Head on a skewer: Joe Arpaio was so obsessed with getting a hard-charging New Times writer prosecuted that he badgered Andy Thomas into making a fool of himself
On May 2, 2005, a prosecutor and an investigator at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office asked senior staffers to review a potentially landmark criminal case against a local journalist.
Phil MacDonnell, second-in-command to County Attorney Andrew Thomas (who had assumed office five months earlier), gave the okay for the agency's Incident Review Board to evaluate the case against John Dougherty, a veteran reporter then at New Times.
It had started with a Dougherty column published in July 2004 partially about Sheriff Joe Arpaio's refusal to release financial details about his surprisingly extensive real estate holdings.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Dougherty concluded his opinion piece by revealing Arpaio's home address in Fountain Hills. Actually, "revealing" might be the wrong word. Because the location of the sheriff's residence is available all over the Internet — including on government Web sites, people-search sites, and even (at one time) on a Republican Party site.
The prosecutors had to decide whether publication of the address on the New Times Web site had violated May 1999 legislation signed into law by Governor Jane Hull. And if it had, would a jury vote to convict the reporter?
The law made it a felony to put addresses and other personal data of police officers on the Internet — if that information posed an "immediate and serious threat" to the officers and if the person who published had meant for it to be a threat.
It still was okay to publish that same information in newspapers and magazines and to report it on television or on the radio.
In April 2005, John Stolze, a respected investigator with Thomas' office, had drawn the sticky assignment of looking into what became known as the "Dougherty matter." That was nine months after publication of the column containing the sheriff's home address.
According to files recently released to New Times by the County Attorney's Office, Stolze got involved after MCSO Lieutenant Ray Jones (commander of Arpaio's Selective Enforcement Unit) alleged: "Sheriff Arpaio is afraid and concerned for his and his wife's safety, because of the actions of Dougherty."
The files show that Arpaio made his feelings about Dougherty known to County Attorney Thomas in their first official meeting soon after Thomas assumed office in January 2005.
But after familiarizing themselves with the previously unused and legally untested law, Stolze and others came to believe that the section about an "imminent and serious threat" would be tough for prosecutors to overcome, among other issues.
How, they wondered, could Arpaio claim such a pressing "threat" when he hadn't tried to seek redress for months after the fact and when nothing threatening had happened to him in the interim?
"Lieutenant Jones related that MCSO did not request an investigation until April 2005, nine months later, because Sheriff Joe did not want to make it look like it was politically connected," prosecutor Liz Gilbert and Stolze's supervisor, Mark Stribling, wrote in their May 2004 internal memorandum, referring to Arpaio's successful November 2004 re-election bid.
"Underlying problems with case: The nine-month time delay to report the incident . . . and showing that Sheriff Arpaio was in fear for his safety. The fact that Sheriff Arpaio's home address, Social Security number, and other personal information [are] available to the public via the Internet from numerous Web sites. Note: Sheriff Joe and John Dougherty are involved in a long-standing ongoing feud and civil suit.
"High-profile case," they concluded. "Sheriff Joe Arpaio is demanding that this case be charged. Sheriff Arpaio has several high-level employees calling Liz Gilbert to see when this case will be filed. Latest call indicated that there would be problems between the Sheriff's Office and the County Attorney's Office if this case is not charged."
The newly released files and other sources of information suggest that personnel in Andy Thomas' office played it straight with the Dougherty probe — at least at the start.
They did so despite repeated appeals by Arpaio to the new county attorney for action, and an onslaught of paperwork by sheriff's official Ronald Lebowitz, an attorney, urging Dougherty's criminal prosecution.
Instead, the Incident Review Board apparently declined in August 2005 to recommend prosecution under the 1999 Internet publication law — which calls for fines and a possible prison sentence.
The use of "apparently" is necessary because paperwork from the panel's August 9 meeting wasn't included in the records recently released to New Times under the state's Public Records Law.
