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Maricopa County Detention Officer Held in Contempt for Taking Document from Defense Counsel’s File

by Matt Clarke

In November 2009, an Arizona state judge held Maricopa County Detention Officer Adam Stoddard in contempt of court and ordered him to hold a press conference and publicly apologize to defense attorney Joanne Cuccia, after Stoddard took a document from Cuccia’s file while she was participating in a court hearing.

On October 19, 2009, Cuccia appeared in Judge Lisa Flores’ courtroom to argue the case of Antonio Lozano, a defendant who Stoddard later claimed “was a documented member of the Mexican Mafia.” According to the contempt ruling, Cuccia had achieved a favorable outcome for her client and was arguing for a lenient sentence when Stoddard moved up next to the defense counsel’s table.

The courtroom video system showed Stoddard looking at a file on the table for 16 seconds before removing a document and viewing it for another 21 seconds. He then gave it to Deputy Francisco Campillo, literally behind Cuccia’s back, and Campillo took it away to have it photocopied.

According to Stoddard, he saw three or four inches of the bottom of a document in plain view and read the words “go-ing to steal” and “money” in the same paragraph. He claimed he was concerned that the document described a crime that was about to be committed, and later told the media he was extra vigilant regarding attorneys with Mexican Mafia members as clients because two lawyers (Jason Keller and David DeCosta) had been accused of smuggling drugs to Mexican Mafia clients in jail.

Cuccia filed a motion to hold Stoddard and Campillo in contempt of court. The motion was heard by Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe, who found that Campillo was not in contempt as he only acquiesced to a colleague’s request to photocopy a document. However, Donahoe held Stoddard in indirect civil contempt and ordered him to hold a press conference no later than November 30, 2009 and provide “a sincere verbal and written apology” to Cuccia “for invading her defense file and for the damage that his conduct may have caused to her professional reputation.”

Judge Donahoe emphasized that Cuccia had done nothing wrong, and that Stoddard’s statement to the press linking her to two lawyers accused of smuggling drugs to clients in jail had hurt her reputation. Donahoe also found that Stoddard’s con-duct was unreasonable and that no security threat justified the seizure of the document from Cuccia’s file. The court further held there was no evidence that a crime was about to be committed, and that a reasonable court security officer would have realized after scanning the 28-word paragraph in question that it contained nothing to justify the document’s seizure.

Judge Donahoe ordered Stoddard to be jailed if he did not purge the contempt by holding the press conference and apologizing. See: State of Arizona v. Lozano, Superior Court for Maricopa County (AZ), Case No. CR2009-006227.

On December 1, 2009, Stoddard announced he would not comply with the contempt order. “I cannot and will not apologize for putting court safety first,” he said. “Judge Donahoe has ordered me to feel something I do not. He has ordered me to say something I cannot. The judge therefore put me in a position where I must lie or go to jail. I will not lie.” He dutifully reported to jail, where he remained for 10 days.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department appealed Judge Donahoe’s contempt order, and on April 6, 2010 the Court of Appeals upheld the contempt finding in a 15-page decision but vacated the sanction of a press conference and apology. The appellate court found that Judge Donahoe had properly found Stoddard in civil rather than criminal con-tempt, and that Stoddard’s due process rights had not been violated as he alleged. However, the Court of Appeals held “the record does not support the sanction imposed because the sanction does not attempt to remedy the disruption to the sentencing hearing and/or ensure Stoddard will not repeat his illegal acts.”

The case was remanded to the Superior Court to “fashion an appropriate sanction for [Stoddard’s] indirect civil con-tempt.” Some options suggested by the appellate court included a monetary fine or “additional training in courtroom deco-rum, including the nature, purpose, and sanctity of the attorney-client privilege.” See: Stoddard v. Donahoe, 224 Ariz. 152, 228 P.3d 144 (Ariz. App. Div. 1, 2010).

Additional sources: Arizona Republic,,

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Related legal cases

toddard v. Donahoe

State of Arizona v. Lozano