NO INTERVIEWS OF “KEY WITNESS” MIKE ZULLO FOLLOWING FRIDAY’S TESTIMONY
by Sharon Rondeau
Hearings were scheduled by U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow as part of a trial for civil contempt against defendants Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, four of his deputies, and Maricopa County itself.
Arpaio is represented by Attys. John Masterson, Joseph Popolizio and Justin Ackerman of Jones, Skelton & Hochuli, PLC. Plaintiffs are represented by a number of attorneys working for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the sizable firm Covington & Burling. ACLU attorney Cecillia Wang and C&B’s Stanley Young are lead attorneys for the plaintiffs.
In March, Arpaio admitted to having failed to follow Snow’s order issued two years ago to cease patrols aimed at identifying illegal aliens within the county. Snow is seeking to determine whether or not Arpaio willfully defied the order or did so inadvertently.
Also in the fall of 2013, Zullo was assigned by Arpaio, along with two detectives, to supervise the work of a confidential informant to the MCSO, Dennis Montgomery. After civil contempt hearings began in Melendres in April, Snow was provided an article from the Phoenix New Times dated June 4, 2014 which reported that Arpaio had hired Montgomery to prove that a “conspiracy” existed between Snow and the U.S. Department of Justice to assure a negative outcome for Arpaio in Melendres.
Snow also claimed to have reviewed documents which appeared to indicate that he had been investigated.
A reliable source has told The Post & Email that PNT’s main source of documentation and information on Melendres is ACLU plaintiffs’ attorney Cecillia Wang.
After questioning Arpaio and his chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan in late April, Snow ordered all of Montgomery’s work product turned over to the court and the monitor Snow appointed to ensure the MCSO’s compliance with his orders. Beginning in late April, Arpaio and Zullo began complying with the court order, turning over to Arpaio’s JSH attorneys thousands of pages of emails and numerous audio-recordings.
Before Zullo’s testimony, Arpaio, Sheridan, and Det. Brian Mackiewicz testified that Snow was not the subject of Montgomery’s project.
In late October, JSH attorneys informed Zullo that they did not represent his interests, after which Zullo invoked due process and Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights to withhold some of the exhibits from the court. Plaintiffs’ attorneys insisted that the exhibits be released and opposed Zullo’s motion requesting 30 days to retain an attorney.
Prior to Friday, the AP had devoted time to Zullo’s Fifth Amendment claim, while also reporting:
Arpaio insists he wasn’t investigating the judge and maintains his officers examined claims that that someone had taken the bank information of thousands of people.
While Arpaio maintained that Snow’s bank account information had been hacked, another investigation has testified he never examined whether the judge’s bank information had been breached.
Zullo received subpoenas to testify as to his knowledge of Montgomery’s work and attempted unsuccessfully to obtain representation. For an undisclosed reason, Maricopa County refused to provide funds for an attorney for Zullo, although every other witness called to the stand was provided that benefit.
Zullo therefore invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent during the two depositions on October 23 and November 9, after which he was called to testify in court.
Media coverage on Zullo’s testimony has been scant. A search with the terms “Zullo Arpaio Snow Fifth Amendment” on Sunday morning yields articles published prior to Zullo’s decision to testify on Thursday afternoon.
A search adding “November 13 2015” to the previous search terms yields a November 3 story from the Phoenix New Times, one from Courthouse News, and one from Arizona Central on Zullo’s testimony, but nothing from the Associated Press.
The PNT article published on Friday contains a top photo of Zullo smiling with the caption “Posse honcho Mike Zullo, giddy after spilling his guts on the stand.” There appear to be no reporters approaching Zullo as they had on Tuesday, after he had remained silent in response to questions from plaintiffs’ attorneys.
PNT writer Stephen Lemons reported on Thursday that “After lunch, before Zullo’s testimony continued, reporters joked about how long it would take for Zullo to get to 300 times taking the Fifth. After all, he’d taken the Fifth 40 times in 15 minutes on Tuesday, right before the court broke for the Veterans Day holiday.” Describing Zullo’s decision to answer questions later that day, Lemons reported:
…Also, Zullo pointed the finger, as he has in the recent past, to a footnote in one pleading by the plaintiffs, listing possible federal crimes that may have been committed by “MCSO personnel” during the course of the investigation.
