Attorney talks about Arpaio-Hendershott contradicting testimony

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by Sybil Hoffman

azfamily.com

Posted on October 24, 2011 at 9:45 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 24 at 4:35 PM

PHOENIX -- The former Maricopa County attorney and two deputy attorneys are facing either disbarment or sanctions as all three go before the State Bar.

But what's raising eyebrows is the testimony coming from Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his former chief deputy, David Hendershott. But will anyone face perjury?

According to veteran criminal defense attorney Michael Black, it's rare for anyone to face perjury. For example, the Barry Bonds trial this spring.

"He constantly evaded answering the question for the most part and so the jury convicted him of obstruction of justice as opposed to perjury in that case," Black said.

In recent weeks, Arpaio and Hendershott have testified at the State Supreme Court in disciplinary hearings that could end the careers of Andrew Thomas, Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander.

However, testimony from Arpaio and Hendershott has been contradictory. When asked, "Were you involved in the decision to arrest Supervisor Stapley?" Under oath Hendershott said, "Sheriff Arpaio made that decision."

"Did he convey that decision to you?"

"Yes he did."

Also under oath, Arpaio testified: "I don't order arrests. This was brought to my attention that a decision was made by the chief deputy and I didn't oppose it."

Black said lying is expected in court.

"If that weren't the case, there'd be no reason to have a law threatening a witness with perjury, going to jail for lying," he said. "If everyone assumed they were telling the truth, we wouldn't have that."

As for Arpaio's testimony before the Arizona State Bar, he often responded, "I don't recall," which according to Black is practically code for lying.

"Whether he couldn't remember, didn't remember, probably doesn't make any difference because you know the last refuge is someone who's going to fib is 'I don't recall,'" Black said.

So could perjury charges be forthcoming?

"Saying I don't recall a million times can be untruthful, escaberbating, but it is not perjury," Black said.

While we may never know who is telling the truth, Black points out, "What they said or did is interesting and relevant but at the end of the day, it isn't going to make or break whether these lawyers are disciplined for their conduct."

To reach Black, call 602-265-7200 or email mike@michaelvblack.com.

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