Last month, surveillance footage emerged showing Maricopa County Officer Adam Stoddard pulling a document out of a public defender’s file while she had her back turned and asking a fellow officer to take the document and leave the courtroom with it. Stoddard testified that his eyes “glazed over” the document and that certain words caught his attention and prompted his actions. Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe determined the document posed no security threat and has demanded Stoddard deliver an apology at a public news conference or else face jail time.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, however, has belligerently stepped in to state that the court’s orders should 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…I decide who holds press conferences and when they are held regarding this Sheriff’s Office.
In an interview with Rick Sanchez, criminal defense attorney Silvia Piñera-Vasquez points out that Arpaio is out of line and that the judge actually gave Stoddard a “light light sentence,” despite the fact that he violated the 4th Amendment and attorney-client privilege:
SANCHEZ: Is he [Arpaio] right in any measure? Does a judge tell a police officer what to do in this case? Or does she have to go through his boss — who I imagine she probably has some sort of relationship with?
PIÑERA-VASQUEZ: Well, in this case, the person who was held in contempt of court was obviously not the Sheriff, but Officer Stoddard. So he [the judge] has jurisdiction to tell Officer Stoddard what his punishment is once he was found in contempt of court. Having been found in contempt of court, he could order whatever punishment he deems appropriate…
Can you picture that in any courtroom a judge ordering just a public apology? Most likely that person would’ve been taken into custody, would’ve had to bond out of jail, would’ve probably been charged with theft and other charges. In this case, basically what the officer has been given is a slap on the wrist: apologize and walk away scott-free.
Piñera-Vasquez points out that Arpaio has put Stoddard in a difficult position: defy the court orders and risk going to jail or defy his boss and risk getting fired. She also states that Arpaio himself could be held in contempt. The attorney now representing the defendant whose case was being deliberated at the time of Stoddard’s actions indicated that she is “concerned that her client won’t get a fair sentencing in Maricopa County because of the media scrutiny Stoddard’s hearing has received.”