Joe Watson -- Salon Bandit, Jail Poet and Former New Times Writer -- Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison


Joe Watson's gonna have a lot of time to work on his poetry-for-snacks business.

The former writer for New Times, (who also spent time scratching for the Arizona Republic and East Valley Tribune) was sentenced last week to 12 years in prison for his role as the "Salon Bandit."

Like other criminals who begin their incarceration in Maricopa County, Watson was probably somewhat relieved to end his stay in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's lawsuit-inspiring jail and move up to the relatively good life in prison. (Amazing as it sounds, we hear that the slop in prison is like gourmet food compared to the green baloney and other trash they serve in jail). Because he was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial for months, Watson spent about 2 1/2 years in county lock-up -- much longer than average.

Not that we're crying for him. Though Watson was a talented writer, he terrified the women he robbed. Prosecutors never claimed he used a gun during the robberies, but the "Salon Bandit" told at least one victim he might shoot her. In another robbery, Watson told a woman "it wouldn't be good" for her if she didn't comply.


Watson's found a new career behind bars: As we related in July, Watson told MSNBC's Lockup that he's been earning snacks in jail by writing poetry for inmates, who use it to impress their uneducated girlfriends.

We're hoping that when he leaves prison many years from now, it's his poetry and writing skills that will be improved -- and not his robbery techniques.


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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.