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Arpaio's Second-In-Command Testifies In Contempt Hearing

Jerry Sheridan
(via LinkedIn)
Jerry Sheridan

Thursday, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio made a surprising admission while testifying in the contempt of court case.

Under questioning from U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow, Arpaio admitted his office was involved in a secret investigation that in some way could relate to Snow. Arpaio also testified his lawyers had separately hired a private agent to investigate alleged comments made by the judge's wife.

On Friday his chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, took the stand. Sheridan, along with Arpaio, already admitted to violating the judge's orders. The question is whether it was willful.

ACLU attorney Cecillia Wang grilled Sheridan about his role bungling the court's May 2014 instructions for how to subtly collect videos from deputies without giving them the opportunity to destroy evidence of potential misconduct.

Sheridan acknowledged to the court late year that he had directed Deputy Chief David Trombi on May 14 to circulate an email to supervisors to collect videos from deputies. That email, however, undermined the court's plan. Sheridan wound up alerting the court-appointed monitor several hours later that Trombi had sent the email, but Sheridan did not reveal then that he had ordered it.

In a letter to the monitor that evening, Sheridan indicated it was unclear who gave Trombi the order.

The letter reads: "He was directed by whom he does not recall and quite frankly neither do I, to contact his commanders and have them secure all video recordings and then have them forwarded to Internal Affairs. (In preparation for this letter I specifically asked Deputy Chief Trombi  who told him to do this and his response was it was a collective decision of all the parties).”

Sheridan testified Friday that a group of people had been discussing sending the email, and he did not realize at first that he was the one who had actually given Trombi that order. He said he was suffering from a migraine which impacted his memory and mindset.

At times the testimony was tense.

"Be careful about calling me a liar," Sheridan told Wang at one moment when she tried to point to inconsistencies in his actions and statements that day in May.

Sheridan said it was an emotional issue to have his integrity called into question, noting in his law enforcement career he had never been accused of dishonesty, using excessive force, or unlawfully arresting anyone.

Wang also played video clips in court in which Sheridan is seen in a training for deputies calling the court's 2013 racial profiling ruling "crap" and "ludicrous."

"I have very few regrets in my entire life on this planet and this was probably my number one regret," Sheridan said.

Sheridan said he was attempting to raise deputies' morale given they were going to be facing new burdens as a result of the court ruling.

He was admonished by the court in March 2013 for those statements and apologized then.

Also at question in this contempt case is how the sheriff's office wound up ignoring the court's 2011 order to stop detaining immigrants who had not committed any crimes except violating federal immigration laws.

In his testimony Sheridan said he did not become aware of that 2011 order until he was told of it in a deposition with the U.S. Department of Justice in March 2014.

Jude Joffe-Block was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2017.