Judge: Arpaio’s Attorney Must Consult CIA On Paid Informant’s Data Dump
The revelation that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio hired computer consultant Dennis Montgomery to investigate an alleged conspiracy by the Central Intelligence Agency is creating ripples in the contempt of court case against the sheriff.
On Friday, United States District Court Judge Murray Snow instructed the sheriff’s attorney to contact the chief counsel for the CIA to apprise them the sheriff’s office could be in possession of CIA data.
During the first round of the contempt hearing in April, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan gave a few cryptic details about why the sheriff’s office had hired Montgomery as a paid informant.
Sheridan said Montgomery “had information that the CIA hacked into individual bank accounts.” The chief deputy testified he believed there were 50,000 Maricopa County residents impacted.
“He had their names, their bank account numbers, and their dollar amounts,” Sheridan told Snow.
Sheridan said Montgomery had learned this from CIA data he had been able to access.
“When [Montgomery] worked for the CIA, he pulled data from American citizens for the CIA,” Sheridan said. “He said he was one of the individuals that was tasked with doing that, and he knew that was incorrect, it was wrong, and so he made backup copies that he took and he kept. And he was mining that data to find these email breaches, to find the bank information that he originally came to us with.”
Both Sheridan and Arpaio admitted to Snow there were issues with Montgomery’s credibility and Sheridan said he realized at a certain point the sheriff’s office had been strung along.
They aren’t the first to have such doubts. In fact years before the sheriff’s office hired Montgomery, he had been discredited in media reports alleging he had sold the U.S. government bogus counterterrorism software.
At the April hearing Snow had ordered the sheriff’s office to hand over all documents related to the investigation Montgomery worked on. The documents were seized by the court-appointed monitor team that ensures the sheriff complies with Snow’s orders.
But at a status conference on Friday, Arpaio’s attorney Michele Iafrate revealed a complicating factor.
Iafrate said those documents from Montgomery included a “data dump” containing “hundreds of thousands” of Social Security numbers and bank records on a two-terabyte disk drive.
Snow then instructed Iafrate to contact the CIA’s chief counsel to see if they wish to intervene and want to take any protective measures.
Snow noted it was still not clear whether the data dump actually included CIA data given Montgomery’s record of unreliability. He said his monitor would review the information and determine if any of it was relevant to the contempt proceedings. Snow also ordered all of the parties with access to the data not to disclose it.
If Montgomery had in fact taken and disclosed confidential information from the CIA, that would likely be a crime. If the sheriff’s office knowingly solicited confidential information from Montgomery, that could also be a crime.
Montgomery himself has filed a motion to intervene in the contempt case. He claims false statements were made about him in testimony and is objecting to the court seizing his intellectual property. He is also calling for Snow to recuse himself.
Snow indicated Friday there may be a conflict with Montgomery's attempt to intervene since he is represented by attorney Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch. Klayman represents Arpaio in a separate lawsuit against the Obama administration.
So what’s next?
Snow announced the contempt of court proceedings against Arpaio and four other MCSO officers will continue for eight days between June 16 and June 26. He set a schedule to meet with all the parties weekly until the second contempt hearing in June.
Snow also told the parties he would be willing to order a whole new trial at the defendants’ expense if they were not cooperative providing discovery documents and agreeing to remedies for committing civil contempt.
He also made clear he wanted to resolve the contempt of court issue as quickly as possible after the June hearing. He is expected to rule that Arpaio and Sheridan are in civil contempt of court because they admitted to the charges. What remains to be seen is if any of the other three individuals will be found in contempt, and whether he refers the case for criminal charges.
Matters to be resolved in the coming weeks:
• The scope of the class of immigrant victims who may be eligible for damages for being wrongfully detained by the sheriff’s office and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Border Patrol even when there were no state criminal charges against them. The plaintiffs want this class to be extended to immigrants detained in worksite raids who were not criminally charged. The defendants object.
• Iafrate is expected to clarify with the court some parts of Arpaio’s testimony that were not accurate. After Snow asked all of the attorneys if they needed to correct any false testimony or evidence, Iafrate indicated she had concerns with some of Arpaio’s testimony. She told Snow in on Friday that she had tried to correct the record by calling Sheridan to testify “because at the end of the day the sheriff appeared to conflate two investigations and wasn’t the person most knowledgeable so I chose to put Sheridan on the stand.” Snow told Iafrate she must indicate which testimony needs to be corrected. While it was not explicitly stated, the testimony in question could have to do with Arpaio’s answers to Snow about whether he had investigated Snow or his family members. Arpaio's testimony revealed his lawyer had hired a private investigator to research comments allegedly made by Snow's wife. Sheridan clarified in his testimony that, “We did not investigate Judge Snow’s wife. We contacted an individual who talked to Judge Snow’s wife.”
Updated 5/8/15 11:01 p.m.