Joe Strikes Back

This vigilant vulture crafts a Christmas card to Sheriff Joe, as the Pinal County Attorney's Office threatens to seek a felony indictment against New Times

It's been obvious to The Bird for a long time that Sheriff Joe Arpaio despises New Times. Why else would he violate the Arizona public records law by keeping documents about pertinent activities to taxpayers hidden from the public? Why else would he deny New Times writers access to his press conferences, in obvious violation of our First Amendment rights?

Why else would he spend two and a half years seeking New Times' criminal prosecution for publishing his home address on the Internet, when his home address is published in cyberspace in numerous public documents? That New Times holds a special place in Sheriff Joe's hard heart became apparent this week when we received a threat from the Pinal County Attorney's Office that it would seek a felony indictment against this publication unless we agree to remove the address from our Web site and never to publish the address of a peace officer in cyberspace again.

You can discern our answer on the cover of this newspaper's print edition. To make the point that we will not be intimidated, we are sending the sheriff a Christmas card.

Arpaio's wanting to intimidate us should be no surprise. We filed a lawsuit to obtain a wide range of public records from his office in October 2004 that is still pending, and we have been criticizing the treatment of prisoners in his jails for a decade. The self-described "toughest sheriff in America" is paranoid enough to believe he has more than enough reasons to go after us. His claim that our publication of his address on our Web site has put him at risk is just so much hooey.

Arpaio's a public official who, for as long as he's been in office, has run around all over the county opening the likes of the Pink Taco restaurant, and yet he's continually carped that somebody's out to kill him. He set up his Threat Assessment Squad because he's reputedly scared of his own shadow, while at the same time never missing a photo-op. So judge for yourself: Is he really afraid, or is it all a ploy to get TV cameras to come on down?

One thing's for sure: He's got a vindictive streak. He never forgets a slight, and New Times has been challenging him with in-depth stories about his shenanigans since he showed up on the public landscape. Back in the day, he was known as Nickel-Bag Joe (so nicknamed by fellow officers when he was a DEA agent, because he was known for making so many chicken-shit busts).

Fast-forward to the summer of 2004, when Nickel-Bag Joe complained to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office that former New Times writer John Dougherty published his home address in a story headlined "Stick It To 'Em" (July 8, 2004). He alleged this violated a state law that prohibits publishing the home addresses of peace officers in cyberspace (a law that oddly doesn't prohibit publication of them in print journals). After he assumed office, County Attorney Andrew Thomas reviewed the matter and apparently concluded that he had a conflict of interest because his office must represent the sheriff's office, and the sheriff is the "victim" in this situation.

The case was referred to Pinal County Attorney Robert Carter Olson, whose office has handled such conflict-of-interest cases for Maricopa County in the past. The news that Pinal County would seek an indictment unless New Times agreed to its demands came when our attorney, Steve Suskin, took a call from Olson's office. Not long after, Deputy Pinal County Attorney Bradley M. Soos' formal letter of intent to prosecute New Times corporately landed on our doorstep: "The Office respects the important and constitutionally-protected rights of a free press, but we are obligated to carefully balance those rights against the legitimate safety concerns of law enforcement officers and their families."

Bradley, hang on to that word "legitimate," because The Bird will demonstrate that your office's concern is hardly that.

Did this winged wordsmith mention that the punishment for violating this law is a maximum fine of $1 million? That Pinal County prosecutors would first have to win a conviction using a state law that's shot full of legal holes? That prosecutors would have to prove that (in the language of the law) "the dissemination of the personal information poses an imminent and serious threat" to the public official involved, and "the threat is reasonably apparent to the person making the information available"?

To call this a Herculean legal feat is an understatement.

If there were really an "imminent and serious threat" to Sheriff Joe, why has it taken more than two years for someone to squawk about pressing charges? In that time, there's been no threat made public that Joe's been in danger because of the publication of this address. And you can bet your tail feathers such a threat would've been made public, given the sheriff's mania for getting his mug all over the boob tube.

Moreover, Joe's done nothing to keep his Fountain Hills address off-limits to any member of the public with two licks of sense and an Internet password. Know how to Google? Then you can find it.

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1 comments
Mr no name
Mr no name

I think what most likely bothered many people with the new times publishing the address of sheriff joe in it�s paper wasn�t the fear that rational people with �half a brain� would do something dastardly , but those who�s brain�s don�t function like most normal people aka �insane� people would do something . While we can preach about how �ANYONE� can find his address , the insane who wander our streets and ride our city busses , of which there are many , don�t have accesses to an internet , or in many cases the mental capacity to find something on it . The entire internet isssue is just a straw man for the publishing of his address on the cover of the new times . Below is another comment I left on a different news agency in regards to their public outing of a public officials address. .

The reason we as a society should not be putting the names and addresses of these individuals in the paper and in EASY view on the internet is quite simple ,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... ,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J...

Now some of you are going to cry out �but it�s already public knowledge!� while it maybe , there aren�t too many insane individuals that I know who have the patience to sit down at a computer and try sorting through the red tape of government files to find the addresses of officials .There ARE many insane individuals in Arizona , I say this because our state has a HORRIBLE track record of trying to help these people , instead we let them wander the streets . What I find very interesting is that many of them tend to believe that the government is �after them � .

While the[ papers, tv stations ,media ] have the RIGHT to publish the addresses of these civil servants, it is nothing less than a tool to terrify or at the worst extreme, a between the lines message to call for harm to these individuals .Correct me if I�m wrong , but isn�t this a tactic used by oppressive countries to control and install terror in its victims ? I for one know that if I had a regime , and there were people I didn�t like , I would DEFENTELY use what the [ XYZ publication or news agency ] has just done as a tool against my enemies . Sometimes the worst fear a person can have is the unknown , especially when you have a family , If for instance it were solely myself affected by the paper I would be nervous , but I�d be able to live ,however if I had a wife and kids , I would live in fear of what could happen to my family . When you take elected officials and begin to put them in a perpetual state of apprehension , you in effect kill their political effectiveness and ability . Also wasn�t this guy who�s address was revealed responsible for having hundreds of illegal aliens deported , not to mention doesn�t he oversee the prosecution of criminals ? Is your [media organization] insane? Or do just want this person to get killed along with their family ? I�m going to assume that many of the people who work for the [XYZ news paper or news agency ] are worldly , how many reporters and prosecutors are killed in other countries on a daily basis ? Just because you CAN do something does not mean that you SHOULD do something . You wanted to make a point that you COULD do it and you have , now we sit and wait , most likely nothing will come of it , no harm , no horror .Still thou , this is one day when I look at the first amendment and I feel sadness because your organization has twisted such a beautiful thing .

 
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