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Legally Speaking: MCSO chief deputy retakes stand in contempt hearing that could last a while

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan was on the stand again Friday in the civil contempt hearing against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the department.

The courtroom was full of lawyers, assistants and the public. To give you an idea of what the atmosphere is like, in the typical courtroom there is one table for the plaintiff and one for the defendant and not much else is needed.

However, since this case involves several parties and legal teams the use of additional tables and even the jury box was necessary. Thirteen individuals were seated on the MCSO side and nine were on the ACLU side. When court started with a sidebar there were 11 attorneys huddled around Judge Murray Snow, making it look like a bunch of reporters surrounding a quarterback after a game.

Although there were little to no fireworks in the courtroom (in fact, I caught someone over on the MCSO side falling asleep numerous times with his mouth wide open), important information did come out in the questioning.

Sheridan admitted to significant knowledge of the connection and interaction between Dennis Montgomery and MCSO and also admitted he did not turn over the 1,459 identification cards when he discovered them. Yes, he was aware of Snow’s February order instructing the office to do just that.

The initial questioning focused on the Seattle investigation and confidential informant Dennis Montgomery. ACLU attorney Cecilia Wong was relentless in her questioning of Sheridan and his knowledge of MCSO’s interaction with, and financial support of, Montgomery.

It was made clear that Sheridan had reviewed information provided by Montgomery, had discussed the credibility of his work with others in MCSO and even approved Montgomery’s expenditures.

Interestingly, there was significant discussion about Sheridan’s suspicions that Montgomery had obtained documents and information illegally and, despite these suspicions, MCSO continued to pay Montgomery into 2015.

It also came out that Sheridan was aware that a four-bedroom house was being rented in Seattle with one bedroom devoted to the housing of expensive computer equipment. Was this the place where the elusive 50 or so hard drives came from, that were not turned over? Possibly.

The most interesting questioning came right before lunch when Sheridan admitted that although he was aware of the court’s February 2015 order to turn over documents such as the IDs, he did not inform the court monitor of their existence or turn them over.

Sheridan explained that in July of this year he was informed by Capt. Steve Bailey that Sgt. Jonathan Knapp had turned in 1,459 identification cards to the property department that he had collected over several years.

This concerned Sheridan because a policy had recently been issued regarding the handling of identification cards and he knew the court, the court monitor and the plaintiffs would take the issue very seriously.

At that time he decided to confer with MCSO’s attorney, Michelle Iafrate, about what to do. Because of this, his attorney will likely take her place on the stand shortly.

Although some things are still confusing, what is clear is that this hearing will not end anytime soon. There are too many twists and turns and tangents in this case and plaintiffs’ attorneys are not going to let sleeping dogs lie.

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