August 6, 2004
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has been secretly tape-recording telephone conversations with county prosecutors. That practice could soon come to an end, though, a sheriff’s spokesman said Thursday.
But, Jack MacIntyre, intergovernmental liaison for the sheriff’s office, said about six supervisors in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office who had "selective memory loss" about their agency’s role in a botched prostitution sting still can’t be trusted by the sheriff’s office.
"I would agree it is an unusual situation, but then again, several supervisors all independently, separately forgetting detailed conversations that went on over a period of several months is an unusual situation, too," MacIntyre said.
MacIntyre said the sheriff’s office began taping the conversations in reaction to the county attorney’s refusal to prosecute about 60 prostitution cases from a Nov. 13 Valleywide sting on the grounds investigators got nude and touched the suspected prostitutes.
MacIntyre said the county attorney supervisors knew the sting would involve nudity and contact, which the supervisors denied when County Attorney Richard Romley turned down the prosecution in June.
The tape recording was a way "to preclude that kind of thing from happening again," MacIntyre said.
Barnett Lotstein, special prosecutor with the county attorney’s office, said his agency’s primary concern is maintaining the integrity of criminal cases, and tape recording county prosecutors "raises all kinds of technical issues" that complicate or could damage prosecutions.
"It only helps the defendant," Lotstein said.
Lotstein said his office did meet with sheriff’s investigators about the sting, but they never discussed tactical issues.
Nudity and contact created credibility problems for the investigators who would have to testify in court, he said.
Paul Ahler, Romley’s chief deputy, told the sheriff’s office in a letter on Monday that his office wanted all of the recordings "so that we can determine if they need to be provided to the defense."
Ahler also said prosecutors would discuss substantive matters only in writing and any face-to-face meetings between detectives and prosecutors would be in the county attorney’s office.