Surveillance footage shows Officer Adam Stoddard removing handwritten notes from a defense attorney's papers during court. A Maricopa County detention officer was found in contempt of court for taking documents out of defense attorney Joanne Cuccia's files as she was addressing the court at a sentencing hearing for her client, Antonio Lozano.(no audio)
PHOENIX -- A Maricopa County Sheriff's detention officer has been found in contempt of court for walking up to an attorney's desk in a Phoenix courtoom and removing a document from files sitting on the desk.
Courtroom video recorded the October 19 incident during the sentencing of an inmate.
In the video, you can see Detention Officer Adam Stoddard walk up behind the public defender and touch her paperwork.
About 30 seconds later, Stoddard calls another officer over and takes a piece of paper.
You can hear the public defender, Joanne Cuccia, say in confusion, "would you excuse me for a moment?"
That's when Cuccia starts defending herself saying all of the paperwork she got from her client was through jail mail.
"I want to know what they took and what's going on," Cuccia says.
Several times, you can hear the judge asking what happened.
"But you don't get to do that," Cuccia says.
Stoddard now has until November 30 to comply with a judge's orders.
He is required to report to jail on December 1 unless the conditions set by the judge are met.
Those conditions are:
1) On or before November 30th, 2009, at a time convenient for Ms. Cuccia, a news conference to take place in the plaza on the north side of the central court building where he is to give Ms. Cuccia a sincere verbal and written apology for invading her defense file and for the damage that his conduct may have caused to her professional reputation.
2) If at the news conference, Ms. Cuccia does not state that the apology is sufficient, Stoddard will report to the jail on December 1, 2009 and be detained until further order upon a finding that he has complied with the purge clause.
"She's going to decide if Officer Stoddard is going to go to jail on December 1st? You know what? That's nuts. That's absolutely nuts," said deputy county attorney Tom Liddy.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio responded to the ruling early Wednesday, saying Superior Court judges do not order his staff to hold press conferences.
"I decide who holds press conferences and when they are held regarding this Sheriff’s Office, Arpaio said. "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."
Liddy explained that Stoddard will not do a press conference.
"If you're waiting for a press conference don't hold your breath," said Liddy. "If judge Donahoe wants to have a press conference, your honor knock yourself out, but you can't order someone else to do it."
Earlier this month, Stoddard explained to a judge why he took the document.
The deputy said four key words on the paperwork made him decide to take it and make copies.
He said the words were 'going to,' 'steal' and 'money.'
The deputy also said he decided to take the paperwork because he hadn't had a chance to search it before the trial.
In a written statement, MCSO officials earlier said their officers have the right to search for contraband.
But the video reveals that the only thing taken was paperwork.
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