By Ray Stern
Quirky is the word that comes to mind to describe the cast of characters surrounding the arrest of a man on Wednesday during a protest of a photo radar van in Scottsdale.
Several news articles today covered Jason Shelton, (pictured above), who was among three people who held signs and blocked the view of a photo enforcement van near 6800 E. Shea Blvd, according to Scottsdale police. The cops arrested Shelton, who was later charged with failing to give his real name to officers, obstructing government operations and disorderly conduct.
Scottsdale Sergeant Mark Clark, spokesman for Scottsdale Police, says Shelton initially told police at the scene of the protest that his name was Jason Dillon, and gave a false birthdate to boot. A state Web site for court records shows the real Jason William Shelton, 35, had been arrested in 2004 in Scottsdale -- and later convicted -- of disorderly conduct and threatening someone. Shelton was also arrested this past February on charges of driving with a suspended license and false reporting to a law officer, the site shows. In both legal proceedings, Shelton skipped several court hearings, records show.
Wednesday's demonstration and arrest seem to be related to anti-photo-radar demonstrations that took place last week by a group with a Web site called www.camerafraud.com. The group received some media attention last week when several demonstrators gathered at the corner of Scottsdale and Thomas roads, holding up signs and asking passing vehicles to honk for their cause.
However, the Mesa man who owns the camerafraud.com Web site, D.T. Arneson, says Wednesday's demonstration was not planned or authorized by his group. Arneson's Web site is carrying some of the water for Shelton, though -- it has published a "fact" sheet about the arrest.
Another Web site, www.freedomsphoenix.com, has also taken up the mission of defending Shelton, going so far as to run a "Shelton Defense Fund" that is seeking $4,000.
According to this article, written by Powell Gammill of Mesa, Shelton is a volunteer journalist for freedomsphoenix.com. But Gammill's article buries the lead: Scottsdale police allegedly broke Shelton's toe when he wouldn't stand still for fingerprinting:
Shelton refused to cooperate in giving his fingerprints a second time (around 3PM) and the cop stomping down on his bare feet, breaking a toe to force compliance!
Sergeant Clark says Shelton left the city jail uninjured.
Gammill, who describes himself as a "senior editor" for the Web site, is a perennial Libertarian candidate for Congressional District 2, a seat now inhabited by Republican Trent Franks. The Web site itself is owned by Ernest Hancock, another Libertarian who ran for Congress in 2004, secretary of state in 2006, and who is running for Maricopa County Recorder this year.
When reached by phone by New Times Friday afternoon, Gammill confessed he was actually "skeptical" that police broke any of Shelton's bones. Another employee at the Web site told him the part about the broken toe, he says, and he forgot to ask Shelton about it Thursday evening during an interview.
Asked if he thought it was ethical, journalistically speaking, to put unsubstantiated, unattributed rumors in his article as if they were fact, Gammill answered, "I didn't know journalists had ethics."
Shelton "shoots video" for the Web site, Gammill says, adding that Shelton helped film this Ron Paul promo. Gammill says he might change his article "if Shelton tells me it's not true." Gammill gave New Times a phone number for Shelton. No one returned a message left at the number.
After New Times talked to Gammill, Gammill posted another article about Shelton, this one stating that "Shelton's foot is still quite sore."
Arneson isn't a Libertarian -- he's a Republican precinct committeeman candidate in Legislative District 18, Russell Pearce's turf. He works in the "technology field" but sometimes lends a hand in local political campaigns, he says.
Asked what he knows about the toe, Arneson says, "I can’t believe or not believe anything because I wasn’t there."
Arneson is less specific about whether he was at the Shea Boulevard demonstration.
"I don't have that information at this point," he says.
The idea for camerafraud.com just came up between "a collection of freedom-loving individuals," Arneson says. The group has no leader; put his title down as "Just a Guy With a Sign," he says.
Shelton, on the other hand, held no sign on Wednesday night, but was merely videotaping the event, Arneson says. He expects the group, which has retained legal counsel, will release the tape at some point.
Arneson wouldn't divulge who was with Shelton for the demonstration. "I think it’s the people's right to hold up a sign anywhere on a public sidewalk that they please," he says.
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The group has big plans that will be unveiled in the near future, he boasts.
For a non-leader, Arneson doesn't resist going for a hint of dramatic flair: "If you could quote me in bold, it would be this: The cameras are coming down."
Whatever their plan, they'll be fighting a monster made of cash. The state is planning to reap millions from photo radar, and so are the companies that run the equipment.
Orwell had no idea.