But four people familiar with what happened at the meeting tell the paper that the consensus of the 13 board members was that, even if Dougherty had broken the law, convicting him would be difficult.
One main hitch was that Arpaio's home address was available across the Net. And, just as important, how could prosecutors prove that the reporter's aim in publishing the address was to get someone to do harm to Joe Arpaio or his family?
Andy Thomas could have overridden his Incident Review Board and insisted on a prosecution. Instead, two weeks after the board met, Thomas asked then-Pinal County Attorney Carter Olson to assume the case because of an unspecified "conflict of interest."
Almost two years passed without Olson's office taking action.
Then, early last summer, Jim Walsh became the new Pinal County attorney after Carter Olson won a spot on that county's Superior Court bench. Walsh soon declared his own conflict of interest in the protracted Doughterty case.
Walsh had been chief deputy to Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and was serving as that office's special counsel for Southern Arizona before leaving for the Pinal County job. His conflict was that Joe Arpaio and Andy Thomas earlier had announced that they were "investigating" political foe Goddard for alleged corruption in a criminal case involving former State Treasurer David Petersen. That case, by the way, has gone nowhere.
Walsh punted the "Dougherty matter" back to Andy Thomas in June 2007 — which is when things became famously mucked up.
Last July, Thomas urged the county Board of Supervisors to appoint private Phoenix attorney Dennis Wilenchik and three of Wilenchik's colleagues as "special prosecutors." One colleague was William French, a distinguished former Superior Court judge.
Wilenchik was a pal and former employer of Thomas' and already was counsel of record in several high-dollar civil cases for Thomas, the Sheriff's Office and Joe Arpaio. That should have raised an immediate red flag about whether Wilenchik would be unbiased against Dougherty and New Times in his new role.
But it didn't. Or Thomas decided that he needed Wilenchik in command if he hoped to placate Arpaio with a prosecution, successful or not, against the relentless reporter.
Dougherty had left New Times in August 2006 to pursue other opportunities. Shortly before that, he had blasted Thomas and Wilenchik in columns about the propriety of their professional relationship.
A powerful sheriff's obsession with busting a reporter for a local newsweekly probably would have disappeared from the public's radar had not circumstances changed so dramatically in late 2007.
It was last October 18 when Joe Arpaio's loathing of John Dougherty morphed into the high-profile arrests of New Times' owners on misdemeanor charges of violating grand jury secrecy.
Regular readers of this publication know something about how that chapter ended:
County Attorney Thomas — beleaguered by negative reaction around the nation to the arrests — fired Team Wilenchik, dropped the misdemeanor charges against Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey and ended the investigations of Dougherty and New Times.
The county attorney came away looking foolish, at best; he laid the blame for the arrests and events that led up to them squarely on Dennis Wilenchik, saying he had no knowledge of what his special prosecutor was up to (the State Bar of Arizona is investigating both Thomas and Wilenchik in the matter).
What got New Times' founders locked up (Larkin briefly and Lacey for several hours) was the story they wrote about Wilenchik's overreaching grand jury subpoenas seeking information about New Times journalists and about the paper's readers (including their Internet-viewing habits). "Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution" hit the streets on the morning before Selective Enforcement Unit deputies showed up at Larkin and Lacey's homes that night and hauled them to jail.
The October 18 article also revealed how Dennis Wilenchik brazenly had used the wife of a high-ranking county prosecutor to try to orchestrate a private (ex parte) meeting with the presiding Superior Court judge over grand jury matters who was then overseeing the case against Dougherty and New Times.
But what hasn't been revealed until now is how the whole thing got started, how Joe Arpaio and his aides pressured prosecutors from two agencies continually to go after Dougherty, long seen by MCSO brass as the sheriff's archenemy.
The extent to which the Sheriff's Office wanted Dougherty's head on a skewer was almost laughable at times.
Take, for example, the written "analysis" by MCSO Lieutenant Jones to Maricopa County investigators that publication of the address on the New Times site might cause harm to his boss from "terrorist countries" where Arpaio worked long ago as a federal drug agent.
