Judge orders officer to apologize or face jail for taking attorney's file

By Nick R. Martin | November 18th, 2009 | 8:44 am | 36 Comments »


Detention officer Adam Stoddard is shown on courtroom videotape taking a document from a defense attorney’s file.

If he doesn’t make a grand public apology to a defense attorney soon, a Maricopa County detention officer could find himself inside a jail cell rather than tending them.

A Maricopa County judge on Tuesday ordered detention officer Adam Stoddard to hold a news conference and publicly apologize for swiping a document from a defense attorney’s file behind her back last month in an incident caught on courtroom videotape. If the Maricopa County Sheriff’s officer refuses or the defense attorney decides the apology is not “sufficient,” Judge Gary Donahoe’s ruling said he would throw Stoddard in jail.

Donahoe’s ruling held Stoddard in contempt for the Oct. 19 incident in which he could be seen on a courtroom security video sneaking up behind attorney Joanne Cuccia in the middle of a hearing and taking a document from her file.

During several days of testimony following the incident, Stoddard said he happened to have glanced at the file and saw the words “going to,” “steal” and “money” grouped together in a sentence. It made him think a crime was taking place and gave him the authority to pull the document, he said.

But Donahoe rejected that story, saying there’s no way “a reasonable detention officer” would have thought a crime was taking place based on what he saw.

“There was no immediate or future security threat that would have justified a reasonable detention officer in DO Stoddard’s situation removing, seizing and coping a document from a defense attorney’s file,” Donahoe wrote in his ruling, which was made public today. “A reasonable detention officer would have recognized after spending approximately 37 seconds reading the paragraph in question, that the ‘key words’ had nothing to do with an immediate or future security threat to the jail or anyone else.”

Donahoe was skeptical last week that Arizona law gave him any authority to punish Stoddard for taking the file. But in the ruling, Donahoe said he found case law that allowed him to do it. It had to do with a 1995 case in which a judge determined that something that took place outside of his or her courtroom still affected the integrity of the court.

“This case is not about disobeying a court order,” Donahoe wrote. “It is about protecting a defense attorney from misbehavior and harassment by another officer of the court.”

Donahoe’s ruling is extraordinary in other ways, too. Not only does it force Stoddard to hold a news conference or else go to jail, it lays out the specifics of what the news conference will look like.

The judge said the news conference should take place on or before Nov. 30 in the plaza on the north side of the central building Maricopa County Superior Courthouse. There, Stoddard is to give the defense attorney a “sincere verbal and written apology for invading her defense file and for the damage that his conduct may have caused to her professional reputation,” the judge ruled. Stoddard is also supposed to make sure that a press release is sent out to all print and broadcast media in Maricopa County at least 24 hours before the public apology.

Lastly, the judge gave Cuccia the authority to determine whether the apology is sufficient. If not, then Stoddard will be thrown in jail on Dec. 1 and Donahoe will figure out what to do with him then.

Cuccia said last week she was concerned about her professional reputation because of what happened. In multiple public statements, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said deputies and detention officers had been on high alert recently because two separate defense attorneys had allegedly helped smuggle drugs and other items to their clients who were members of the Mexica Mafia. Stoddard said he was on particularly high alert that day because Cuccia’s client, Antonio Lozano, was a documented member of the Mexican Mafia.

Donahoe said in his ruling those kinds of statements, which cast false suspicion on an attorney with a good record, are exactly why he is making Stoddard apologize in such a public fashion.

“Because it was the public dissemination of the information that may have damaged Ms. Cuccia’s reputation, perhaps by the public dissemination of information, any damage can be corrected or at least lessened,” he wrote.

While Donahoe went full-throttle on Stoddard, he was far easier on the other sheriff’s employee shown on the Oct. 19 video. The judge determined that deputy Francisco Campillo was basically asked by a colleague to make a copy of a document, and did so without reading it. Donahoe declined to hold Camillo in contempt.

The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Update: Sheriff Joe Arpaio and an attorney for his office say there’s slim chance Stoddard will either apologize or go to jail in the case. They plan to fight the judge’s order. Read more here.

