By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
PARK SUPERINTENDENT Sam Henderson had been at Wupatki only four months when the flagpole incident occurred. He'd never seen any signs in J.D. of suicidal behavior, but he had talked with him about retirement. Henderson said he had told J.D. he was eligible for a "discontinued service" retirement, but J.D. turned it down and pressed for medical retirement because it meant more money.
Henderson said he offered to help J.D. get an interview with a medical professional. "If he had a job-related medical problem, I would help him get a retirement," the superintendent said. Whether J.D. was eligible would be determined by the U.S. Department of Labor's workers' compensation officials after they received a doctor's evaluation.
That medical retirement, at $1,600 a month, that J.D. had talked about during an interview? "Those are J.D.'s figures," said Henderson. "I offered J.D. a discontinued service retirement."
What would park personnel have done if J.D. hadn't agreed to come down?
"We discussed the option of leaving him up there for three days," said Henderson. ÔBut once he put the noose around his neck, we figured there was a potential for disaster, and we'd do what we needed to get him off the flagpole."
APRIL 9: FEDERAL Magistrate Stephen Verkamp heard the case, United States of America v. James D. Protiva, in a room in his private office in Flagstaff, a rock one-story with an apple tree in the yard. J.D. represented himself at the proceedings, which may have been a mistake: It was hard to tell where the parts of his defense fit together.
What did the Lucky Strike filming have to do with the February Surprise? How was what he called the "commercialization" and "desecration" of an Anasazi ruin by the Park Service relevant to his defense? Did the "Disneylanding" of the park justify his actions?
Could a lawyer have explained away the dramatic videotape in which J.D. stands on his hoist, which was clamped to the flagpole four feet above the raft, the noose hanging loosely around his throat, pulling and pushing the pole with both hands, making it sway and veer so much that Chief Ranger Fender's camcorder picked up the creaking noise? Why couldn't he have just sat on his flagpole quietly?
Why did the United States try to prevent J.D. from testifying about the Lucky Strike filming, or his "political, religious and/or moral views," or his three previous firings and rehirings by the Department of the Interior? Could a lawyer have exploited that?
What dangling strings could J.D. have tied together in his defense? What was the relevance of maintenance foreman Kerry King's testimony that he once told J.D., "Come on, ya Communist bastard, let's go outside and we'll settle this"? What was J.D. trying to show when he asked King to explain how his job would be easier without J.D. around, and King said he wouldn't have to see somebody working "with their face half-painted and ladies' underwear on their head"?
When an Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter landed near J.D.'s truck, why did he pull that long, metal pole out of his raft and lean on it? Why did the arresting officers find a can of charcoal lighter fluid in the raft? Could a lawyer have shown these to be standard equipment for a weekend dangling from a Park Service flagpole?
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NORTHERN ARIZONA EXPOSURE J.D. RAN HIMSE... v1-29-92