Judge Murray Snow Stands By Questioning Of Sheriff Joe Arpaio

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Wednesday, May 6, 2015 - 8:35am

The federal judge overseeing contempt of court proceedings against Sheriff Joe Arpaio is standing by his questioning of Arpaio about the sheriff’s secret investigations. The judge has dismissed objections raised by the sheriff’s lawyers last week.

When Arpaio was on the stand last month for repeatedly violating U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow’s orders in a racial profiling case, Snow questioned him directly from the bench.

At one point, Snow asked Arpaio directly about any investigations by his office into Snow himself or his family. He asked Arpaio if he had read a Phoenix New Times article, which suggested the sheriff was using a Seattle man named Dennis Montgomery to prove collusion between Snow and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The sheriff admitted he had hired Montgomery, but said it was to investigate alleged surveillance and bank fraud by the CIA and DOJ. His chief deputy explained Montgomery had told the sheriff’s office there was evidence the Department of Justice had obtained some of Snow’s emails. Arpaio also disclosed that his lawyer hired a private investigator to research a comment allegedly made by the judge’s wife

Snow has ordered the sheriff’s office to hand over documents related to both investigations.

The sheriff’s lawyers argued last week the Snow’s questions about the Phoenix New Times article violated the sheriff’s due process because he wasn’t given any notice of the topic of the questions.

But in an order on Monday, Snow called those objections “untimely and without merit,” noting that the sheriff’s lawyers did not raise objections at the time. 

“[T]rial courts have an obligation to clarify the evidence presented and ensure that all facts relevant to the proceedings are brought out,” Snow wrote. He went on to say it is particularly appropriate for a judge to intervene and question a witness when the party has not fulfilled its obligations to turn over documents in the discovery phase, as is the case with the sheriff’s office.

Snow said his questions related to the “efficacy and integrity of MCSO’s internal investigative processes, the agency’s approach to addressing conflicts of interest, and the relative resistance of MCSO’s command staff to the authority of the federal court.”

Snow said it will be relevant in his ruling on the contempt of court case whether there is evidence of a bigger pattern of the sheriff’s office subverting the court's orders.

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