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Collar-Crazy

Fred Harper

Ever notice how little it takes to get arrested in Maricopa County, especially when the Sheriff's Office is involved? Dan Pochoda, legal director of the Arizona ACLU, got some personal instruction in this reality on November 3 when he stopped off at M.D. Pruitt's Home Furnishings at 34th Street and Thomas Road and got popped, ostensibly for parking in the wrong place.

Of course, the fact that Pochoda's been an unflagging critic of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, most recently in the saga of TB patient Robert Daniels, probably helped Pochoda score an arrest for the misdemeanor "trespassing" charge. Daniels is the Russian-American who suffered from multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and ended up doing nearly a year in Joe's gulag, surviving conditions universally condemned by the medical and legal community. This despite the niggling fact that Daniels was never charged with a crime.

The ACLU and Pochoda advocated for Daniels, suing the county, and forcing officials to transfer Daniels to a Denver facility, where he received compassionate care as a patient, not a criminal. Obliged to return to Phoenix by an agreement he'd signed with health officials, Daniels finally fled for the relative freedom of the former Soviet Union. See, for some asinine reason, mean ol' Joe was eager to charge Daniels with something — anything ("Do Svidanya, Joe," October 18, 2007).

This ain't the only litigation the ACLU and Pochoda have been involved in versus the MCSO. Pochoda and the ACLU are no doubt on the MCSO's enemies list. So when Pochoda showed sheriff's deputies his ACLU card in the Pruitt's parking lot, he might as well have been waving a bottle of Ketel One in front of Lindsay Lohan.

Pochoda stopped by Pruitt's that Saturday to observe the ongoing pro-day-laborer demos organized by immigrant rights activist Salvador Reza. The protesters are pissed at Pruitt's owner Roger Sensing, and the local small business coalition he's a member of, for calling in sheriff's deputies to patrol the area and arrest suspected illegal aliens. Every Saturday for weeks now, Pruitt's has become the site of a Mexican standoff, with Reza's sign-wavers and mariachis on the sidewalk in front of Pruitt's, and Sensing's crew of nativists and MCSO deputies in the parking lot.

This Jumpin' Jack Sparrow's visited Pruitt's, noting that there were also plenty of on-duty Phoenix PD officers on the sidewalk with the protesters to help keep the peace. Sheesh, when's the last time one law enforcement agency was needed to protect civilians from another band of local gendarmes?

And get this, furniture-peddler Sensing made his business look like Fort Apache by parking Pruitt's trucks along his side of the sidewalk — and spreading manure up and down the parking lot's border — to keep the protesters out. Why would you want to shop for a couch at a place that smells like cow caca and is filled with sheriff's deputies roving the parking lot, lookin' to make a collar?

"There were no unlawful activities at all on my part," Pochoda told this pelican immediately after his time in the slammer. "There was no reason for charges and no reason for an arrest. No reason to be kept in jail for 10 hours. Past the point where a friend put up the bail [at 4:30 p.m.], which was all of 150 bucks. No reason to impound my car, and on and on."

Indeed, according to Pochoda's MCSO arrest report, the ACLU attorney was parked in the Pruitt's lot for just 18 minutes before he was pinched. MCSO Sergeant Glen Powe observed Pochoda arrive at 12:40 p.m., park his car, and walk over to the sidewalk, where Powe lost sight of the lawyer as he mingled with the protesters and (according to Pochoda) introduced himself to Salvador Reza, who sort of resembles a Hispanic Wilford Brimley.

"After several minutes, the subject reappeared and was once again on the property," wrote Powe, who saw Pochoda "walking in the parking lot" toward his '99 BMW.

That is to say, Pochoda was returning to his vehicle to vamoose, when sheriff's deputies intercepted him and told him he was trespassing and had to leave. Duh, if they'd waited two more minutes, Pochoda would've been outta there!

But in typical pig-headed MCSO fashion, Powe and two other deputies got into an argument with Pochoda over whether he was trespassing. Pochoda asserted he wasn't, told them he was on-site as a lawyer with the ACLU, and handed them his card. Shortly thereafter, they let him model a pair of stainless steel bracelets.

Despite the fact that they could have cited the 65-year-old and let him go his way, they impounded his vehicle and hauled him to the Fourth Avenue Jail, using the excuse that Pochoda had some prescription pain medication on him. Though a friend of Pochoda's paid the $150 bail about 4:30 in the afternoon, the attorney was kept in custody 'til shortly after midnight.

 

County cops blatantly abusing their authority, arresting their enemies at the drop of a chapeau on misdemeanors that rarely draw jail time? Now where has this heron heard that one before (see Michael Lacey this week)?

SIDEWALK FIESTA

As mentioned, this open-borders avian wind-surfed down to Pruitt's on a recent Saturday. And though The Bird missed Salvador Reza releasing some doves in a symbolic gesture of freedom and racial harmony, he did get to caw at Nickel Bag Joe, who was mixing it up with the mostly Spanish-speaking media.

As this Toucan Sam of Sand Land alighted before our gruff Sher-uff, a Hispanic fellow who obviously was not a member of the media confronted Joe in broken English, accusing him of being a racist. To which the decrepit copper retorted, "You're from Mexico and you don't have any papers? Did you just say that?" Arpaio cracked, implying an arrest might be warranted.

Whew, way to prove Pedro's point, Joe!

