Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Arpaio Files: Joe's Justice

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Joanne Cuccia is a Phoenix area attorney. On October 19th of this year she was in court representing Antonio Lozano, a young man who was being sentenced for an aggravated assault which he had pleaded guilty to in September. During the hearing, Cuccia left her desk and approached the bench to speak to Judge Lisa Flores. It was just another routine day in Maricopa County Superior Court.

But a detention officer named Adam Stoddard, a deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, took it upon himself to turn an ordinary day in court to a memorable one. While Joanne Cuccia was at the bench talking to the judge, Deputy Stoddard walked up behind her desk, pulled a paper from the file that she had left on the desk, and gave it to another deputy to take outside of the courtroom and photocopy. He might have gotten away with this clear violation of attorney-client privilege, except that the document heist was recorded on the court's surveillance camera. Oops!

This week Deputy Stoddard had to do his own perp-walk into Superior Court where he appeared before Judge Gary Donahoe and tried to 'splain himself. Stoddard hemmed and hawed as he tried to justify his theft of the document. He had seen some suspicious words on it ("going to," "steal," and "money") and jumped to the illogical conclusion that it must therefore have posed some security threat. He also said that he thought the defendant might have ties to the Mexican Mafia.

But Judge Donahoe wasn't buying it. He ordered Stoddard to hold a news conference before November 30th where he was to issue a sincere public apology to the attorney. If he did not do that, or if the apology failed to satisfy Ms. Cuccia, the deputy was to report to jail where he would be incarcerated. The judge had barely finished speaking when Sheriff Joe let go with one of his classic tirades.

"My officer was doing his job," Joe thundered, "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. I decide who holds press conferences and when they are held regarding this Sheriff's Office." (Translation: There is only room for one glory hog in this outfit, and it ain't Deputy Stoddard!)

So rifling through attorney's files, taking papers without permission, and having those papers photocopied is Deputy Stoddard's job. That's good information for other attorneys practicing in the Valley to have. It doesn't work that way anyplace else, but Maricopa County has a long history of being unique.

And as for Joanne Cuccia and her client, Antonio Lozano: the attorney is now filing a motion to have the case dismissed. She is also requesting a change of venue, undoubtedly preferring to review this case in any county that is not Maricopa!

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