PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona sheriff's detective testified Wednesday that an investigation he conducted last year didn't target a judge who had ruled against his boss in a racial profiling case.
Detective Brian Mackiewicz said the investigation by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office instead focused on a claim from a confidential informant that the bank account information for thousands of Arizonans had been hacked.
Still, Mackiewicz faced tough questions about why U.S. District Judge Murray Snow's name appeared on a list of names he compiled during the investigation. The detective also said he witnessed the informant do Internet and database searches on the judge's last name.
"I did not object to that search," Mackiewicz said.
The detective backed up Arpaio's assertions that investigators weren't focusing on the judge, who had ordered an overhaul of the sheriff's office around the time the investigation began in late 2013.
Mackiewicz, the second investigator to answer questions in court this month about claims by confidential informant Dennis Montgomery, testified at contempt-of-court hearings called over Arpaio's defiance of the judge's order. Arpaio has acknowledged letting his officers conduct immigration patrols for 18 months after the judge had ordered them stopped.
The six-term sheriff has been accused in the past of investigating judges who were at odds with him — and the county paid legal settlements with judges who were investigated.
Mackiewicz said Arpaio wasn't involved in running the investigation involving Montgomery, but at one point was given twice-monthly updates on the case.
Montgomery, a Seattle-based computer consultant paid $120,000 as a confidential informant for the sheriff's office, had provided documents to investigators that critics say show Arpaio was trying to establish a conspiracy against the sheriff by the judge and U.S. Department of Justice.
Snow has said the investigation was aimed at constructing a "bogus conspiracy theory" to discredit him.
Sheriff's officials say Montgomery claimed he could help investigators by using data left over from his previous work for the Central Intelligence Agency.
The investigation continued despite warnings from sheriff officials who have testified that they expressed doubts about Montgomery's credibility.
Mackiewicz and other sheriff's officials say the informant provided information in the bank investigation that officers were able to verify. "I believe parts of Dennis Montgomery's story," Mackiewicz said.
Larry Klayman, a lawyer representing Montgomery, declined to comment.
Mackiewicz explained his list of names by saying he drew the names from emails sent by Montgomery and said he knew little about the profiling case back then.
Mackiewicz also described a trip he had taken to the Seattle area in which another investigator suggested doing an Internet search on Snow. The detective said the search was actually carried out by Montgomery, who also searched the last name Snow in his database.
In his testimony several weeks ago, Arpaio testified that Snow was one of the 150,000 people in metro Phoenix whose bank account information had been hacked.
Sgt. Travis Anglin, another investigator on the case, testified earlier this month that he never examined whether Snow's bank information had been breached.
Mike Zullo, a volunteer sheriff's posse member who also investigated Montgomery's claims, cautioned that people shouldn't jump to conclusions when they hear testimony about the investigation. He also defended Arpaio.
"The man is truly innocent in this," Zullo said.