Arpaio, whose hair's so dark these days that he must be forgoin' the Grecian Formula for a can of 40-weight, actually recognized this rascally raven, exclaiming, "Hey, Bird, how ya doin'?" But the veiny-nosed senior citizen declined this egret's attempts to interview him. This Foghorn Leghorn of Phoenix wondered why the sheriff was at Pruitt's and whether the deputy dawgs nearby were on-duty or off, but Joe wouldn't say. As he ambled away, The Bird also wondered if Arpaio was on duty, to which the sheriff growled, "I'm on duty 24 hours a day!" Yeah, Joe, on PR duty, trying to get your mug on the tee-vee.

Pruitt's owner Roger Sensing, who bears a striking resemblance to country music comedian Mel Tillis, both in appearance and speech impediment, made occasional forays from his furniture store fortress to eff with Reza, asking the chief protester if he could score some day-laborers for Sensing to help him plant flowers in the dung gutter he had created. As you might expect, Reza wasn't laughing at the stupid joke.

After the protest, Sensing told this tweeter via phone that he had dropped off his stinky "landscaping" because he was angry at the protesters. He had no comment on Pochoda's arrest the previous week, and insisted that he and his store were the victims, that day-laborers were being picked up near and on his property.

"All these people who're picking people up on my property are tax-cheating employers, building all your houses, doing all your landscaping," griped Sensing. "And yet they can come right in there, and I have to pay taxes."

The Bird might feel sympathy for Sensing, were it not that his own actions have escalated the situation and made Pruitt's a target of demonstrators. Similar protests were going on this time last year, until there was a truce established while day-laborers tried to find a spot nearby to wait for work. A day-laborer camp never materialized, and each side blamed the other for the failure. The MCSO was called in to help with security, and day-laborers were soon getting arrested, which prompted Reza to restart the demonstrations.

"Sensing brought the sheriff's deputies over here," Reza said. "And they started arresting people. The [MCSO] doesn't even have money to take prisoners to the court. How can they justify this expense?"

Indeed, Sensing said he pays for five deputies every Saturday, but The Bird counted at least seven sheriff's deputies at Pruitt's the day it observed the protest, and there have been more than that in the past. The MCSO has stated that it's over-budget in regards to overtime and, therefore, failed to staff the courts recently, causing a virtual legal work stoppage. But some of the MCSO officers at the furniture store were certainly not in Pruitt's employ.

What's happening is, Sensing's allowing his property to be used by Arpaio to showboat; Joe wants to prove he's tough on immigrants because he figures it gets him votes. That's all he's about — jumping on the Mexican-bashing bandwagon to keep himself in power. And as long as Sensing's turning his property over to the sheriff, he can expect the sidewalk fiestas to continue — with their tejano bands, mariachis, and growing crowds of demonstrators, who're more than willing to brave the smell of Arpaio and Sensing's bullshit, um, "landscaping," to make their point.

MICHELE'S MANHOOD

The Bird's favorite tranny, Michele de LaFreniere, got the People magazine treatment recently in a profile penned by reporter Richard Ruelas for the Arizona Republic. The piece featured a photo of de LaFreniere splayed out on red-satin sheets, in leather-and-lace, looking — despite the photographer's best efforts — much like John Tesh in drag.

 

Ruelas did his best to play hagiographer to de LaFreniere, avoiding prolonged discussion of her battle with club owner Tom Anderson of Anderson's Fifth Estate over her using the ladies' loo there, and portraying the transgender activist as brave and defiant — going the extra mile to Thailand to have her package removed in favor of her newfound femininity.

Er, just one problem, there, Dick. De LaFreniere has never copped to having sex-reassignment surgery. So Ruelas must've misheard de LaFreniere when she remembered thinking (after the 2006 surgery that never happened): "It's gone. It's over, really over."

The Republic, to its obvious chagrin, was forced to edit out the offending passages online and print a correction the following day:

"Michele de LaFreniere has not had sexual-reassignment surgery. She has two children, one son and one daughter. She was not a Marine, and she owned six bike shops in New York. Additionally, her ex-wife filed for divorce 18 months after de LaFreniere told her she had a strong urge to change genders."

Wow, okay! Thing is, de LaFreniere seemed a lot more courageous in that soft-focus Oprah Winfrey sorta way when Ruelas was breaking the news that Michele was a woman, or at least had all the right parts. De LaFreniere had before dodged similar inquiries from The Bird on the subject, calling the issue irrelevant.

It may be irrelevant to de LaFreniere, but it wasn't irrelevant to the women at Anderson's last year when they complained about having to share the baños with biological doods. (Someone in de LaFreniere's party supposedly peed standing up in the women's room.) Anderson eventually kicked the trannies to the curb, and de LaFreniere began a crusade for tranny toilet rights, which involved a discrimination complaint with Attorney General Terry Goddard's office.

Anderson recently threw in the bathroom towel, made one of his restrooms unisex, and invited all the trannies back. Though de LaFreniere was initially a holdout, she's since come around and dropped the complaint with the AG, thus ending the dispute.

Still, for a lot of transgenders, it's all in your head. If you identify with gals, and you act and dress like a gal, you're a freakin' gal. That's why, whether or not Michele has a rod and tackle, it's no biggie for her.

Yet surely that factoid has some significance in the context of what went down at Anderson's. After all, if de LaFreniere and her pals had all had sexual-reassignment surgery, nobody would have disputed their right to squat where they please. But then, if that were the case, it's unlikely one of them would've been whizzing upright either.


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