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Business as usual: The winged wonder on Sheriff Joe's profound respect for sheep, and on the demise of Air America Phoenix

Firefighters! You gotta love 'em. They save lives, they put out fires, they make a nice pot of chili. And one of them tried to bone a sheep, too.

Now, The Bird tried desperately to fly above this story, which the Arizona Republic played straight (natch) in two tiny, buried items, but, God damn it, New Times readers have a right to know the full story of how Leroy Donald Johnson had a little lamb!

Especially after Sheriff Joe Arpaio found the matter so pressing that he held a press conference about it. You guessed it, he came out firmly against lamb-fucking in our great state. Yes, our very own Sheriff Goober even declared that sex with animals is a kind of gateway drug for murderers and pornographers.

At least other species will be safe.
At least other species will be safe.

The Bird shits you not.

Fact is, for a taloned reporter like yours truly, it doesn't get any better than this! A deputy chief for the Mesa Fire Department gets caught with his pants down behind a lamb, and then our (cough!) esteemed Maricopa County sheriff capitalizes on the moment by proclaiming that he'll demand that the Arizona Legislature pass a law prohibiting such behavior.

If the Legislature dares to ignore this woolly problem, Joe screeched, "I'm going to the people!"

Joe's lunacy aside for a moment, The Bird knows what you're thinking: Don't men named Leroy frequently want to lay into some juicy mutton? In the Biblical sense?

Or maybe you're musing, "I thought this sort of thing only happened on Brokeback Mountain." (Wait a minute, those guys did the sheep on the barbie and each other in the tent.)

The Bird heard that, just before he was discovered with Lamb Chop, Leroy Johnson hollered, "God, I wish I knew how to quit ewe."

Kidding on that one! (Puppeteer Shari Lewis must be turning over in her grave.)

What makes this chorus of "Baa, Baa Fire Chief" so fun to sing is the sheriff's office's report on the incident, an eight-pager so full of yuks that you'd swear it's a patented New Times hoax. It's not; check out this link: www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/0307062sheep1.html.

The report includes details of Leroy Johnson's arrest, which came after the teenage daughter of his East Valley neighbor Alan Goats (seriously, that's the dude's name) saw Johnson pull the lamb into Goats' barn. She called her dad, and Goats discovered Johnson with his pants around his ankles and the small gray ewe between his legs. The crime report divulges that "Alan did not see Leroy's gentiles [sic]" before calling the cops.

The Bird can see the producers of Babe all over this one.

When Goats barged in on Leroy and his date, Johnson laughed and exclaimed, "You caught me, Alan, I tried to fuck your sheep!"

The Bird's not joking around anymore; it's in the damn report!

A rumor that he also said "Nice rack on that lamb" isn't in the damn report.

Arpaio's deputies may not be able to spell, but they sure know how to arrest a sheep fucker. Leroy hadn't gone on the lamb (at least not again) by the time they arrived in the neighborhood, and they arrested him peacefully at his home. He was taken to the Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix and charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing. He was described by one of the arresting officers as having bloodshot eyes and smelling of booze.

"I don't know if this is the time or place for it," he was quoted as telling one of the deputies. "But I probably need some help."

Leroy, you think?

On paid leave from the fire department, Johnson probably will be fined a couple hundred dollars and made to register as a sex offender -- with the state Game and Fish Department! There The Bird goes again.

But what about the victim? What's to become of her? (Or was it him? It's as if the poor lamb barely mattered to the deputies, which's surprising given Sheriff Arpaio's deep concern.)

Thing is, this pretend pigeon isn't against people having consensual sex with adult dogs, cows, horses or even sheep; after all, animals have the right to a good time, too. And most four-legged critters are able to express disapproval -- by biting, kicking, mooing or neighing.

But lambs are not adults. They're children! And The Bird draws the line at grown men engaging in sexual shenanigans with the underaged of any species (see "Jesus Is Pissed," March 9, about Father Dale Fushek).

Arizona's among 14 states that don't have laws against bestiality, which's what got Sheriff Joe baa, baa, baa-ing for the aforementioned state statute. If not for the lamb owner's name, you might say that's what got Joe's goat.

"I think it's disgusting," Arpaio huffed at the news conference, the very next day after Johnson was arrested. "I think of Gandhi, who said you judge the morality of a country by the way they treat their animals. I do look at [bestiality] as some type of animal cruelty."

Poignant. Wonder who looked that one up for the doof?