Zullo refuted these “hellacious, hellacious accusations,” insisting that this “was never our intention.”
“Did you want to find any damaging info on Snow?” wondered Masterson.
“Hell, no,” replied Zullo.
The posse man attempted to explain why he and the MCSO’s case agent, Brian Mackiewicz, ended up in Montgomery’s house in tony Bellevue, Washington, in 2013, with the confidential informant’s running Snow’s name in his database — a database he supposedly had acquired while working as a subcontractor for the CIA.
But Zullo seemed to be digging himself deeper.
Lemons reported later in his article:
After his testimony, Zullo seemed relieved. Outside the courthouse, when reporters asked him why he did a 180 from the morning, he said he was bothered buy the insinuation that he and others involved in the Seattle investigation had sought to investigate Judge Snow.
“I would never do that,” Zullo explained. “If you’re asking me what the motivation was, it could have been that accusation leveled by Mr. Young that somehow we used [Montgomery’s] database. We never used his database.”
A statement that seems contradicted by his own testimony.
A second November 13, 2015 PNT article contains a photo showing a more pensive Zullo with a Channel 3 microphone extended by an unknown reporter, but no interview or article has appeared online. Lemons titled that piece, “Joe Arpaio’s Trial Judge Warns Others Could Be on Chopping Block.”
Reporters appear to have clamored to interview plaintiffs’ attorney Stanley Young of Covington & Burling following court on Friday, but not Zullo.
Jude Joffe-Block of KJZZ provided one paragraph detailing Zullo’s testimony other than stating that it was “dramatic.”
Following court on Friday, Channel 12’s Joe Dana headlined an article with “Arpaio posse leader erupts under oath,” describing Zullo as a “key witness” and “key operative” in the Montgomery investigation. Dana wrote that Montgomery’s work for the MCSO was based on a “theory that the CIA illegally obtained personal information from thousands of Maricopa County residents.”
Also alleged was that IRS information was harvested.
During testimony, Zullo stated that his own name appeared in Montgomery’s database in addition to Snow’s and others.
Montgomery is a former NSA and CIA contractor who was said to have lied to the federal government about software he invented. In a December 2009 Playboy article which no longer appears to be available at its original source, Montgomery was described as the “man who conned the Pentagon” as a result of his claim that he had produced software which could detect hidden messages in Al Jazeera broadcasts.
Montgomery claims that his reputation has been purposely denigrated by the government, and his attorney, Larry Klayman, has sued the ACLU and New York Times writer and author James Risen for defamation. Montgomery was granted immunity by the FBI in August.
Reporters do not appear to have asked why or when the data was allegedly harvested, nor how many people in total were affected. Previous media reports have indicated the number of Maricopa County citizens’ bank accounts as approximately 150,000, with Snow reportedly among them.
On Friday evening, Megan Cassidy of Arizona Republic wrote of Zullo’s testimony, “After four hours of barely restrained silence on the witness stand, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s cold-case posse leader Mike Zullo at last unleashed his pent-up resentment against the lawman’s critics Thursday afternoon in downtown Phoenix’s federal court.”
Zullo’s testimony was described by the press as emotional and “aggressive” at times.
According to Cassidy, Zullo’s “silence was expected” during last week’s hearings. Cassidy used the word “unhinged” to describe Zullo’s demeanor after he began to answer questions and reportedly became emotional at times.
Cassidy reported that “Zullo’s testimony offered perhaps the most in-depth explanation yet of the so-called ‘Seattle Investigation’ but that Young “said he did not believe any of Zullo’s testimony helped absolve the sheriff from wrongdoing.”
Lemons identified “journalist Maritza Felix” as having interviewed on Friday Earl and Mary Rose Wilcox, local business owners who are political opponents of Arpaio. In 2011, Mary Rose sued Arpaio and then-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas in a matter concerning an alleged conflict of interest involving the Melendres case, winning slightly under $1,000,000 in a settlement. Current County Attorney William Montgomery has reportedly not honored the judgment to Wilcox.
Lemons quoted Mary Rose as having told Felix, “If Montgomery, who was hired by the MCSO, was targeting enemies of Arpaio, that proves the case. There are enemies of Arpaio and [the sheriff] would do anything to get rid of them.”
