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No Constitutional Crisis Here

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Stoddard violated a defendant’s constitutional rights, Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe held him in contempt, and Stoddard is now in jail after refusing to follow the judge’s order and apologize. The way I see it, the loser here isn’t Stoddard or his boss, the ever-defiant Sheriff Joe.

I think Stoddard ends up looking good to most people. Even I’m a little impressed with the guy. He did his job, refused to apologize for doing what he was trained to do, then took one for the team and followed the judge’s order. I tend to have serious problems with blindly following authority, but I can definitely appreciate how far Stoddard is willing to go to do what he perceives to be his duty. If this mess had been caused by him standing up for rights, not against rights, I’d probably admire him. I was at the press conference where he refused to apologize, and although I doubt he actually wrote the statement he read, he seemed sincere. He may be doing his time in the “Mesa Hilton,” but he almost comes off as being the victim in all of this.

Sheriff Joe also ends up looking pretty good. We’ll never know, but I think Stoddard never would’ve been jailed if he hadn’t gone in on his own. I think the sheriff would’ve been happy letting Stoddard go to work at the superior court, knowing he had been ordered to do jail time. Sheriff Joe appears to have stood behind his man, and he let the courts know he doesn’t feel obligated to obey their orders. His defiance also makes quite the one-two punch when taken in conjunction with the fact he and his buddy, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, just slapped Judge Donahoe and everyone else who ever looked at him funny with a federal racketeering lawsuit. Read more about that here.

When this started, Stoddard and Sheriff Joe probably seemed like the bad guys to most people. They were the bad guys; Stoddard violated a criminal defendant’s fundamental rights in a blatant and outrageous manner, and it clearly wasn’t an accident. Does anyone doubt that important people in the office played a major part in what Stoddard did? Is anyone doubting that what Stoddard did was wrong? Considering that, how did the sheriff and his man go from bad guy to good guy?

There’s a lot of blame to spread around. Judge Donahoe should have held Stoddard in direct criminal contempt instead of indirect civil contempt. Punishing Stoddard and not the sheriff’s office was an even worse idea, as it gave the sheriff the ability to talk the talk while leaving the tough stuff to Stoddard. I stand by my first suggestion: holding the sheriff’s office itself in direct criminal contempt and punishing it with a huge fine would’ve been the smartest thing to do. Order that the fine be paid to the court and be set aside to put on court-sponsored training for sheriff’s deputies on the meaning of the Bill of Rights. Publicly making Stoddard into the obedient soldier and Sheriff Joe into the tough commander isn’t the way to teach either of them a lesson.

Contempt proceedings aside, dismissing the case against Antonio Lozano would have sent the clearest message to overzealous officers in the future. In fact, if Lozano’s case isn’t dismissed, I may lose a little bit of respect for the judiciary. Ordering an apology is a cute way of dealing with a violation of a criminal defendant’s less popular constitutional rights, but it isn’t sufficient. I bet plenty of courts would love to replace the exclusionary rule with a policy of forcing apologies from rights-violating officers, but they haven’t. If the court didn’t believe Lozano’s rights were violated, it wouldn’t have held Stoddard in contempt. Courts always say they value the right to counsel very highly. This would give one court a great opportunity to put its money where its mouth is. Dismiss the case against Lozano.

The fact Lozano seems to have fallen by the wayside may be one of the real tragedies here. How did Joanne Cuccia’s reputation suddenly become the victim? That file is not really hers, it’s Lozano’s. It was his name in the caption, not hers. If copying those documents hurt his defense, he’d be the one bearing the brunt of it. I keep hearing that the sheriff’s office issued a press release lumping Cuccia together with Jason Keller and David DeCosta, but I haven’t seen it. If true, that’s outrageous. However, it’s nothing compared to the potential effect of Stoddard’s actions on Lozano. A lawyer’s reputation and a defendant’s freedom carry vastly different weight in my book. Given what Lozano may have had at stake, why is he playing second fiddle to his lawyer in all of this?

We’ve probably got a long way to go before this is over. Personally, I’m awfully curious about how long Stoddard is going to have to spend in jail before something happens. I keep checking the website for the Court of Appeals, Division One, but I haven’t seen a special action come up in this case. Why is the county attorney waiting? Perhaps more importantly, why is a county attorney still representing Stoddard in the first place? At Stoddard’s press conference, deputy county attorney Tom Liddy was very clear about the fact he represented Stoddard, not the sheriff. How does that work? I can see plenty of potential conflicts of interest just reading the various news stories on this. Did Stoddard sign a waiver of conflict?

