Officer tells which 'keywords' made him take attorney's document

By Nick R. Martin | November 7th, 2009 | 12:23 am | 24 Comments »


Detention officer Adam Stoddard is captured on courtroom videotape taking a document from a defense attorney’s file behind her back.

Maricopa County detention officer Adam Stoddard was back in court Thursday to explain why he sneaked a document out of a defense attorney’s file behind her back a few weeks ago, stunning attorneys nationwide after the whole thing was caught on a courtroom videotape.

JJ Hensley of the Arizona Republic was at the hearing and wrote Friday that Stoddard continued to defend his actions as a legal search because he believed a crime was perhaps taking place. Stoddard was also finally allowed to tell the court which “keywords” he saw on the document that sent him into action. Hensley wrote:

“Going to,” “steal” and “money.”

Those four words, grouped in the same sentence, prompted a Maricopa County sheriff’s detention officer to remove documents from a defense attorney’s
file last month, according to court testimony Thursday.

Officer Adam Stoddard testified that a handful of factors contributed to his decision to position himself behind the defendant, Antonio Solis Lozano, during Lozano’s Oct. 19 sentencing hearing. And while Stoddard was there, his eyes “glazed over” a document with the four words that caught his attention.

The revelation of those four keywords likely means that Lozano, the defendant, has waived his attorney-client privilege regarding the handwritten letter Stoddard took from the file.

On Oct. 30, Judge Gary Donahoe determined the document was subject to the privilege, meaning its contents could not be revealed to the public unless the defendant waived his right to keep it private. Donahoe said at the time the document appeared to contain no coded messages or anything illegal.

The judge said Stoddard was not even allowed to say which words cause him to take the document from the file because Donahoe was afraid it would further violate Lozano’s rights. That was not an issue Thursday, however, as Stoddard talked about the words on the page.

The Republic also reported that Donahoe at some point during the hearing ordered the packed courtroom cleared for an hour while he spoke to attorneys representing the various sides. It’s not clear why it did this, but it adds to the mystery of the entire situation. Last week, Donahoe also ordered transcripts of the ongoing hearing, as well as the videotape of Stoddard’s original actions, sealed from public release.

Despite the orders, though, the video was already public. And after Heat City posted it online, it ricocheted across the nation, appearing on CNN and the website of Reason Magazine, where it earned the home of Phoenix the nickname of “Marikafka County.” It also went viral on YouTube, garnering about 60,000 views in four days.

Scott Greenfield, a criminal defense attorney in New York who runs the law blog Simple Justice, called Stoddard’s actions “blatant, outrageous and yes, illegal.” He explained the situation this way:

Court officers provide security for the courtroom. As such, they are entitled to check everything that comes in for any dangerous objects and contraband, and that includes a defense lawyer’s file. That means that they may properly scan the file to do their job, but reading the contents of papers within a file is entirely outside the scope of their authority. A staple may be considered a weapon. The words on paper is none of their business.

Donahoe has still not decided whether Stoddard’s actions were legal or whether it will affect Lozano’s case. At the time the documents were taken, Lozano was about to be sentenced for attacking another inmate last year. The sentencing was put on hold, however, when Lozano’s attorney figured out what was going on.

The hearing to decide what to do with Stoddard and the rest of the case is scheduled to continue Tuesday.


  • http://www.facebook.com/tom.stedham Tom Stedham

    Great work, Nick. Please keep it coming!

  • tomstedham

    Great work, Nick. Please keep it coming!

  • Anonymous

    I wonder why I didn’t see this on policelink.

  • justuselogic

    I wonder why I didn't see this on policelink.

  • http://www.chambersagency.com/ Diana

    I am amazed by this! I love that this police officer got caught! I am frustrated beyond belief with his absolute bullshit story “glazing over” my ass!! He strolled up, read the paperwork and then pulled more paperwork out from a file that was not his! He should LOOSE HIS JOB – this makes me so upset! There are very good officers out there who have to be associated and compared to this thief!!!
    Another aspect that makes me want to scream is the Judge and her behavior – she also should be held accountable!! She made them wait two weeks until this matter could be addressed!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!??? She saw them and what they were doing – she allowed it to happen and STILL DID NOTHING!!!!