Courtroom video of the Oct. 19 incident:


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  • http://phelps.donotremove.net Phelps

    “Say you’re sorry”? That’s the ruling? What is this, Kindergarten?

    How many of the defendants in that courtroom get that sort of sentence?

  • http://phelps.donotremove.net/ Phelps

    “Say you're sorry”? That's the ruling? What is this, Kindergarten?

    How many of the defendants in that courtroom get that sort of sentence?

  • http://scottsdalearizonanews.blogspot.com/ Pete Kosednar

    I think the ruling is fair. I bet the guy will not hold a presser and soon be in jail.

  • http://scottsdalearizonanews.blogspot.com/ Pete Kosednar

    I think the ruling is fair. I bet the guy will not hold a presser and soon be in jail.

  • Shar Pei

    I thought Donahoe was the judge… why is he putting the onus for punishing Stoddard on the shoulders of Cuccia?

  • jamesonjohnson

    I thought Donahoe was the judge… why is he putting the onus for punishing Stoddard on the shoulders of Cuccia?

  • http://dv8-designs.com/maricopa-deputy-steals-defenders-paperwork-during-a-court-case/ Maricopa deputy steals defender’s paperwork during a court case | dv8-designs

    [...] Dan Gillmor points out that the Heat City blog has done great work on this, breaking the story. [...]

  • http://www.theworldmatters.org/2009/11/19/maricopa-deputy-steals-defenders-paperwork-during-a-court-case/ Maricopa deputy steals defender’s paperwork during a court case | The World Matters

    [...] took lawyer’s paperwork might go to jail (Thanks, Tom!) Update: Dan Gillmor points out that the Heat City blog has done great work on this, breaking the story. [...]

  • http://blogchina.me/?p=2230 Maricopa deputy steals defender’s paperwork during a court case | BLOGCHINA

    [...] Dan Gillmor points out that the Heat City blog has done great work on this, breaking the story. [...]

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    [...] about that here and here. More cop-thieves here.) And more [...]

  • http://www.heatcity.org/2009/11/arpaio-to-judge-fat-chance-of-apology.html Arpaio to judge: Fat chance of apology | Heat City

    [...] ordered officer Adam Stoddard to hold a press conference before Dec. 1 to apologize to the attorney or else [...]

  • Anonymous

    At least one judge finally showed some respect for law and order and the power of the courts. The MCSO is doing its typical “Screw you!” to all of the above.

    Too bad nothing will ever come of all this. It’ll just drag on in courts for years, all paid for by the taxpayer.

  • StormAZ

    At least one judge finally showed some respect for law and order and the power of the courts. The MCSO is doing its typical “Screw you!” to all of the above.

    Too bad nothing will ever come of all this. It'll just drag on in courts for years, all paid for by the taxpayer.

  • AZ JD

    As an Arizona attorney, either he goes to jail regardless of apology or we citizen’s arrest Arpaio on contempt.

  • AZ JD

    As an Arizona attorney, either he goes to jail regardless of apology or we citizen's arrest Arpaio on contempt.

  • Heya

    Haha Joe Arpaio is hilarious and literally will tell anyone to go f- themselves regardless of their supposed position in the state government because he is the real law, America Haters. He is the realest thing we get to a tinpot dictator in this country, so enjoy the show because he’s not going anywhere until he pisses of the FBI. What’s that, you say? Oh, he just did: http://www.kpho.com/news/21470567/detail.html. Have fun in prison you mean old bully.

  • Heya

    Haha Joe Arpaio is hilarious and literally will tell anyone to go f- themselves regardless of their supposed position in the state government because he is the real law, America Haters. He is the realest thing we get to a tinpot dictator in this country, so enjoy the show because he's not going anywhere until he pisses of the FBI. What's that, you say? Oh, he just did: http://www.kpho.com/news/21470567/detail.html. Have fun in prison you mean old bully.

  • http://belowthebeltway.com/2009/11/20/judge-orders-sheriffs-deputy-who-stole-documents-from-defense-attorney-to-apologize-or-face-jail-time/ Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » Judge Orders Sheriff’s Deputy Who Stole Documents From Defense Attorney To Apologize Or Face Jail Time

    [...] the Judge held a hearing in the matter and Stoddard got read the riot act: A Maricopa County judge on Tuesday ordered detention officer Adam Stoddard to hold a news [...]

