New Documents May Be Damaging In Arpaio Contempt Case

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Monday, July 13, 2015 - 12:29am
Updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 9:44am

A federal judge who is overseeing the contempt of court case against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio ruled Friday that he won't recuse himself from the case and plans to reschedule the contempt hearings that were supposed to happen in June. 

U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow ruled against Arpaio in a high profile racial profiling case in 2013. Snow is overseeing contempt of court proceedings against the sheriff and four members of his staff for violating court orders in that case.

When the contempt hearings do resume, one topic will be a potentially damaging set of documents that were just made public.

The documents seem to provide evidence the sheriff’s office was using a confidential informant in Seattle to investigate Snow and link him to an alleged conspiracy with the Department of Justice, allegations the sheriff and his chief deputy have so far denied under oath in court.

Those allegations were first publicly mentioned in a Phoenix New Times article in June 2014.  They became a part of the contempt of court case when Snow questioned Arpaio directly about the article during the first round of contempt hearings in April.

On the stand, Arpaio denied Snow was the target of the investigation but did confirm he had hired the confidential informant, Dennis Montgomery. Arpaio also acknowledged he had sent a detective, a sergeant and a posse member to Seattle as well.

Arpaio initially said the investigation “had to do with computer tampering and also bank fraud, that kind of thing.”

The next day, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan also denied Snow was the target of an MCSO investigation. He suggested Montgomery was mostly investigating Central Intelligence Agency hacking into bank records using data he had allegedly taken from the CIA.

Both Arpaio and Sheridan told the judge they had doubts about Montgomery’s credibility.

Montgomery has a history working with federal agencies as an outside contractor and now calls himself a CIA and National Security Agency whistleblower. He also has been the subject of high-profile media accounts alleging that he conned the federal government into buying bogus counter-terrorism technology he had created. Montgomery denies those allegations.

In April, Snow ordered all of the documents from the investigation Montgomery worked on to be turned over to the court.

On May 14, Snow announced he had reviewed a portion of the documents and they suggested MCSO was working with Montgomery to link Snow himself to a false conspiracy with the DOJ.

Snow told the courtroom he wondered why at the time the sheriff’s office should have been investing resources in complying with the court’s orders in the racial profiling case, instead they were funding a confidential informant in Seattle “attempting to construct some bogus conspiracy theory to discredit this court.”

Less than two weeks after Snow made that observation, Arpaio and his chief deputy filed a motion for Snow to recuse himself from the case. Snow noted this timing in his Friday ruling denying their motion for recusal. That day a portion of the documents were unsealed and became available to the public for the first time.

The documents include a timeline that alleges collusion between Snow and the DOJ in the two separate racial profiling suits against Arpaio, and wiretaps and data breaches by the DOJ. The timeline lists a phone call from the Department of Justice to Snow on July 20, 2009, two days before he was assigned to the case.

The entry for July 22, 2009 reads, “Judge G. Murray Snow Assigned to Arpaio Federal Case (Not Random).”

Other entries purport to document phone calls between Snow, the DOJ, one of Snow’s former law clerks, and the law firm Covington & Burling, which represents plaintiffs in the case and was the same firm Attorney General Eric Holder and the assistant attorney general for DOJ’s criminal division worked before joining the DOJ.

Snow noted in his Friday ruling that the phone number listed for the court in these documents is incorrect.

Among the released documents is an email sent by an email address that seems to belong to Dennis Montgomery. The author complains he has received mixed messages from sheriff’s staff about investigating Snow or not.

“On one hand Anglin tells not to produce information on Judge SNOW,” the email reads, presumably referring to MCSO Sgt. Travis Anglin. “Then I am attacked for not producing information on Judge SNOW.”

Emails show that on April 20, 2015, just one day before the first contempt hearing against Arpaio began, posse member Mike Zullo was trying to get Montgomery to finish an overdue investigation. Zullo is also involved in the cold case posse’s efforts to investigate the validity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

“This is my now my second request asking for a date set for the completion of the work Dennis Montgomery has been promising for over 16 months,” Zullo wrote to Montgomery’s attorney Larry Klayman.

“It is apparent to us that this is just a game of running the clock in the hope Montgomery can position himself as a "Whistle Blower” with some jurisdiction and with your help get out from under his obligation to the [sic] us.”

Montgomery has attempted to testify as an expert witness and whistleblower in a lawsuit against the NSA brought by Klayman

The emails also suggest the sheriff’s team drove 60 of Montgomery’s hard drives to Arizona under the impression they contained classified documents Montgomery obtained while working as a CIA contractor.

But last November, a sheriff’s detective confronted Montgomery by email, saying that he had failed to deliver what he had promised.

Detective Brian Mackiewicz wrote a second email a few days later addressed to Klayman, saying the drives just contained footage of Al Jazeera broadcasts.

“After reviewing all the hard drives our experts concluded that Dennis Montgomery deliberately complied [sic] massive amounts of data on to these drives for the purpose of obfuscating the fact the data itself contained no evidence to support Dennis Montgomery’s claims,” Mackiewicz wrote. “There was no sensitive information contained on any of these 50 hard drives.”

The email also said Montgomery had been paid $120,000.

The emails suggests the sheriff’s staff helped Montgomery connect with a federal judge, possibly to provide him protection as a whistleblower.

In one email, Mackiewicz wrote to Montgomery, “We brought you before the Arizona State Attorney General, we found you two different Attorneys, and we opened the door to a Federal Judge to give you as much protection as possible.”

Updated 7/13/2015 at 6:07 p.m.