  • http://www.chambersagency.com/ Diana

    I am amazed by this! I love that this police officer got caught! I am frustrated beyond belief with his absolute bullshit story “glazing over” my ass!! He strolled up, read the paperwork and then pulled more paperwork out from a file that was not his! He should LOOSE HIS JOB – this makes me so upset! There are very good officers out there who have to be associated and compared to this thief!!!
    Another aspect that makes me want to scream is the Judge and her behavior – she also should be held accountable!! She made them wait two weeks until this matter could be addressed!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!??? She saw them and what they were doing – she allowed it to happen and STILL DID NOTHING!!!!

  • Name

    These guys are not police officers, they are SS Stormtroopers fascist style

  • Name

    These guys are not police officers, they are SS Stormtroopers fascist style

  • Trav

    Please please forward this to HUFFINGTON POST, REDDIT, ANDERSON COOPER, CROOKSANDLIARS. GET THIS MORE COVERAGE. I FOUND MORE POLICE INCIDENTS FROM YOUTUBE BY THESE FINE MARICOPA COPS! PLEASE!

  • Trav

    Please please forward this to HUFFINGTON POST, REDDIT, ANDERSON COOPER, CROOKSANDLIARS. GET THIS MORE COVERAGE. I FOUND MORE POLICE INCIDENTS FROM YOUTUBE BY THESE FINE MARICOPA COPS! PLEASE!

  • Anonymous

    SOP for Arizona and especially Maricopa county.

    This is disgraceful! No wonder the rest of America is by-passing Arizona for any travel. They see us as all walking around with handguns and assault rifles strapped to every available space on our bodies. The “I’m the sheriff, I’ll do what I want; abuse of power is not illegal,” publicity of ‘Sheriff Joe,’ coupled with the obvious violation of attorney-client privilege and the rights guaranteed by the constitution in this incident would make any sane person not want to set foot in this state.

    And the records of the court hearing are now sealed? Please! Thank God someone got this tape and posted it for national attention. Otherwise there would have been no chance at all for appropriate action being taken. As it looks now, there will be none anyway!

  • StormAZ

    SOP for Arizona and especially Maricopa county.

    This is disgraceful! No wonder the rest of America is by-passing Arizona for any travel. They see us as all walking around with handguns and assault rifles strapped to every available space on our bodies. The “I'm the sheriff, I'll do what I want; abuse of power is not illegal,” publicity of 'Sheriff Joe,' coupled with the obvious violation of attorney-client privilege and the rights guaranteed by the constitution in this incident would make any sane person not want to set foot in this state.

    And the records of the court hearing are now sealed? Please! Thank God someone got this tape and posted it for national attention. Otherwise there would have been no chance at all for appropriate action being taken. As it looks now, there will be none anyway!

  • http://www.heatcity.org/2009/11/judge-orders-officer-to-apologize-or-face-jail-for-taking-attorneys-file.html Judge orders officer to apologize or face jail for taking attorney’s file | Heat City

    [...] 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. [...]

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

    [...] told the judge he happened to glance down at the table when he saw four words – “going to,” [...]

  • http://www.air-jordan-24.com air jordan 24

    Mark S. is definitely on the right track. If you want to get a professional looking email address, Id recommend buying your name domain name, like or
    ajf 4.5
    If its common it might be difficult to get, however, be creative and you can usually find something.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad lawyers in Phoenix would never make mistakes like this. In a much larger case misuse of documentation evidence like this could be a disaster. Hopefully lessons will be learned from this.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad lawyers in Phoenix would never make mistakes like this. In a much larger case misuse of documentation evidence like this could be a disaster. Hopefully lessons will be learned from this.

  • totem111

    Great work! Well written article!

  • http://security-wire.com/09/how-to-remove-antivirus-8-rogue-anti-spyware.html remove antivirus 8

    Thanks for your information:)

  • Anonymous

    Lose…

  • R Selz

    He should lose his job, pension, be barred from corrections, security, or law enforcement work for life, and lose a few teeth courtesy of Lozano’s buddies while he’s at it. Next up: Employee rep Stoddard on why he and his McDonald’s co-workers deserve 15.00 an hour….

  • Julian R. Grace

    Wow, after watching that deputy do,what he did there’s no going back. He took it upon himself to snoop where he had no business snooping. Throw the book at him and sanction any judge that does not admit that a crime was committed. Thought I had seen it all, this took the cake!

  • Valencian

    American ‘justice’ is a total and utter disgrace. It’s more backward than Afghanistan. Might as well have kangaroos for judges and SS Stormtroopers for cops. Oh wait, it already does…

  • Loriann1220

    Typical cop or deputy