How that what-if scenario proved a "serious and imminent" threat to Joe Arpaio and his family by John Dougherty remained unclear.
In September 1998, the owner of a local pawnshop started a Web site designed to expose Phoenix police officers for alleged "shoddy investigations and/or perjurious testimony."
The instantly controversial site included home addresses, phone numbers, and photos of officers, as well as internal affairs investigations, discipline records, and other documents.
After his earlier arrest on theft and other charges, shop owner Mark Brooks accused Phoenix police of buying thousands of dollars in items from his store at discount prices. In return, he claimed, the officers had run criminal background checks for him and let him attend parties that featured live sex acts.
An internal investigation ended with 28 officers disciplined and one fired because of their cozy relationship with Brooks.
As part of his plea bargain, Brooks ceded ownership of the site, phoenixpolice.com, to the County Attorney's Office, which deleted the information before turning it over to the Phoenix Police Department.
As a direct result of the Brooks case, then-state Senator Marc Spitzer introduced legislation in early 1999 designed to rein in publication of personal information about peace officers on the Internet.
State senators on the Judiciary Committee considered the bill at a hearing that February.
Testifying on behalf of the Arizona Newspaper Association (a consortium mostly of daily publications) was lobbyist Phil MacDonnell, who told the committee that the proposed law conflicted with First Amendment issues. The Web is "speech," he said, and the bill would seek to regulate speech.
MacDonnell said the phrase "imminent and serious threat" moved the proposal closer to being acceptable to the ANA, because it was more precise. But he warned that the state's newspaper owners still had concerns about the part concerning the "culpable mental state" of the person who published the potentially dangerous information.
Five years later, MacDonnell would be intimately involved in the early stages of the John Dougherty investigation as Andy Thomas' second-in-command at the County Attorney's Office.
The Internet-publication bill sailed through the Senate and moved to the House of Representatives in March 1999. There, Judiciary Committee member Marilyn Jarrett said she supported it but wondered how it would be enforced.
"We have this problem," Jarrett said. "We have the Internet with all of this information about everyone. But how can we make the connect? We're all just scratching the surface of the problems we're going to see on this."
Representative Barry Wong picked up on that: "I support protecting the officers, but this is a law that can be challenged in the Supreme Court. Many legitimate entities can be publishing information on law enforcement that somebody could use against an officer." (Wong voted for the law anyway.)
Pat Cunningham of the Arizona Attorney General's Office, which had crafted the bill's language, told the lawmakers it was "aimed at private individuals, not public officeholders, who are running Web sites or placing public information on the Web. This is a criminal statute focusing on people who are kind of wildcatting out there, and placing police officers and their families at risk."
In the end, only six of the Arizona Legislature's 90 members voted against the Internet bill. Governor Hull signed it into law on May 19, 1999.
John Dougherty published his column that listed Joe Arpaio's address five years and two months after that. To this day, no one in the state of Arizona has been prosecuted under the law.
John Dougherty has been a news reporter for more than a quarter-century, in the Phoenix area and elsewhere. He has won many awards over the years, including the Arizona Press Club's Journalist of the Year award (three times).
The father of two college-age sons is a classic investigative reporter who is, yes, zealous about exposing scandal and scandalous characters. To that end, he authored groundbreaking pieces on the Keating Five, the shady business dealings that led to the criminal conviction of Arizona Governor J. Fife Symington, and on the machinations of now-incarcerated polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs.
Dougherty does not suffer fools gladly, and, in his world, these fools may include elected officials and their minions who refuse to comply with legitimate public-records requests.
By 2004, Dougherty was regularly taking on the local law enforcement fiefdom headed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose standing with voters always has been better than it's been with fellow cops, who generally despise his publicity-seeking antics.
To Arpaio and his public-relations team, you're either with them or you're the enemy. To them, John Dougherty was Enemy Number One.
