FOCUS OF PROBE MAY NOT BE AS SPECULATED
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 8, 2015) —Hearings in the civil contempt trial of Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio have been temporarily suspended as U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow decides whether or not to recuse himself from the case.
The lawsuit, Melendres, et al v. Arpaio, et al, was filed in December 2007 and claimed that Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office (MCSO) employees had engaged in racial profiling by targeting Latinos in neighborhood sweeps and traffic stops without reasonable suspicion of a crime.
In an injunction in the Melendres case issued in December 2011, Snow opined that an individual’s presence in the country illegally did not constitute a crime prosecutable by state and local authorities, although previously, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency had authorized and trained MCSO employees and others in the process of apprehending and turning over individuals found to be in the country illegally under the 287(g) program.
Snow’s injunction imposed the cessation of Arpaio’s enforcement of “federal immigration law.”
Arpaio is serving his sixth consecutive term as sheriff and is known for his strong stance against illegal aliens in the county. Within hours of Obama’s November 20, 2014 declared executive actions allowing for millions of illegals to be granted a stay from deportation under certain conditions, Arpaio filed a lawsuit, claiming that if implemented, the actions would cost the county’s taxpayers millions more in expenses.
At the time, CBS News reported that nationally, “The number of immigrants who lack legal status has remained the same since 2009 at 11.2 million.” However, the correct figure may be 20 million or more.
While Arpaio’s lawsuit was dismissed at the U.S. District Court level by an Obama appointee, an appeal is pending. Another lawsuit filed by 26 states challenging the executive actions has been upheld by a U.S. District Court judge in Texas and the majority of a three-judge panel at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
In May 2013, Snow ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Melendres, who are defended by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Snow also appointed a monitor to ensure that the MCSO complied with Snow’s order to cease racial profiling. Arpaio appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the majority of Snow’s ruling but opined that the monitor’s role “must only be related to the constitutional violations.”
In March, Arpaio and his chief deputy, Gerard (Jerry) Sheridan admitted to having failed to follow Snow’s orders and offered a settlement of $100,000 to be paid to the plaintiff class by Arpaio personally. Snow refused the offer, and hearings in the civil contempt matter were held on April 21-24.
Arpaio testified on April 23 and Sheridan on April 24.
During both days of testimony, Snow launched a pointed line of questioning which appeared to emanate from an article dated June 4, 2014 in The Phoenix New Times referencing a confidential informant, Dennis Montgomery. The publication has had an adversarial relationship with Arpaio since at least 2004. Its co-founders, Jim Larkin and Mike Lacey, have stated that they launched the newspaper in 1970 “in reaction to the war in Vietnam.”
In October 2007, the Larkin and Lacey were arrested in the middle of the night after publishing Arpaio’s home address and the contents of subpoenas they received on their website. After spending the night in jail, they filed suit against the MCSO.
In an article dated October 18, 2007, Larkin and Lacey stated that their attorneys reviewed grand jury subpoenas described in a subsequent report as “invalid” by Arizona Superior Court Judge Anna Baca. Baca’s order of November 14, 2007 and an AP article dated October 24, 2007 indicated that the subpoenas did not appear to have come from the grand jury. Then-County Attorney Andrew Thomas quickly dropped the charges against Larkin and Lacey and fired the prosecutor who had reportedly issued the subpoenas on his own authority.
It is unclear whether or not Arpaio was involved in the arrests.
At the time, Larkin and Lacey asked, “Where in America do you arrest journalists for what they write?”
On August 6, 2013, the home of former Vail Daily and then-Washington Times journalist Audrey Hudson was raided by the Maryland State Police, “federal agents” and a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, who “made a pre-dawn raid of her family home Aug. 6 and took her private notes and government documents that she had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.” The intrusion was made on the pretext of “a warrant to search for unregistered firearms and a ‘potato gun’ suspected of belonging to her husband.”
Hudson had been reporting on the claims made to her by U.S. Air Marshals that the percentage of flights on which they traveled was lower than that which was reported to the public in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Lacey and Larkin established a foundation whose website reposts The Phoenix New Times’ work and supports causes to which the two pledged financial support after winning $3.75 million from the lawsuit. The Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund states on its home page that its founders “have dedicated the settlement money arising out of their arrest by Sheriff Joe Arpaio to fund migrant rights organizations throughout Arizona.”
A $2 million endowment was given to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University with the purpose of “training journalism students in the particulars of local Hispanic issues for both print and broadcast coverage.” The fund also supports the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition.
