4 words are not enough, attorney says; Liddy wants private letter made public

By Nick R. Martin | December 4th, 2009 | 4:31 pm | 4 Comments »

Antonio Lozano

So what, exactly, was in the document that Maricopa County detention officer Adam Stoddard took from the confidential files of defense attorney Joanne Cuccia?

At a hearing last month, Stoddard testified he saw the words “going to,” “steal” and “money” grouped together in a single sentence at the bottom of the handwritten page. But beyond that, the public knows very little about it because Superior Court Judge Gary Doanhoe declared the letter a privileged communication between Cuccia and her client, alleged gang member Antonio Lozano. He ordered it sealed so that no one besides the two of them could see it.

But now, Stoddard’s attorney hopes to change all that. In a request filed Monday [PDF] with the judge, deputy county attorney Tom Liddy asked for the whole letter to be made public so he could use it to try to get Stoddard out of jail.

“I need that letter,” Liddy told Heat City on Thursday night. “It’s central to show that he did it to protect Ms. Cuccia, the judge and everyone else in that courtroom.”

Stoddard is currently in a Maricopa County jail, where he has been ordered to stay until he makes a public apology for taking the letter in the first place. The detention officer so far has refused to apologize, declaring he will not say he’s sorry for “doing the job I’ve been trained to do.”

In the filing, Liddy and private attorney Michele Iafrate argued it was more than just those four words at the bottom of the page that made Stoddard believe Cuccia’s client, the 26-year-old gang member, was plotting to commit another crime.

“After reading the entire letter, he formed additional security concerns,” they wrote.

However, at the hearing last month to figure out whether Stoddard’s actions were legal, it was tough to tell what the young officer believed. He contradicted himself numerous times in testimony and was visibly nervous on the stand.

In the end, the judge limited any testimony about the letter to just those four words, saying that revealing any more would further violate Lozano’s attorney-client privilege.

In an interview, Liddy said making the letter public is the only way he can file a petition with the Arizona Court of Appeals, asking the judges there to take the case. He said the appeal is “constructed and ready to go” except for the parts dealing with the letter.

“Where does Adam Stoddard go to get his reputation back?” said Liddy. “It’s in that letter.”

Naturally, the attorney who has since taken over the job of representing Lozano has come out against Liddy’s request, asking the judge to uphold the attorney-client privilege.

In a response filed Thursday, public defense attorney Maria Schaffer pointed out that Donahoe reviewed the entire letter and said the four words were the only things necessary for Stoddard “to completely defend himself against this allegation of improper conduct.” (Draft of the response [Google Docs].)

“It is noteworthy,” Schaffer wrote, “that at no point…during the remainder of the hearings did Mr. Liddy ask that the letters be unsealed in their entirety.”

She also said that if the Court of Appeals judges believe the entire letter has a bearing on Stoddard’s case, they have the ability to look at it under seal without revealing its contents to the public.

Meantime, Lozano’s original sentencing has been delayed twice because of the blowup. It is rescheduled again for Dec. 14, but it may be delayed if Stoddard’s issues are not resolved before then.