By the time Dougherty published his July 2004 column with the sheriff's home address, he had become increasingly frustrated by what he saw as a constant run-around by the MCSO on his myriad public-records requests.
The list of what he wanted the Sheriff's Office to turn over included personnel records, receipts involving sales from jail vending machines, payroll records, and booking information. Sheriff's officials didn't even respond to some of his records requests, much less deny them.
Later in 2004, New Times filed the first of two lawsuits in Superior Court for MCSO documents.
(Arpaio won the first round of the public-records fight when Superior Court Judge Michael Jones concluded in 2005 that New Times' claims were "unsupported by anything other than argument and histrionics." But the Arizona Court of Appeals unanimously reversed Jones' ruling February 7, noting that the MCSCO had fulfilled only one of nine public-records requests under consideration in the lawsuit in a timely manner.)
On July 8, 2004, a Dougherty column titled "Stick It to 'Em!" appeared in print and on the Web. Most of the column concerned the Phoenix City Council and its problems with the city-owned downtown convention center hotel.
The last section switched topics to Joe Arpaio's refusal to release details of his residential and commercial real estate holdings. This was a follow-up to a column Dougherty had written the week before ("Sheriff Joe's Real Estate Game"). The sheriff had redacted the information from County Recorder's Office records under another state statute designed to protect public officials' home addresses. The key here is that Arpaio was misusing the redaction statute to hide his commercial property dealings, even as his home address and other personal information continued to be available all over the Internet.
To point out the irony of the situation, Dougherty's July 8 column ended by listing the sheriff's home address.
Recently, Arpaio feigned ignorance about New Times on National Public Radio: "Is that a porno magazine? You're talking about the weekly paper they have to give away free?" he asked the reporter of a story that aired March 10.
But the truth is, Joe Arpaio has always been obsessed with the paper's coverage of him.
The sheriff told investigator John Stolze in a June 2005 interview that he first learned about the publication of his home address on the Thursday that the Dougherty column hit the streets and the Internet.
"I do keep all of the articles of the New Times," Arpaio said, "which means I have a file full of them. Every week they come out [with] very disturbing information, so I was aware of it when it came out."
Ava Arpaio, the sheriff's wife, told the investigator that her husband had been extremely upset when he got home and told her, "'Would you believe it? Dougherty put our address in the paper.' It made chills go up and down my back."
That evening, the Arpaios drove to a District 8 Republican meeting at a library in Scottsdale. The sheriff was a few months away from a victorious primary election against Dan Saban, a retired Mesa police commander who had won the endorsements of law enforcement organizations statewide and of Senator John McCain.
Dougherty approached the couple in the parking lot as they returned to their car and leveled a few questions at the sheriff. Arpaio said he wouldn't talk, jumped into his county car, inadvertently turned on his flashing red-and-blue police lights and drove off, as the reporter snapped photos with what he says was a disposable camera.
The following day, Arpaio filed an internal memo titled "Incidents at Mustang Library."
Arpaio (or an aide) wrote, "A person, who may have come out of the bushes, approached suddenly in the darkness, yelled at my wife and me that he was John Dougherty, and pointed a large object at us. Because of his recent articles, in the most recent of which Dougherty purposely printed the address of my home, and because in response to his earlier columns the New Times printed nasty letters that bordered on threatening me (if they were not outright threats), my wife and I were shocked at his pointing an object at us. The object proved to be a camera."
In hindsight, someone already may have alerted the sheriff to the Internet-publication law that John Dougherty allegedly had broken.
Arpaio wrote, "I am very concerned that Dougherty's publication of my home address reaches not only the local Phoenix audience, and therefore, my enemies, including some who have threatened me, but also the entire 'wired' world since the Phoenix New Times is available on their Web site."
Legally speaking, nothing immediately happened in the war between Joe Arpaio and John Dougherty.
But with New Year 2005 came a new county attorney, whose ascension would change the landscape on a host of fronts, not the least of which was the lingering "Dougherty matter."