The Phoenix New Times includes opinion and derogatory terms in its articles. Regarding Arpaio’s April 23 testimony, PNT reported that Arpaio “admitted there had been an investigation into Snow’s wife, concerning comments she allegedly made at a restaurant” after Snow handed a copy of the June 4, 2014 article to Arpaio by way of the court clerk.
“In my line of work, it doesn’t get much better than a federal judge’s handing your column to a public official, and getting the accused pol to confirm the column’s facts, one by one, under oath,” wrote Stephen Lemons.
The Post & Email has previously reported that the mainstream media largely mischaracterized the MCSO’s probe involving comments made by Snow’s wife. While both Arpaio and Sheridan testified that neither Snow nor his wife was “investigated,” an Arizona Republic editorial masquerading as journalism misrepresented that “Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio dug himself deeper into a hole on Thursday, admitting that he quietly had the wife of U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow investigated.”
The Phoenix New Times characterized the inquiry into Snow’s wife’s statements as a “non-investigation investigation.” It also maintains that Arpaio is guilty of “abuse of power,” of which he was exonerated by the U.S. Department of Justice in August 2012.
However, in May 2012, the Department of Justice launched a civil rights lawsuit against Arpaio’s office, claiming that “since approximately 2006, MCSO and Sheriff Arpaio have intentionally and systematically discriminated against Latinos. They have accomplished this by stopping Latinos in their vehicles four to nine times more often than similarly situated non-Latino drivers. In addition, MCSO stops Latinos on the county’s roads without the required legal justification. Also, MCSO detains and searches Latinos on the roads, in their homes, and in their workplaces without legal justification for doing so. Further, MCSO mistreats Latino detainees with limited English proficiency by ignoring important requests if they are not made in English and punishing detainees if they fail to understand orders given in English. Finally, MCSO files baseless administrative actions, civil actions and criminal cases against its perceived critics in an attempt to chill free speech.”
Obama himself has been accused of “chilling free speech.”
The DOJ’s lawsuit was filed nine weeks after Arpaio and Mike Zullo, lead investigator of the MCSO’s affiliated Cold Case Posse, gave a formal press conference declaring that Barack Hussein Obama’s long-form birth certificate and Selective Service registration form are “computer-generated forgeries,” a claim that was expounded upon further in a second press conference on July 17 of that year.
As a result of Arpaio’s sanctioning of the probe into Obama’s only proffered documentation, Zullo announced in the fall of 2013 that a second criminal investigation had been launched unrelated to the “birth certificate” probe. The Phoenix New Times has characterized the Cold Case Posse’s investigation into Obama’s documents as “ludicrous,” and the mainstream media has failed to follow up with its own probe.
The Justice Department’s action is separate from the Melendres case, and Arpaio’s office has utilized different defense attorneys for each.
In his April 24, 2015 article, Lemons stated that during his testimony the day prior, Arpaio “admitted” that “he had been using a confidential informant in Seattle, Dennis Montgomery, and paying him from RICO and confidential-informant funds to do an investigation of a vaguely defined conspiracy theory involving the U.S. Department of Justice and various judges, including Snow himself.”
Lemons reported Sheridan as having asserted during his April 24 testimony that the information provided by Montgomery was presented to then-Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. The exact quote from Sheridan’s testimony is, “We went to the Arizona Attorney General with this information” (p. 143).
On May 22, Arpaio’s defense attorneys filed a motion in which they wrote, “Defendant Arpaio and Chief Deputy Gerard Sheridan respectfully request the transfer of this case to a different judge, immediately, as provided by 28 U.S. Code § 144, and the disqualification or recusal of Judge Snow in further related proceedings concerning Defendant Arpaio and Chief Deputy Gerard Sheridan.”
On June 4 of last year, the PNT described the confidential informant hired by the MCSO, Dennis Montgomery, as a “scammer,” relying on a widely-disseminated December 22, 2009 Playboy article by Aram Roston which may be available only by subscription. [Editor’s Note: Embedded links in various articles based on Playboy’s appearing to reference the specific article consistently lead to Playboy’s home page. The Post & Email was, however, able to find the article linked from seattleweekly.com.]
Roston wrote that on December 21, 2003, law enforcement was deployed heavily in New York City in preparation for what could be a “spectacular attack,” according to The New York Times, following heightened terror-attack alerts issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Roston further reported:
But there were no real intercepts, no new informants, no increase in chatter. And the suspicious package turned out to contain a stuffed snowman. This was, instead, the beginning of a bizarre scam. Behind that terror alert, and a string of contracts and intrigue that continues to this date, there is one unlikely character.