  • Anonymous

    This “ruling” is pathetic. The Sheriff’s office obviously has installed an atmosphere of fear within the court, as well as city government. The deputy in question should be fired from the force, charged with theft and obstruction of justice, case closed.

  • lishnetzy

    This “ruling” is pathetic. The Sheriff's office obviously has installed an atmosphere of fear within the court, as well as city government. The deputy in question should be fired from the force, charged with theft and obstruction of justice, case closed.

  • http://www.kawasakimotorcycle.org/forum/off-topic/121037-video-court-room-theft-sheriff.html#post1849548 Video of court room theft by a Sheriff – Kawasaki Motorcycle Forums

    [...] orders apology, Sheriff refuses to allow it; Judge orders aplogy __________________ Iron Butt Association #34911 '98 Vulcan 800a, with tubeless [...]

  • http://www.tngunowners.com/forums/general-off-topic/30738-court-room-theft-deputy.html#post400653 Court room theft by a deputy? – Tennessee Gun Owners

    [...] to the video. Judge orders officer to apologize or face jail for taking attorney’s file | Heat City   __________________   United States of the Niave and [...]

  • http://brownandlittlelaw.com/blog1/2009/11/23/you-and-what-army/ You and What Army? — Chandler Criminal Defense

    [...] recent prediction was wrong, and for a moment, being wrong never felt so good. Judge Donahoe of the Maricopa County Superior [...]

  • http://www.heatcity.org/2009/11/showdown-likely-today-between-arpaio-judge-over-officer-who-took-file.html Showdown likely today between Arpaio, judge over officer who took file | Heat City

    [...] Court Judget Gary Donahoe has since ordered the detention officer to hold a news conference to apologize for taking the document. If he refuses to do so by the [...]

  • http://phxated.com/2009/11/live-from-the-cronkite-school-live-blogging-as-joe-arpaio-meets-the-press/ Live, from the Cronkite School! Live-blogging as Joe Arpaio meets the press. | Phxated

    [...] Court Judget Gary Donahoe has since ordered the detention officer to hold a news conference to apologize for taking the document. If he refuses to do so by the [...]

  • http://www.heatcity.org/2009/12/officer-to-judge-no-way-ill-apologize.html Officer to judge: No way I’ll apologize | Heat City

    [...] Stoddard’s actions were a blatant violation of the near-sacred attorney-client privilege and ordered the detention officer to publicly apologize to the defense attorney by Monday or else face jail time for [...]

  • Anonymous

    I support fully support law enforcment in thier efforts to keep us safe, however taking evidence or papers from a defense attorney’s files in open court is wrong. It either shows that this officer has very poor judgement or does not repsect the court system. I do not know who the defendant was in this case but the officer has opened the door to allow a possible guilty person to go free by his own actions.

  • joecap

    I support fully support law enforcment in thier efforts to keep us safe, however taking evidence or papers from a defense attorney's files in open court is wrong. It either shows that this officer has very poor judgement or does not repsect the court system. I do not know who the defendant was in this case but the officer has opened the door to allow a possible guilty person to go free by his own actions.

  • http://recordsresources.com public records

    there are more good video and more information!

  • http://www.criminaljusticerecords.net/ Criminal Justice Jobs

    What are criminal justice jobs that do not do psychological background checks?
    I am a criminal justice major and have had mental health problems so becoming a cop is pretty slim but what other jobs might I be able to do in the field with a 2 or 4 year degree?

  • Rdhilbert1

    i agree why is there a double standard for law enforcement? if it were a comon person they would be in jail. i say if it is good for the goose it is good for the gander. take away his badge give him about 6 months in jail and 2 years probation that sounds fair

  • Rdhilbert1

    i agree why is there a double standard for law enforcement? if it were a comon person they would be in jail. i say if it is good for the goose it is good for the gander. take away his badge give him about 6 months in jail and 2 years probation that sounds fair

  • Sheamus Warior
  • Nat Wolins

    I liked the old days when brain farts such as the one here resulted in being fired. No counts and no whining.