Six weeks after Andrew Thomas took over from Rick Romley in January 2005, John Dougherty wrote, "Thomas looks like he's content to be Sheriff Joe Arpaio's handmaiden and to rubber-stamp Arpaio's increasingly dangerous violations of constitutional protections."
Dougherty marked a sea change from what had been a contentious relationship between the sheriff and Romley, whose clashes became increasingly public as the years passed.
In early 2004, Romley had announced his decision not to seek another term.
Thomas, a far-right conservative who had been trounced by Terry Goddard in a 2002 run for attorney general, took advantage of a split vote among more moderate Republicans to win the primary. He then easily defeated a weak Democratic rival in the November 2004 general election to win a four-year term.
Just last month, an attorney for New Times wrote to the county Board of Supervisors about the paper's plan to sue Joe Arpaio ("Blowback," February 21), Andy Thomas, and fired special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik.
In the February 20 Notice of Claim letter, attorney Michael Manning wrote that Rick Romley had rebuffed the sheriff's request for the prosecution of John Dougherty during his last months in office.
But Romley tells New Times that he never heard about "the Dougherty matter" on his watch.
"I'm sure Joe and his people figured that we wouldn't have done anything with this thing, and they were probably right," Romley says. "That 'case' had nothing but trouble written all over it, from a prosecution aspect."
Arpaio didn't wait long after Romley left office to approach Andy Thomas. Lawyer Ron Lebowitz of the Sheriff's Office wrote in a 2005 memo, "The Sheriff brought this matter to the attention of the present County Attorney almost immediately following [his] inauguration."
That was several months after Dougherty's column supposedly had caused such a "serious and imminent threat" to Arpaio's safety.
On April 15, 2005, the county attorney's investigator, John Stolze, met with the MCSO's Ray Jones to discuss the Dougherty case.
Stolze asked Lieutenant Jones if he had interviewed Dougherty as part of his probe. Jones replied that he hadn't, claiming Dougherty was "unstable."
Jones handed Stolze a lengthy report that concluded with a plea for prosecution. He included a long history of alleged threats made against Arpaio, almost all of them supposedly occurring before the July 2004 column.
In a section titled "John Dougherty's Erratic Behavior," Jones recounted the sheriff's version of the parking lot meeting at the Mustang Library, and included the transcript of a voice mail that an irate Dougherty left for one of the sheriff's flacks in August 2004.
The lieutenant wrote that Arpaio had advised him that "due to his years as head of the DEA in the Middle East (some of these countries are now terrorist states)" he had made a load of enemies.
"Now they can access his home address as well," Jones wrote, as if publication on New Times' Web site was the only place on the Net to learn where the sheriff resides.
(Arpaio, incidentally, was known as "Nickel Bag Joe" inside the DEA because of the small-time busts he'd favored.)
"It is believed that John Dougherty has an obsession towards Sheriff Arpaio," Jones concluded. "[His] commentaries in his articles about the Sheriff are damaging in nature."
The lieutenant said it was "reasonable to assume that Dougherty himself knew that by disclosing the Sheriff's address and all of the derogatory remarks he has written about the Sheriff, that the articles may incite some people to become so incensed that they may resort to some type of retaliatory attacks on Sheriff Arpaio and his family."
Prosecutor Liz Gilbert asked investigator Stolze to check the Web for any personal information under Joe Arpaio's name. According to Stolze's report, "I located numerous documents that contain Sheriff Arpaio's personal residence address."
On April 18, 2005, Stolze phoned Dougherty. The paper's legal counsel, Steve Suskin, returned the call, saying he had advised Dougherty not to talk.
The Incident Review Board meeting was scheduled for early May.
But Stolze's supervisors wanted more facts before moving forward. The aforementioned interview with the Arpaios was a must, and the panel's meeting was postponed until that August.
That gave Ron Lebowitz, then the sheriff's legal point man on the "Dougherty matter," more time to compose the first of dozens of memos he would send about the case to prosecutors in two jurisdictions over the next year and a half.