Sooner or later, Stoddard’s now-indirect, now-civil contempt (his refusal to follow a court’s coercive order outside the presence of the court), is going to become criminal contempt (punishment). How long will that take? Will appellate review happen first? I’m a little tired of living in a county that also serves as a punchline, but this whole thing sure makes for interesting news. I guess I don’t mind waiting a little bit longer.

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7 Responses to "No Constitutional Crisis Here"

  1. mahtso says:

    “Sending a signal to the victim shouldn’t matter.”

    Again, correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t victim’s rights a key component of the law in Arizona? As to the cliche that 10 guilty should go free rather than 1 innocent be convicted: Mr. Lozano has admitted that he is guilty. Any violation of his Constitutional rights can be cured by excluding all information in the document (and any fruit from that tree).

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  3. Matt Brown says:

    Sending a signal to the victim shouldn’t matter. The interests at stake are those of the state, which isn’t the lawyer for the victim but should be seeking justice, and Lozano’s. Courts say they take the right to counsel seriously and accordingly dismiss cases for some violations. In the grand scheme of things, justice in general will be better served by dismissing Lozano’s case to make the state obey the boundaries of the constitution in the future. I agree that the majority of people would find that to be a reason to lose a little respect for the judiciary, but I find that upsetting. Isn’t part of our tradition that it’s better for ten guilty men to go free than for a single innocent man to be convicted? The constitution is to some extent intended to avoid the latter, and we need to take it more seriously.

  4. mahtso says:

    “There’s plenty of defending to do even after a guilty plea. Just because he’s admitted to doing something doesn’t mean he needs to lay down and take whatever the state wants to give him.” Fair enough, but I guess what threw me was this:

    “Contempt proceedings aside, dismissing the case against Antonio Lozano would have sent the clearest message to overzealous officers in the future. In fact, if Lozano’s case isn’t dismissed, I may lose a little bit of respect for the judiciary.”

    Mr. Lozano pleaded guilty to assault. I don’t see how events that occurred after that assault or after the plea could justify dismissing the matter. What signal would such a dismissal sent to the victim of the assault? Although I don’t see this matter through the lens of a criminal defense lawyer, I am willing to speculate that the majority of people would find dismissal of the charges to be a reason to lose a little respect for the judiciary.

  5. Matt Brown says:

    mahtso,

    There’s plenty of defending to do even after a guilty plea. Just because he’s admitted to doing something doesn’t mean he needs to lay down and take whatever the state wants to give him.

  6. JD says:

    Deputy Adam Stoddard not only gives conflicting reasons of why he committed a crime he and his comrades arrogantly thumb noses at rule of law while endangering public safety.

    A more flagrant disregard for the rule of law and the rights of the people is hard to come by. No less than the founding fathers of this great country, put together the bill of rights to protect the people from these very abuses. The 1st amendment is there to protect your professions ability put these criminal acts under the spotlight which hopefully leads to Stoddard’s day in court where a jury can sort it out and he can enjoy the desire for his rights to be protected. The rule of law applies to all and combined with freedom of the press keeps us free from tyranny.
    Stoddard broke the law by violating no less than 2 amendments to the constitution when he violated the attorney’s Forth Amendment right and the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right.

    Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
    The fourth amendment is quite clear. For there to be probable cause, a person has to swear under oath that he or she saw the exact information or item that the government is in search of, and knows where it is, and is willing to swear under threat of prosecution for perjury as to the exact item and its whereabouts. In other words, fishing expeditions by government employees, AKA police is illegal and unconstitutional and definitely applies to attorney papers and effects.

    Sixth Amendment – Trial by jury and rights of the accused; Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel
    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

    When the prosecutor is allowed to search through counsel’s papers and notes, the offense constitutes collusion and the defendant is actually being deprived of Counsel.

    An attorneys notes about shortcomings, misrepresentations, lies and tactics of the prosecutions case are the tools which he uses to pick apart the prosecutions case, and to have any value must never be viewed by the prosecution unless presented to the jury.

    Only evidence is to be shared, any more is illegal and constitutes a mistrial.

    The purpose of attorney-client privilege is to encourage the defendant to provide information pertaining to their case without fear that the information will be revealed to others, namely the prosecution, this encourages full disclosure in the pursuit of justice.

    If the Arizona attorney general allows this crime and contempt for the law to go unpunished it will be proof enough to the people of America that Arizona prosecutors are corrupt and their convictions not credible.

  7. mahtso says:

    “The fact Lozano seems to have fallen by the wayside may be one of the real tragedies here. How did Joanne Cuccia’s reputation suddenly become the victim? That file is not really hers, it’s Lozano’s. It was his name in the caption, not hers. If copying those documents hurt his defense, he’d be the one bearing the brunt of it.”

    Correct me if I am wrong, but he pleaded guilty.

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