Criminal Justice

Court Deputy Ordered to Apologize or Face Jail After Taking Lawyer's Paperwork

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An Arizona judge found a Maricopa County Sheriff’s detention officer in contempt of court after he pulled two sheets of paper from a public defender’s court file during a sentencing hearing last month.

Officer Adam Stoddard testified earlier this month that he saw the words “going to,” “steal,” and “money” on a handwritten sheet of paper sticking out of lawyer Joanne Cuccia’s file, and that this led him to believe that her client, Antonio Lozano, posed a security threat, the Arizona Republic reported.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe found Stoddard’s assessment unreasonable and decided Stoddard must either apologize to Cuccia at a press conference Nov. 30 or report to jail Dec. 1.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio issued a press release indicating the public apology order would be defied.

“My officer was doing his job, and I will not stand by and allow him to be thrown to the wolves by the courts because they feel pressure from the media on this situation,” Arpaio said in the press release.

According to the decision (PDF provided by Simple Justice), not only was the date and circumstances of the press conference dictated, but said that if Cuccia “did not state that the apology was sufficient,” Stoddard would have to report to jail.

“The punishment is somewhat goofy,” Scott Greenfield wrote at Simple Justice. “Aside from the public shaming aspect, Judge Donahoe’s shifting the burden of determining Stoddard’s sincerity to Cuccia is a trick, pure and simple. If she was to decide that it was an inadequate or insincere apology, then Donahoe’s in the clear, and whatever fallout occurs is Cuccia’s fault.”

San Diego solo practitioner Mary Frances Prevost wonders on California Criminal Lawyer Blog why Stoddard isn’t being charged with a crime for stealing Cuccia’s property.

“This is absolutely outrageous when defense attorneys must bring colleagues to watch their belongings because the cops might steal from them,” she writes

The Oct. 19 incident has received nationwide attention because it was recorded on courtroom surveillance video (below).

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