Ron Lebowitz has had a long legal career in Phoenix, where he has been practicing since 1973.
As a private attorney, he defended New Times in a 1981 libel allegation by then-Arizona Republic Publisher Darrow "Duke" Tully, who resigned in disgrace a few years later after he was exposed as having lied about serving as a pilot in Korea and Vietnam.
Lebowitz's reputation for courtroom bombast has rivaled that of his better-known (these days) peer Dennis Wilenchik. Maybe that's why he and Joe Arpaio connected in the late 1990s, when Lebowitz was working as a deputy county attorney.
In May 1999, Superior Court Judge Gregory Martin dismissed some criminal charges against an infamous Phoenix slumlord because of then-prosecutor Lebowitz's "intentional, in bad faith, and grossly improper" conduct.
Lebowitz went to work for Arpaio full time after that.
He was present on June 13, 2005, when John Stolze and Deputy County Attorney Jonell Lucca interviewed Ava and Joe Arpaio, one at a time.
Word that their home address had been published "made my blood pressure go up," Ava Arpaio said in her brief interview. "I was very, very nervous and have been, and I still am very worried about it."
Stolze, who died of heart failure in December 2006, played it as straight as his stellar reputation suggested he would.
In a report on his interview with Ava Arpaio, he wrote, "It should be noted that towards the end of this interview, Mr. Lebowitz wrote something on a piece of paper and attempted to show it to Mrs. Arpaio. This note was taken by deputy county attorney Lucca before Mrs. Arpaio could see it, and she informed Mr. Lebowitz, 'We're not going to prompt the witness.'"
Interviewed after his wife, the self-described "toughest sheriff in America" told Stolze that his staff immediately had placed extra patrols around his residence after Dougherty's column.
The investigator asked why Arpaio had taken so long to officially lodge his complaint.
"I was in a Catch-22, if you want to use that phrase," the sheriff said. "It was a political year, and I was being blasted every week with slander and threatening news articles by Dougherty. I knew there would be a new county attorney coming in, and I felt that if I reported it during the election year that would be the first allegation — that I was doing this to shut the mouth of the reporter.
"The other reason was that I wasn't sure that [Rick Romley] would pursue it, and number three, if he did, he may have held it anyway for the new county attorney to take office."
Arpaio conceded that he wasn't as worried about his home address being available on the Internet as he was about its being on the New Times Web site.
"I'm more concerned about the New Times and the mindset of Dougherty knowing that this could be a threat to me," he said. "Also, when you look at the clientele of the New Times, those are people that have the propensity to do harm to this sheriff."
Arpaio then launched into a riff:
"Everybody knows me around this world, there's no doubt about that. I go back to being the director of Mexico and South America with the federal drug enforcement. I go back to Turkey, the Middle East, being head of that operation . . . People still remember me from my drug background, but they sure remember me from my sheriff's background, and I do get a lot of nasty, nasty television and commentary from foreign countries. So my name, my address being on this World Wide Web makes me very, very concerned."
Before the Incident Review Board met on August 9, 2005, Ron Lebowitz submitted his own take on the case: "It could be argued that Dougherty, when reviewing the very words that he chose to use when writing the July 1, 2004, and July 8, 2004, articles in particular, wanted to frighten the Sheriff, and Mrs. Arpaio, i.e. to make them fearful of life and limb by releasing the Sheriff's home address on the New Times Web site."
Then, according to Lebowitz, Dougherty would be happy "pursuant to his own scheme, by getting away with it, thereby obtaining a petty in-your-face sense of satisfaction, a component [of] his hubris."
The County Attorney's Office allowed Lebowitz to make a verbal pitch at the August 9 Incident Review Board meeting. But the board didn't buy it, and that left Andy Thomas in a tough spot between his senior staff and an irate Joe Arpaio.
A few weeks later, Thomas asked Pinal County Attorney Carter Olson to take over the case.
