By Monica Alonzo
By Ray Stern
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Robrt L. Pela
Lorne Shantz looks like a cop, even out of uniform. He's so fresh-scrubbed he could have walked a beat in Mayberry, but instead he got a job as a patrol officer for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
In his 14 years with DPS, his worst offense was waiting a day to report that he'd dinged a rim on his motorcycle. Shantz spent his career on the road, but he was also a pilot, and he most wanted to be in the air. For years he volunteered his own time to fly DPS planes--including the one that carries the governor. Not bad for an eighth-grade dropout. Shantz was honest and hardworking, and those traits extended to his spare time. Around DPS, Shantz was known as a computer geek. Many of his fellow officers belonged to the Wish Book, a computer bulletin-board system Shantz operated out of his home for years. Instead of cork and thumbtacks, a computer bulletin board uses keystrokes and a modem to post and receive messages, games and other files--including, in the Wish Book's case, an adult-only section featuring Playboy-style images.
Shantz required anyone who wanted adult access to send him a copy of his driver's license as proof he was over 18. Shantz is such a nice guy that if someone was reluctant to send a copy of his license, he'd meet him for coffee instead.
On the morning of Tuesday, November 29, Shantz left his sleeping wife in their little red-brick house with the lace curtains in the window. He was southbound on I-17 just past McDowell Road, when his sergeant radioed him to report to headquarters. Shantz assumed he would be asked to do a routine next-of-kin notification for someone killed in a traffic accident.
Instead, a DPS investigator was waiting to read him his rights. His crime? His colleagues said they had found obscene images on the Wish Book--bestiality, sadomasochism, child pornography.
Shantz was horrified--and surprised. By the end of the day, police had seized his computer equipment and rifled his wife's underwear drawer. Shantz was immediately suspended from his job. His picture was all over the evening news.
He was indicted by a grand jury on March 30 on 17 counts of possession and distribution of obscene materials and three counts of possession and distribution of child pornography. He was fired by DPS the same day for bringing shame to the agency by "knowingly" operating a computer bulletin board with "obscene materials which included minors engaged in sexual contact."
Shantz was three years away from retirement and a pension. That's gone, and now DPS has made certain he won't get unemployment benefits. He's selling off his computer equipment piece by piece to pay his legal bills. Nowadays, when Lorne and his wife, Jennifer, venture out, the neighbors look the other way.
Shantz's defense is simple. With an estimated 40,000 dirty pictures--and maybe as many as a million files on the entire Wish Book--Shantz says he had no idea allegedly illegal images existed on CD-ROMs he had purchased and added to the Wish Book.
"If the library takes in 1,000 books, I don't think it's realistic to expect the librarian to read every page of a book," he says. "And if something's inappropriate in there, are we going to go arrest the librarian?"
In this case, we are.
Judging from the zeal with which DPS and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office are pursuing Shantz, you'd think they were intent on keeping the ranks squeaky clean. But you need look no further than the investigator who busted Lorne Shantz to realize that is not the case.
Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley held a press conference the day after Shantz's indictment to announce that his office was "cutting new ground" in the area of illegal distribution of materials through computers. The indictment, he said, would set legal precedent. Not to mention enhance Romley's political aspirations.
All that remains to be seen, although the case is looking flimsier all the time.
Despite the "new ground" cut by Romley, a computer-literate third grader can still beckon images of people screwing animals--and vice versa--through the Internet. At least Lorne Shantz's Wish Book was accessible to adults only. And it's still possible to order dirty CD-ROMs out of reputable computer magazines available at family bookstores. There's been no word about possible criminal action against The Market Place, the St. Louis mail-order firm that sold Shantz at least some of the offensive CD-ROMs.
Shantz was indicted March 30, but DPS says it didn't finish its investigative report until June 13. Even though the prosecution was required by law to provide the police report to the defense within ten days of the arraignment, which was May 9, Shantz's attorney, Peter Balkan, says a copy wasn't made available to him until June 16.
And although New Times made requests under the public-records law to both DPS and the County Attorney's Office in May, not a single document has been released. Gail Thackeray, the original prosecutor in the case and the county attorney's much-touted computer crime expert, refused to speak at all.
So descriptions of the case against Lorne Shantz are based largely on the search warrant and indictment filed in court, along with motions filed by defense attorney Balkan.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city