Captain Joel Fox and Deputy Chief Larry Black "love" each other.
Captain Joel Fox and Deputy Chief Larry Black "love" each other.
And they'll always have "LA."
These two key figures from the SCA scandal, the sordid affair of a secret ad fund and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's apparently corrupt minions, discuss their emotional bond in a series of e-mails that state investigators pried out of Fox's home computer. Both Black and Fox are on paid administrative leave, along with their boss, Chief Deputy David Hendershott, pending a wide-ranging internal investigation.
The e-mails exchanges between Black and Fox show that as they planned a way to launder tens of thousands of dollars from rich folks across the country for sleazy attack ads targeting the opponents of Arpaio and soon-to-be-disbarred former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, their relationship went far beyond professional.
"Now say, for example, (and I know this is not true), the bible said to stop loving you, then I would NOT stop loving you," Joel Fox wrote in a lengthy e-mail to Larry Black on August 4, 2007, at 10:32 p.m. "So my love for you is more important to me than the Bible. And if you punched me in the mouth and knocked me down, I would get back up and chase after you to find out why. Because my love for you is more important than my pride. This is also why I don't care what people say about us."
Fox's love did not go unrequited.
"Even though we are thousands of miles away, I can hear you talking in my heart and your message is crystal clear," Black wrote to Fox in October of 2007. "I love you, dear friend, stay safe and you are in my thoughts ... always. Talk to you sooner still!!! I am getting excited for you to get back. (Not wanting to see your vacation end...) but you know what I mean."
The love letters can be found from pages 135 to 167 in one of the PDFs of the state Attorney General's investigative report into the SCA, published in its entirety last Thursday in Valley Fever.
We've detailed parts of this report, which is an unprecedented look into the inner workings of Arpaio's headquarters -- and evidence of the scam known as the SCA. The e-mails between Fox and Black add a weird, soap-opera-like element to the mess, and make Arpaio look like the admiral of his very own Love Boat.
The e-mails weren't written on MCSO accounts -- they're too "smart" for that. Like their shady boss, Hendershott, they avoid publicly traceable e-mail in favor of private accounts that mix business and -- especially in the case of Fox and Black -- pleasure. (Why do we find it so amusing that Fox's e-mail handle was "jdzorro?" Maybe this is why.)
"And yes, I am smart enough to use a personal computer to send e-mails from, so there is no record, other than my own computer, which doesn't really exist," Fox wrote to Black in December of 2008.
A search warrant and seizure changed all that.
Former Attorney General Terry Goddard's investigators believed that the SCA players may have violated campaign-finance law, and a judge allowed them to mirror and inspect the hard-drives of Fox's computers. The e-mails about "love" between Fox and Black are interspersed with communications about their SCA-related legal problem, setting up domain names to help Arpaio's 2008 re-election efforts and other Sheriff's Office business.
For instance, in a January 16, 2009 e-mail, Fox tells Black that he's seeking Hendershott's help to counter some of the arguments raised in the civil action filed against him and the SCA by the elections department and County Attorney's Office.
Fox wants to know if Black thinks it would be okay for Fox to get Hendershott's "personal phone number" from Black. Or if calling Hendershott directly "would be bad," then maybe Black could set up a meeting between him and Hendershott. Black could sit in on the meeting, if he liked. "I trust no one but you," Fox wrote.
In the same e-mail, Fox urges Black to read The Shack, a popular Christian self-help-type book written by William Young.
"I also hope you know how much I love you," Fox says, wrapping it up. "'The Shack' explains what that means pretty well, I think."
We haven't read the book, but a Google search shows that Christian writers have criticized The Shack, in part for being too open-minded. It's almost as if Fox wants Black to use the book's message of a non-judgmental god to help him decide something.
Black responds that he's thinking about the "changes/decisions that affect me," but that the SCA case was the more important matter, for now. Black says he'll set up the meeting with "DH" (Hendershott). He signs off, "I will see you Sunday because I want to not because...I feel I have to. Your friend ALWAYS... Larry."
Frank Munnell, the high-ranking MCSO commander whose allegations kicked off the internal investigation into Hendershott, Black, and Fox, stated in his 65-page memo that Fox had been suspected of having a homosexual affair with a subordinate whom he showed favoritism toward at work.
In their e-mails, Black and Fox don't come out and say they had sex or are having a gay affair. If you didn't know these were middle-aged law enforcement officers, you'd mistake the writers for teenagers.
"You do not want love, if that love is not returned. You think it is foolish," Fox wrote in the August 4, 2007, e-mail. "You think this because this is what people will say. You think being perceived as foolish is a bad thing. You don't want people to think you are foolish because then you will feel insecure. But I am a fool. I am happily a fool. And I will love as much as I possibly can until I don't have any more moments to spend. And even then, if there really is more, then I will still love. I will love you, and I will love others, too, but YOU will always be the most important one to me."
Then there's a reference to "a hotel room in Los Angeles one stormy night four years ago" that he shared with Black, during which Black shared "his heart" with Fox.
The next day, Fox again refers to something that happened in "LA." This LA appears to be Louisiana, though:
"Just be. Be Larry. Love Larry. Or, you could settle for "fine," believe that "fine" is all there is, or all you deserve, and keep on every day breathing until your very last day, when you will very likely say, 'man, I wish I would have risked a little more, and loved a little more, and not been so scared of being rejected or being hurt or looking stupid or foolish. I wish I wouldn't have waited to say what I wanted to say.' It is much more fun being Alive than it is just living life. You were Alive in LA. and the only difference between then and now is what you believe to be true."
Black also told Fox that he wanted to "live like Lousiana every day." The lovebirds were featured in Arpaio's 2008 book, Joe's Law, as they took a road trip to New Orleans together after Hurricane Katrina.
Another bizarre passage by the verbose Fox in an April 2006 e-mail reminds us of the famous, coy exchange in the 1960s film, Spartacus:
Marcus Licinius Crassus: Do you eat oysters?
Antoninus: When I have them, master.
Marcus Licinius Crassus: Do you eat snails?
Antoninus: No, master.
Marcus Licinius Crassus: My robe, Antoninus. My taste includes both snails and oysters.
Fox's version is a more modern take:
"If there are multiple options, then I get to choose, and I am free," Fox wrote to Black. "We both like Wendy's, but can you imagine if the only place to eat lunch was Wendy's? ... Without someplace else to eat, you cannot choose to eat at Wendy's. And you are not free to decide where to eat."
Without choice, Fox goes on, "I could never show my heart, and then my heart would be useless."
He wants Black to battle the struggles in his heart, "and when the battle is over, I will be here with you, loving you. I will sharpen your sword, mend your armor, show you a few new tricks and heal your wounds."
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Black seems to succumb to Fox's encouragement.
"Battles or perceived battles with you hit my heart and not my mind which means I don't think first which causes things to get worse," Black tells Fox.
On administrative leave for the last few months, these two lovebirds have had plenty of time on their hands. Wonder what they've been up to?