Ron Lebowitz immediately went to work on Olson, writing to him on September 12, 2005: "The Dougherty matter, for reasons which should be obvious, is something deeply felt and closely followed by the Sheriff."
He first met with County Attorney Olson in mid-November 2005, and shortly thereafter he sent a memo that foreshadowed what would happen once Dennis Wilenchik came onboard in July 2007 and demanded access to everything but the proverbial kitchen sink from New Times.
Lebowitz suggested that Olson issue subpoenas to New Times management "to appear before an investigative grand jury to collect the evidence considered necessary."
The attorney contacted the Pinal County Attorney by letter and phone incessantly, writing in early 2006 that the Arpaios "are experiencing a form of tension stemming from pent-up frustration and anxiety due to what appears to be a lack of activity in the Dougherty matter . . . A failure to go forward would convey the very worst of messages which we are certain you would never embrace."
In May 2006, County Attorney Olson and one of his prosecutors met with Lebowitz and longtime Arpaio public-relations chief Lisa Allen at the Mesa Hilton coffee shop.
"During that meeting," Lebowitz wrote to Olson afterward, "you raised arguments of insecurity and uncertainty which were identical to the kinds of arguments brought out in our previous meeting held in your office on November 15, 2005. The arguments which you have raised to justify your indefensible inclination to remain in a state of paralysis regarding the Dougherty matter have not improved with time. They do not age well, as if they are like some spirituous beverage. In short, your reasons for not going ahead with a prosecution, particularly against John Dougherty, remain feeble at best and craven at worst."
Lebowitz noted that Arpaio earlier had given Olson "a ten-day deadline on which to take action, and even though you promised thereafter to proceed against New Times, nothing further has occurred . . . this is intolerable. The [Sheriff's Office] must make some public statement regarding the threat and the prosecution's failure to take corrective action."
But despite the continual pressure, Carter Olson held his ground.
On August 31, 2006, John Dougherty wrote his final story as a New Times staff writer ("Vaya Con Dios"), a first-person column in which he spoke of honing "the art of attack journalism" at the paper.
"Attack journalism inevitably leads to confrontation with powerful interests," he wrote. "That is why the in-your-face, irreverent, counter-intuitive, fuck-'em-all attitude at New Times was the place for a guy like me."
Dougherty concluded that, even though he was moving on, Joe Arpaio "will never be free with New Times around."
Shortly after that article appeared, Lebowitz again wrote to Olson, saying that "Mr. Dougherty, through his most recent article, is encouraging New Times to go forward and, whenever and wherever possible, do even worse against the sheriff in the future as, if you will, a part of Dougherty's legacy."
As 2006 ended, Lebowitz may not have known it, but he finally seemed to be wearing Olson down.
On December 14, 2006, the county attorney wrote to New Times attorney Suskin that "the state of Arizona has drawn a line that the New Times appears to have crossed."
Olson offered the paper an out, saying he would settle the case without a criminal prosecution if it would remove the sheriff's home address from its Web site, admit the 1999 law was valid, and not violate it anymore. He added that if New Times believed the law to be unconstitutional, it should seek a court injunction to stop any further action on the matter.
New Times responded in its newsprint edition by publishing a Christmas card to Arpaio on its front cover, addressed to the sheriff's Fountain Hills home. It keyed to a column in which the paper explained that it couldn't, in good conscience, accept Olson's deal ("Joe Strikes Back," December 21, 2006).
A few months into the New Year, Carter Olson won appointment to the Pinal Superior Court bench, and that county's Board of Supervisors chose Jim Walsh to replace him. Citing his conflict of interest, Walsh tossed the hot potato back to Thomas.
On July 11, 2007, Team Wilenchik came onboard at Thomas' behest to potentially bust John Dougherty and, possibly, New Times, as a corporate entity.
It was almost three years to the day since Dougherty had written the column containing Arpaio's home address.
Things were just beginning to get interesting.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.