By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Sheriff Joke Arpaio has a new arch enemy -- a Web site, www.arpaio.com. Its raison d'etre? Ridicule of the Crime Avenger.
A home page introduction informs surfers: "This site is dedicated to the men and women of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office whom [sic] have been victimized by 'America's Toughest Sheriff.'
"The purpose of these sites is to inform the public of the questionable tactics Sheriff Joe Arpaio uses to trample the civil rights [of] the public, and his employee's [sic], by providing link's [sic] to many news stories and by providing a public message forum."
The main page features a morphed photo that makes Arpaio look like a hydrocephalic leprechaun. Click on a badge icon, and up pops an image of the Jokenheimer in jail with Bill Clinton.
The message board is jammed with the rants and grumblings of untold Joke detractors, many of them marginally literate. One seemingly informed correspondent reports that many visitors to the site are county employees. One series of messages alleges that double-dipping chief deputy David Hendershottlived large and double-dipped on a recent America West flight by spilling over into two seats. The airline purportedly required him to pay for both, according to the message board.
Sheriff's spokesman Sergeant Don Rosenbergersays the tale about Hendershott is apocryphal. Rosenberger dismisses the operators of arpaio.com as "disgruntled ex-employees and people who for some reason don't like the sheriff. Obviously the stuff that's put on there is garbage."
The Sher himself declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the online magazine, Salon, on Monday published a story about yet another lawman who claims to be "the toughest sheriff in America." The profile of Davidson County, North Carolina, Sheriff Gerald K. Hegeshould be enough to send Arpaio into fits of rage. Salonreports:
"Gerald Hege is known worldwide as 'the toughest sheriff in America.' As self-imposed as this moniker may be, it has caught on fast. Last month in a ratings stunt, Deborah Norvillefrom TV's Inside Editionspent a week inside Hege's famous jail ...
"...[Y]ou might have caught Hege on Larry KingLive, Today, America's Most Wanted, Comedy Central or countless European stations, inevitably uttering incredible sound bites illustrating his very, very tough-on-crime stance ...."
Perhaps the Joke should challenge Hege to a brag-a-thon. He certainly wouldn't want to engage him in any physical tests. Hege stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 190 pounds. Arpaio used to be built like Barney the Dinosaur, but then went on a crash diet. Now he's built like Barney Fife.
Over the vehement objections of ranchers and other local yokels in western New Mexico, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service this week will move a pack of four endangered Mexican gray wolves into a temporary holding pen erected in a remote section of the Gila Wilderness.
The wolves, which were released in Arizona last year and then recaptured, will stay in the acclimation pen for fewer than 30 days before being released in the rugged wilderness that cradles the headwaters of the Gila River. The so-called Mule Pack includes a female that is expected to deliver pups soon.
Fish & Wildlife Service spokeswoman Vicki Foxsays the Gila Wilderness was chosen for translocation of the wolves from Arizona because it contains extensive roadless areas free from human habitation or cattle grazing allotments.
The controversial FWS program aims to establish a population of 100 Mexican gray wolves on the Apache and Gila national forests in western New Mexico and eastern Arizona. The wolves roamed the Southwest before they were hunted to near extinction.
Local ranchers and political leaders from Catron County, New Mexico, have vowed to shoot wolves if they come onto their property. The comments were made this month during two raucous public hearings in the New Mexico towns of Reserve and Silver City. More than 850 people attended the hearings.
Wild wolf attacks on humans in North America are extremely rare and there are no verified human fatalities, FWS reports. No free-ranging, captive-reared Mexican gray wolf has been involved in an attack on a human. About a half-dozen cattle have been killed by the wolves since they were first released in Arizona in early 1998. The environmental group Defenders of Wildlife compensates ranchers for wolf depredation.
Fox says the FWS officials will closely monitor the wolves before and after their release from the acclimation pen. No one will be allowed within one mile of the pen while the wolves are being held.
A second wolf pack will be moved into another acclimation pen erected on the Gila Wilderness later this month. The Pipestem Pack was recaptured last year in Arizona by FWS after being involved in cattle depredation.
The rerelease of the wolves comes two weeks after FWS agents arrested two Arizona men in connection with the shooting of a Mexican gray wolf in October 1998. Federal charges of multiple violations of the Endangered Species Act were filed on March 8 against James Michael Rogers, 21, of Eager, and an unnamed juvenile.
Two firearms -- a 7.62-caliber SKS rifle and a .22-caliber rifle -- were seized during the investigation by FWS, Springerville Police and the New Mexico Game and Fish Department. The investigation determined that the female wolf from the Hawks Nest Pack was shot to death near Nutrioso and then transported across the Arizona/New Mexico state line in an attempt to conceal evidence of the killing, FWS officials state.