Judge orders detention officer to apologize or go to jail

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Apologize or go to jail. That’s a Superior Court judge’s ruling for a Maricopa County detention officer accused of contempt of court after he was caught on camera lifting papers from the defense attorney's file in the middle of a trial.

That officer's boss -- Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- is not happy with the judge. Arpaio is accusing the judge of trying to run his department.

Arpaio released this statement: "Superior court judges do not order my officers to hold press conferences. I decide who holds press conferences and when they are held regarding this Sheriff's Office. 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."

But lawyers will tell you there is something much more important here: the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege.

“Shocked, outraged, surprised,” Defense Attorney Jason Lamm said. “Never before has this community seen such a blatant violation of the attorney-client privilege.”

It was during a sentencing hearing for a convicted felon that detention officer Adam Stoddard went through the files of Defense Attorney Joanne Cuccia. He lifted a letter and asked another deputy to make a copy of it. 

“He acted in good faith, trying to protect the security of the court, so I back him up,” Arpaio said.

“It was a good faith attempt to try to protect the people inside the courtroom, and out on the streets, from this individual and his attempts to ingratiate himself with the Mexican mafia,” added Attorney Tom Liddy, who is representing Stoddard.

But in handing down his ruling, Judge Gary Donahoe called the detention officer’s actions unreasonable. The seizure violated the Fourth Amendment, and there was no lawful or good faith basis for the search and seizure of the document.

“The court made clear in its written opinion that the search by the detention officer was unreasonable and there was no good faith exception in this case,” Lamm said.

Stoddard has been ordered to hold a news conference and make a sincere apology to Attorney Cuccia. He has until November 30 to do or he will be jailed for contempt of court.

“I’m the one that decides about press conferences, not my employee,” Arpaio said. “I will decide. He doesn’t tell my employee that he has to have a press conference. You don’t do that.”

Stoddard is said to be in good spirits and anxious to pursue his defense. His attorney says they will file an appeal as soon as possible to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

The deputy who made the copy was not punished.