’s lawyers argue that result already resolves the issue, and “criminal contempt is appropriate where there is a clear and definite court order, the contemnor knows of the order, and he or she willfully disobeys it. … In criminal contempt prcoeedings, willful disobedience of a court order must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”
But in this case, “Sheriff Arpaio did not willfully violate the court’s orders sufficient to give rise to a criminal contempt referral…”
But whatever the judge, whose own involvement in the case was highlighted earlier when documents revealed that his wife had told a witness that the judge was set on removing Arpaio from office, decides, it might not stand.
That’s because in another related issue, a hearing is set in September before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether Snow needs to be removed from the case.
An affirmative ruling there potentially could void whatever the district judge decides.
That potential arose when there were a series of court arguments that brought in the name of Dennis Montgomery. Snow himself at one point brought Montgomery into the case by raising questions about information he provided to the sheriff.
But when Montgomery’s lawyer, Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, asked the court for permission to argue on his client’s behalf in the case, his client was refused permission to participate legally.
Montgomery, an investigator, had worked with the sheriff on several projects, and had been drawn into the courtroom battle because of that.
WND reported a year ago when the judge was being contentious with the investigator.
At the time, Klayman wanted to argue that his client’s “rights are being severely harmed, on an ongoing basis. Mr. Montgomery must respectfully be allowed to intervene in this lawsuit in order to protect his property and other interests, which was previously ordered by this court to be handed over to third parties.”
Also raised at that time was the comment reportedly made by the judge’s wife, “as confirmed by neutral persons,” that Snow was out to “destroy” Arpaio so that he could not be re-elected in 2016. The rancor got so bad that at one point Montgomery cited the ACLU in a legal complaint.
“This case represents a multifaceted and growing conflict of interest not only by the ACLU and its attorneys but as important the equally unethical conduct by the court which must cease immediately,” a motion said at the time.
It was then that at least two motions to remove Snow from the case were made, along with several other procedural motions. They were denied at the district court level, but were appealed by Klayman to the 9th Circuit.
At the center of the effort to remove the judge from the contempt case is a statement from a witness, Karen Morris Grissom, who told the sheriff the judge hates him. The witness explained to Arpaio that she was a childhood friend of the judge’s wife.
Mrs. Snow, Grissom said, “told me that her husband hates u and will do anything to get u out of office.”
“This has bothered me since last year when I saw her,” she said in her statement.
Then to make matters worse, the judge was accused of asking questions, apparently for his own investigation of the situation, in court.
“By his own official inquiry, statements, and questions in open court on the record, one of the investigations into which Judge Snow unexpectedly inquired during recent contempt proceedings concerns his spouse, Sheri Snow,” a motion then explained. “No reasonable person with knowledge of the facts can deny that Judge Snow is now investigating and presiding over issues involving his own family. This alone is sufficient to mandate recusal and disqualification.”
The current document from Arpaio’s illegal alien arrest case cited the sheriff’s 55-year history of service to America, the efforts his office has made to meet Snow’s demands, the fact he did not control every aspect of deputies’ conduct, and that civil remedies already have provided sufficient “redress” to those who complained.
They also argued that Arpaio’s public comments on the court orders didn’t mean he wasn’t following them, and that a backup plan that was created “does not evidence willful defiance.”
The 26-page filing also explains that, to meet the judge’s orders, he has officers using logs to ensure everyone reads the court’s statements, he’s started policies aimed at “bias-free policing,” he’s bettered training requirements, worked on supervision of officers, created a unit to identify problematic behavior, set up a better data collection system, implemented a professional standards bureau and restructured the office’s internal affairs division.
“The attitude of the sheriff and MCSO is not one of defiance or disregard to the court’s orders; rather, there is a clear commitment to implement the directives of this court through training, policy revisions, new IA investigations and compliance with this court’s orders. Sheriff Arpaio urges this court to not make a criminal contempt referral and to allow the sheriff and his team to continue implementing the court’s directives.”
Arpaio, 84, currently is seeking re-election to the office.
Klayman told WND that during his scheduled hearing before the 9th Circuit, he’ll be addressing Snow’s “conduct.”
“It appears that if we’re successful, not only would I be allowed in the case on behalf of my client, the court could be vacating” Snow’s orders, he said.
WND reported when Snow warned that he might make the criminal referral a few weeks ago.