The man’s name is Dennis Montgomery, a self-proclaimed scientist who said he could predict terrorist attacks. Operating with a small software development company, he apparently convinced the Bush White House, the CIA, the Air Force and other agencies that Al Jazeera—the Qatari-owned TV network—was unwittingly transmitting target data to Al Qaeda sleepers.
Roston also reported that Montgomery, whose business partner was Warren Trepp of eTreppid, was given a “top-secret clearance from the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office” in 2004. After Trepp and Montgomery parted ways in early 2006, each filed a lawsuit against the other. According to Roston:
Trepp obviously believed Montgomery’s technology was real because he pursued the lawsuit with a vengeance. Montgomery, on the other hand, accused Trepp of trying to steal his inventions. Montgomery claimed he needed to bring the U.S. intelligence establishment into the case. He went so far as to name the Department of Defense as a defendant.
Eventually Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte weighed in. What secrets—what embarrassments—could be exposed if Montgomery and Trepp were to depose intelligence and military officials? Negroponte issued a declaration that warned of “serious, and in some cases exceptionally grave, damage to the national security of the United States.” He invoked the state secrets privilege. The judge in the case issued a protective order; the secrets of eTreppid’s government business would remain untold.
The transcript of a December 19, 2009 interview Roston conducted with NPR titled “The Man Who Conned the Pentagon” is still available.
Montgomery has sued New York Times journalist and author James Risen over several chapters in his book, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War” published in October of last year, which allege that Montgomery defrauded the federal government with his proffered docoding technologies. The lawsuit states that “Plaintiff Montgomery is illegally used as a whipping boy by Defendants in this regard to sensationalize and sell more books for a great profit.”
A New York Times review of the book by Thomas E. Ricks stated:
Dennis Montgomery was just another overweight gambler in the casinos of Reno, Nev., until he claimed to have developed a technology that could decode secret messages embedded in the videotapes of Osama bin Laden that were broadcast on the Al Jazeera news network. On the basis of that claim, he won millions of dollars in government contracts. Mr. Risen says that around Christmas of 2003, Mr. Montgomery influenced the Bush administration to seriously consider shooting down civilian airliners. After French government investigators concluded that Mr. Montgomery’s operation was a hoax, Mr. Risen reports, the C.I.A. quietly dropped him. Mr. Montgomery then moved on to the United States Special Operations Command, which paid his company $9.6 million for a facial recognition technology that supposedly could identify terrorists observed by cameras attached to drones. Mr. Montgomery’s company eventually collapsed in a welter of debts and legal claims.
Risen, who reported on “the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping,” was himself a target of the U.S. Department of Justice. In an August 2014 editorial published at The New York Times, columnist Maureen Dowd wrote:
The Justice Department is trying to scuttle the reporters’ privilege — ignoring the chilling effect that is having on truth emerging in a jittery post-9/11 world prone to egregious government excesses.
Attorney General Eric Holder wants to force Risen to testify and reveal the identity of his confidential source on a story he had in his 2006 book concerning a bungled C.I.A. operation during the Clinton administration in which agents might have inadvertently helped Iran develop its nuclear weapon program. The tale made the C.I.A. look silly, which may have been more of a sore point than a threat to national security.
Ten months after the Committee to Protect Journalists issued its scathing report “The Obama Administration and the Press,” journalists and potential whistleblowers continue to face unprecedented surveillance and legal jeopardy. The report, authored by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post, remains grimly up to date as it describes “the fearful atmosphere surrounding contacts between American journalists and government sources.
The US Department of Justice seems determined to intensify that fearful atmosphere—in part by threatening to jail New York Times reporter James Risen, who refuses to name any source for the disclosure in his 2006 book State of War that the CIA bungled a dumb and dangerous operation with nuclear weapons blueprints in Iran.
Risen’s Wikipedia page reports that he is himself a victim of CIA surveillance. In January, The New York Times reported that Risen’s subpoena to testify at the trial of a former CIA agent had been quashed. Before Attorney General Eric Holder left office, he reportedly recommended “revisions to Justice Department’s guidelines that offer journalists more protections when prosecutors want to review their phone records, emails or notes.”
An article published on June 3 in The Phoenix New Times claimed that Montgomery’s work “was an attempt to influence the court, to compromise it, to conflict it,” which is contradicted by Sheridan and Arpaio’s testimony referring to alleged breaches of Maricopa County residents’ bank accounts and the email accounts of federal judges, to include Snow.