Local media have referred to Zullo as a “posseman” as a result of his work on the Maricopa County Cold Case Posse, one of 41 volunteer MCSO posses comprising approximately 1,000 volunteers, according to spokeswoman Lisa Allen. Beginning in September 2011, Zullo has been lead investigator of a probe into an image purported to be Obama’s long-form birth certificate posted on the White House website and the Selective Service registration form bearing Obama’s name first released early in 2009 to FOIA requesters.
Both “documents” were declared to be “computer-generated forgeries” at two press conferences dated March 1, 2012 and July 17, 2012 by Zullo and Arpaio. Local and national media have declined to investigate the posse’s findings, with some ridiculing the messengers instead.
Jamie Ross of Courthouse News reported Zullo’s testimony as “an impassioned tale” and stated as a matter of fact that Zullo participated in “an investigation of U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow.”
A source who was in the courtroom on Friday related the following of Zullo’s Friday testimony:
During redirect, Young asked Zullo if investigators searched for the name “Earl Wilcox” in Montgomery’s database, to which Zullo responded, “No.”
Young then asked, “Did you search for ‘Mary Rose Wilcox?'” to which Zullo responded, “Yes.” Zullo stated that Mary Rose’s name was not in the database, but the name “Earl Wilcox” appeared as associated with a restaurant.
Zullo indicated that he did not recognize the name of the restaurant, but Det. Mackiewicz identified it as the Wilcoxes’ business.
Zullo said that he was “relieved that Mary Rose was not in the database.” When Young asked why he was relieved, Zullo said that he was concerned that Montgomery could have been “loading the database” with the names of people who are considered enemies of Arpaio.
Our source reported that the plaintiffs’ attorneys chose not to ask follow-up questions of Zullo once he finished his testimony.
On Saturday, the media is silent on the matter, with an internet search for “Zullo Arpaio 2015” yielding articles written on Thursday or before and no personal interviews of Zullo.
A filing in the Melendres case by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich concerning a criminal investigation remains sealed.
The Post & Email located an article published on Saturday by Ross titled “Tangled Explanation From Aide to Arpaio,” in which he reported:
Zullo testified Friday that he and Montgomery searched the bank records that Montgomery retrieved of Mary Rose Wilcox, a former member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors…
While Wilcox’s bank information was not found, her husband Earl appeared in the list of Maricopa County residents and they were also able to find bank information on their restaurant, El Portal, Zullo said.
“When you found Mary Rose Wilcox’s restaurant’s name, did you mention this to Sheriff Arpaio?” Young asked.
“His reaction was the same as with this judge, it was ‘He’s a victim,'” Zullo said. “As far as Mary Rose not coming up, I explained to him that I was actually relieved she did not come up.”
Last month, Ross reported that Snow indicated from the bench that he believed that “Mr. Montgomery had investigated me” (Snow).
Block and Cassidy have both interviewed Young recently, but not Zullo.
Ross, Cassidy, Joffe-Block, Lemons, the AP’s Jacques Billeaud, and Dana are all recommended reading of Tesibria, which has maintained a day-by-day log of all activity in Melendres. Tesibria refers to court documents by the Electronic Filing number with a link which takes the reader to their location on Scribd.
All official ECF documents at pacer.gov must be paid for at a rate of $.10/page, which at times accumulates to several hundred dollars quarterly for those following a case or cases closely.
Tesibria’s report on Zullo’s Thursday testimony reads:
Per media reports, Zullo invokes the Fifth Amendment more than 200 times in the morning session. After lunch, he answers some questions posed by Arpaio counsel. Then, under redirect examination, he “explode[s] begins testifying, not taking 5th. Says they were not after judge.” (See Lemons tweet.)
On the events of Friday, Tesibria solely stated:
The Melendres contempt hearing resumes today (Day 20). See Minutes of Proceeding (ECF 1543); Transcript of Proceedings (tbd).
Per the minutes, Zullo takes the stand then Plaintiffs rest their case. Defense puts on no additional witnesses. Judge Snow schedules closing arguments for Nov. 20, 2015.
On Thursday, PNT Editor Rick Barrs announced job openings for “freelance news writers to help our ace staff cover the Valley of the Sun and Arizona.”
Closing arguments in Melendres are scheduled for November 20.