Remember, it was Joe's deputies who dumbly burned down an Ahwatukee home a couple of years ago trying to smoke out a bad ol' traffic-citation scofflaw, and in the process charbroiled the cute family dog ("Imagine This Dog on Fire," John Dougherty, August 5, 2004). Arpaio never apologized for that little caper, which cost him more votes than all the inmates his sadistic Gomers have abused in the county jails over the years.

Mohandas Gandhi also said something about societies getting judged by the way they treat their prisoners.

Which brings this extended middle finger to John Dougherty's column in this edition of New Times. When he wasn't going resolutely on the record against lamb-fucking, Arpaio was snarling out testimony in a lawsuit about jail personnel pulling another Scott Norberg. That is, reputedly causing the death of another prisoner they'd hooded and strapped into a restraint chair.

Which's no laughing matter.

Dead Air America

The Bird thinks that the only thing more unfortunate than the death of Air America Phoenix is the whining and bitch-fighting that's taken place since the liberal radio station's funeral.

Former employees of Air America Phoenix are as busy slinging mud and pointing fingers as they are scrambling to relaunch their hyper-liberal chat station with one of those "save our sunk ship" fund-raising sites -- behavior that The Bird thought liberal radio types were way above.

Wrong. The guys from Air America's Phoenix affiliate -- home to famed chat hosts Charles "Fearless Talk Radio" Goyette and lefty Ed Schultz, and found on the AM dial at KXXT 1010 until March 1, when the station's new owners, Denver-based religious broadcasters Communicom, switched to an all-Jesus format -- are taking the sort of self-pitying "Mom, he hit me!" stance so popular with, well, conservative Christians.

"Air America's Phoenix station was taken off the air by a Christian broadcasting company," according to the group's woe-is-me Web site (www.saveairamericaphoenix.com), which goes on to beg for $500,000 in donations from former listeners.

Please. As much as The Bird enjoys a good conspiracy theory, and as much as it enjoys going after big-bucks-corrupted Christians, even a pretend pigeon can tell that this is merely a case of someone with a bigger pile of dough buying out a little guy who couldn't say no.

Air America Phoenix's former station manager Robert J. Christy agrees.

"There's no conspiracy here," he moaned to The Bird. "Shit happens. Like a radio station gets offered a ton of money and decides to sell. There's nothing surprising about that. Everyone knew what was happening."

Not so, said former Air America employee Jeff Farias, who produced the station's Mike Newcomb Show and co-hosted a weekend chat fest with The Bird's favorite legislative lefty, state Representative Kyrsten Sinema (see "Howl of Sanity," March 9). "We were as shocked as our listeners. We found out the night we went off the air, when Ed Schultz announced on his show that he was going off the air in Phoenix."

Christy was trying to line up a deal to save the station, Farias said, right up 'til the last minute. But apparently Christy was so busy looking for a new home for Air America, he forgot to tell his employees that he hadn't found one -- at least according to Farias.

"Bullshit!" Christy squawked to this foul fowl. "These naive people that I gave paychecks to think they're smarter than I am. They don't know what it takes to put up a successful broadcasting business. Fifty-dollar donations from listeners aren't enough to finance a station -- the bank will throw their ass out the door!"

But the former Air America-ers won't need a bank, if all goes according to their plan. "We're going to find a rich Democrat," Farias explained to The Bird. "We've already found a station in town that we can lease for a year. We had a meeting with our attorneys, and now we're looking for that wealthy Dem who wants to bankroll a radio station."

You heard it here first.

"Right. A wealthy Democrat," said Christy, who's blown town for a lucrative job managing a trio of stations in Los Angeles. "I talked to a hell of a lot of wealthy Democrats, but I never found one who was willing to pull the trigger to keep Air America on the air. Good luck, guys."

Why all the bitchiness? Could it be that Christy's still planning his own Air America relaunch?

"Well, since you asked," Christy confessed to this feathered fiend, "my banker and I are putting together a financial package on a Phoenix station. I've got Goyette and Schultz. We're gonna do Air America."

Farias is unfazed by news that Christy's still plotting his own gulp of Air America.

"I'm sorry he feels that way," Farias said of his former boss' snarky comments on his listener-funded plans. "But we can't wait in a glass case while he continues to look for funding. We're going to find our own, and get back on the air. It's an election year -- the people need us."

Maybe. But what if the death of Phoenix's Air America affiliate's the start of a trend? The network's reportedly close to losing its New York flagship station, WLIB-AM 1190, which would knock Al Franken and his liberal colleagues off the air after less than two years. The Bird's saying, if it's happening in America's largest city . . .

Christy thinks The Bird's full of seed.

"It's not a trend," he insisted. "There's still a place for liberal radio. The trouble is, it needs to be run by sound businessmen, and not by emotion. Emotion is for talk-show hosts."

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