Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Testimony in Arizona MC Sheriff Joe Arpaio Contempt Hearing Describes a Loosey-Goosey Sheriff's Office

Courthouse News Service
PHOENIX (CN) - One of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's sergeants testified Tuesday that no victims were ever identified after information was uncovered that deputies would "pocket shit" they found at smuggling houses.
     The information was divulged during a hearing for unemployment benefits by former sheriff's Officer Cisco Perez.
     Perez said it was common practice for members of Arpaio's now-defunct Human Smuggling Unit to "pocket shit" left behind in drop houses or in the desert by immigrants. He said the items included religious statues, flags, T-shirts, drug paraphernalia and a 62-inch flat-screen television.
     Sheriff's Sgt. David Tennyson testified Tuesday during civil contempt hearings against Arpaio that he didn't trust Perez, who was the former brother-in-law of Alfredo Navarrette - a former deputy accused of money laundering and providing information to drug smugglers.
     Arpaio and four of his current and former aides face civil contempt charges for failing to train deputies how to make constitutional traffic stops and failing to deliver data to the court despite a 2013 court order.
     The 2007 Melendres class action accused Arpaio's officers of arresting Latinos during so-called "crime-suppression sweeps" and traffic stops. U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow agreed with the plaintiffs in that case, and in 2013 ordered Arpaio and his officers to take steps to stop racial profiling.
     "I'm thinking I have a guy who lied, who is involved with another guy who was arrested for smuggling humans and smuggling dope," Tennyson said of Perez's claims.
     In an investigation of items found in the home of sheriff's Officer Ramon "Charley" Armendariz after he killed himself in May 2014, the Sheriff's Office turned up no victims for the trinkets taken by deputies.
     "I could not move forward without additional evidence," Tennyson said.
     In a memo in that the case, he wrote that the pocketed items were "of no evidentiary or monetary value ... left behind as a result of the illegal aliens crossing."
     Andre Segura, an ACLU attorney representing the plaintiffs, claimed Tennyson would not discipline subordinates if he considered them friends.
     Segura said a Tennyson investigation of allegations that his friend Det. Brian Mackiewicz was fraudulently claiming overtime and having an improper relationship with a victim of a domestic violence incident was fruitless.
     Mackiewicz played an important role in communications with Dennis Montgomery, a private investigator Arpaio hired to investigate the sheriff's suspicions that the Department of Justice was conspiring against him. Arpaio's office is also said to be investigating Mackiewicz.
     Maryann McKessy, a former Maricopa County attorney, made the complaint against Mackiewicz, her former boyfriend, after learning he was dating the domestic violence victim while still dating her.
     Tennyson said that "based on the information [McKessy] provided us at that time" there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
     "To me it wasn't relevant; cheating wasn't a violation of state law," Tennyson said.
     Segura asked Tennyson if he tried to speak to Arpaio about the overtime allegation.
     "I suggested, in order to further the investigation, I would need to speak to the sheriff," Tennyson responded. He said his request was denied.
     Tennyson closed the case. He said a court-appointed monitor overseeing the Sheriff's Office under the 2013 court order accused him of interviewing McKessy and immediately relaying her information to Mackiewicz.
     Tennyson denied it. "The monitors were quite angry with me," he said. "I knew in my heart of hearts I never would have interviewed McKessy and called Brian."
     The hearing continues Wednesday and is expected to last through November

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