Welcome to Marikafka County, Arizona


The amazing video below was taken on October 19 in Arizona's Maricopa County Superior Court.

As defense attorney Joanne Cuccia discusses her client's sentencing hearing with the judge, Maricopa County Sheriff's Department detention officer Adam Stoddard walks up behind her, and begins sifting through one of her files, which she has placed on the defense table. Remarkably, Stoddard then removes a document from the file and hands it off to another deputy, who then leaves the courtroom with it. They don't even bother to inform Cuccia, who has her back turned the entire time. The judge appears to have missed the incident as well.

But it was all captured on video:

Cuccia was justifiably upset, and requested a hearing. That hearing was last week. According to freelance journalist Nick Martin, who writes at the Heat City blog, Stoddard's story changed several times over the course of the hearing. His main defense was apparently that he spotted "keywords" on the document that made him think it contained threats to the courtroom. The problem with that story is that if you watch the video, he swiped the document from the middle of the file. It wasn't lying in open view. Which leaves open the question of why, in open court, he went snooping through a defense attorney's file in the first place.

I don't know Arizona law, so perhaps a Hit & Run reader with some experience there can help out. Could it possibly be legal for a law enforcement official to meander up to the defense table, begin reading the defense team's files, then take documents from said files without notifying the attorney? That sounds absurd on its face, even for Maricopa County.

It gets weirder. According to Heat City, the purpose of Friday's hearing was to determine if Stoddard had violated the attorney-client privilege of Cuccia's client, Antonio Lozano, and/or if Stoddard should be held in contempt of court. But Judge Gary Donahoe ruled that because the swiped document itself is protected by attorney-client privilege Stoddard wouldn't be able to mount his "keyword" defense, because the contents of the document can't be divulged. According to Heat City, Donahoe said Lozano would have to wave attorney-client privilege if he wanted to proceed with the hearing on whether Stoddard violated his rights.

If this is an accurate portrayal of the hearing, stand back and admire the absurdity: Judge Donahoe is refusing to punish Stoddard for possibly violating Lozano's attorney-client privilege unless Lozano waives his attorney-client privilege.