Criminal Justice

Showdown in Marikafka County

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Today is the deadline by which Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe gave Dep. Adam Stoddard to apologize for swiping documents from a defense attorney's file in open court last month. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who, oddly, is speaking at Arizona State University's journalism school tonight) has vowed that Stoddard will not apologize.

Arizona freelance journalist Nick Martin broke this story, and lays out the delicously intriguing stakes:

Earlier this month, Arpaio vowed that his young officer would not abide by the ruling, saying, "Superior Court judges do not order my officers to hold press conferences."

That same day, Liddy announced the sheriff's office planned to ask the Arizona Court of Appeals to intervene in the case. But as of Sunday night, Liddy had not yet filed the appeal.

On Wednesday, the sheriff's office asked Donahoe to delay the deadline for the apology so the appeal could still be filed. But so far, no delay has been granted…

Even with the Phoenix area's unusual politics and bizarre history, the events leading up to today create a scenario unlike any the region has seen in quite some time – if ever.

For one, it sets up the possibility that Stoddard could ignore Donahoe's order outright and force the judge to send him to jail for contempt of court. The jailing of an active member of law enforcement in Maricopa County is unprecedented in recent memory.

It also raises the question of whether Arpaio, who runs the county jails and has balked at the judge's order, would agree to lock up one of his own men. If he refuses, Donahoe could take the extraordinary step of asking another agency to step in or else go another route entirely. It's anybody's guess.

I can't think of another case where a judge has ordered someone jailed for contempt and the police department has refused to carry out the order. I'm not sure what would happen next. A duel? Arm wrestling?