Apple's CEO Hears It From a Florida Sheriff

Tim Cooke
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California in October 2014. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Just as the dust was clearing following this week's fracas between the Justice Department and Apple via legal briefs, a third juggernaut jumped into the Apple-FBI debate: a central Florida sheriff who is threatening to arrest "rascal" Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd's strong words came during a press conference related to the January arrests of three brothers on charges including sexual assault and murder.

"I can tell you, the first time we do have trouble getting into a cellphone, we're going to seek a court order from Apple. And when they deny us, I'm going to go lock the CEO of Apple up," Judd said when asked by a reporter about the dispute over the San Bernardino, California shooter's iPhone, according to local FOX 13 News. "I'll lock the rascal up."

The local suspects did not have iPhones and have already handed the police the passcodes to their smartphones, according to FOX 13 News, which said the suspects took pictures of the victim's body with a cellphone and shared it with people in order to brag.

Judd's strong sentiments against encryption fall in line with those of other outspoken law enforcement officials in the United States. Many police departments and district attorney's offices have struggled with police investigations because of encrypted smartphones they cannot crack, Newsweek learned last month. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. testified before Congress regarding these frustrations alongside Apple's general counsel, Bruce Sewell, and FBI Director James Comey on March 1.

Judd added: "You cannot create a business model to go, 'We're not paying attention to the federal judge or the state judge. You see, we're above the law.' The CEO of Apple needs to know he's not above the law, and neither is anybody else in the United States."

In its legal briefing against the court order that the company cooperate with the FBI in opening the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, Apple stated that the FBI promised the decryption would be a one-time exception for a terrorism case and that any law enforcement requests to decrypt iPhones for other investigations would breach the FBI's promise.

While Cook told ABC News he is confident enough to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court, Judd said he believes Apple's argument stands no chance.

"I can assure you right now that the United States Supreme Court is not going to say, 'So you got a product, you got a business plan here that allows you not to comply with the law,'" Judd said. "It will never stand."