By now, regular readers are very familiar with this ongoing saga out of Maricopa County, Arizona: it all began back in October when, during a sentencing hearing, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Officer Adam Stoddard stepped up behind defence attorney Joanne Cuccia, searched through her file, and retrieved a document – all while she was making arguments and her back was turned.
In a highly anticipated decision, Judge Gary Donohoe later ruled Stoddard had not acted with reasonable justification, despite the officer’s argument that his suspicion had been triggered by his glimpse of certain “keywords.” He had also argued that a heightened state of alert was required due to incidents where defence attorneys had helped smuggle contraband and other items to their defendants. Nevertheless, Judge Donohoe had rejected these arguments and had ordered Stoddard to publicly apologize before December 1, or face jail time.
Last night, Stoddard did indeed hold a news conference. At 8:30 pm, down to the very end of Judge Donohoe’s deadline, a defiant Stoddard refused the judge’s order.
“Judge Donohoe has ordered me to feel something I do not. He has ordered me to say something I cannot. I cannot and will not apologize for putting court safety first. The judge has therefore put me a position where I must lie or go to jail. I will not lie.”
Stoddard makes much of putting court safety first. The previous incidents of smuggled contraband which purported put court officers on “high alert” involved one defence attorney charged over a year ago (who was found to himself be a meth addict), and another defence attorney this September (who had had previously been cited for professional misconduct by the state bar). In both cases, the defence attorneys were representing the same defendant, a member of the “Mexican Mafia.”
In this case, Cuccia’s client had been affiliated with the same Mexican Mafia. However, Cuccia has a spotless record with the state bar, and there has been absolutely no evidence anywhere of wrong-doing on her part. In fact, much of Donohoe’s decision to order the apology was an attempt to rectify the damage Stoddard’s actions and arguments may have done to Cuccia’s reputation.
Criminal defence lawyers everywhere continue to eye the continuing developments of this case. A possible appeal by Stoddard may further complicate things. Many will now be wondering whether Judge Donohoe will enforce his order, and about the logistics a jailing an officer of a sheriff’s department that seems to be defiant.