18 USC § 4 states:
Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
While being characterized by the PNT as “a criminal enterprise,” the MCSO took action to report evidence of illegal activity to the authorities. Sheridan testified that in addition to Horne, the information from Montgomery had been presented to “a member of the FISA court in Washington, D.C.” who “confirmed that these were typical wiretap numbers.” Sheridan included in his testiomony that “the sheriff and I were concerned about the CIA wiretapping our phones.”
According to Roston, Montgomery worked with the CIA, which forwarded the information Montgomery provided to the George W. Bush White House.
On March 20, 2007, a Gannett newspaper reported, in part:
A federal judge ruled Monday that the FBI raid of a former eTreppid software developer’s home in search of valuable source codes was unconstitutional and that the judge who granted the search warrant was “misled” by an agent, allowing the FBI to become involved in a case that should remain in civil court.
The codes, critical for software used by the U.S. military in the war on terror, are worth millions and are at the heart of a battle between developer Dennis Montgomery, eTreppid owner Warren Trepp and his friendship with Gov. Jim Gibbons…
U.S. District Judge Philip Pro’s order affirmed U.S. Magistrate Valerie Cooke’s November ruling that Reno FBI special agent Michael West violated Montgomery’s constitutional rights by giving the court inaccurate information to obtain a warrant to search his house in March 2006.
Pro told the U.S. attorney’s staff to return the hard drives taken in the March 1, 2006, raid at Montgomery’s south Reno home…
When Montgomery refused to turn over the source codes to eTreppid, Flynn said in court documents that Gibbons and Trepp directed FBI officials in Reno to raid Montgomery’s home to get them back…
The MCSO has not revealed further details as to the exact focus of Montgomery’s work on its behalf. On April 23, Snow suggested that activity by “the DOJ” was part of Montgomery’s probe, while Arpaio rejoined that information Montgomery provided “seemed to indicate that someone was penetrating in the e-mails of our local attorneys and others, judges, that type of thing, which we can’t prove.”
In questioning Sheridan, Snow continued to invoke the U.S. Department of Justice (page 185 of transcript):
You know, with all due respect, we did hear the sheriff say yesterday that he — some pretty critical comments about the Department of Justice. Do you remember those?
Maybe I misremember. I’ll scratch that.
Let me ask you this: If in fact the sheriff thought there might have been some improper collusion between me and the Department of Justice, can you blame him if he wanted to investigate that further?
Neither Arpaio nor Sheridan implicated the Department of Justice in his testimony in regard to any “collusion.” On April 23, Snow and Arpaio exchanged the following (pp. 141-143):
Q. Who else was named by Mr. Montgomery as being targets of this DOJ investigation?
A. I believe the — our local law firm, the attorneys working for us on the Department of Justice lawsuit.
Q. Who else?
A. You mean other judges around — I don’t remember.
Q. Anybody that Mr. Montgomery said that — that the DOJ was bugging their phones, or otherwise intruding into their private communications.
A. Well, I know I was.
Q. You were one. Your law firm was one.
A. Jerry Sheridan, I believe. And there’s other local officials.
Q. And I was?
A. You — yes.
Q. Did you keep any of the materials that Mr. Montgomery has provided you?
A. I don’t have them.
Q. Who does?
A. I believe Zullo does.
Q. And is he subject to your control —
Q. — as a member of your posse?
Q. I’m going to direct you that you tell Mr. Zullo that he keep all those documents. All right?
A. He what?
Q. He keep and maintain all of those documents.
Q. I’m going to direct you that nothing pertaining to any of this investigation be destroyed, including confidential informant numbers. Do you understand that direction?
Q. Who else was aware of these investigations within the MCSO?
A. I’m not sure. Because of the sensitivity, we were trying to keep it quiet.
Q. Now, I think in addition to the investigation that may have involved me and my phone or any contact or tapping by the Department of Justice, you indicated that there were investigations made into members of my family. Did you indicate that?
A. That had nothing to do with Montgomery.
Q. What did it have to do with?
A. I believe there was a, as I say, e-mail that came to me.
Q. And do you still have that e-mail?
A. We may have it, yes.
Q. I’m going to direct you to keep that e-mail. What did the e-mail say, to the best of your recollection?
Snow then ordered that all of the materials provided by Montgomery be given to the monitor, Robert Warshaw, whose several companies garner millions from “policing” police departments, predominantly in larger cities such as Oakland, CA; Detroit, MI; and Niagara Falls, NY.
The media has not raised the issue of whether or not the Fourth Amendment rights of account-holders, judges, the MCSO and their attorneys, whose bank accounts, phone lines and email accounts were reportedly breached by a government entity, were violated.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.