Longform

NORTHERN ARIZONA EXPOSURE

Could J.D. have established a pattern of "arbitrary and capricious enforcement" by the Park Service if he'd had a good lawyer connecting the dots? Could a lawyer have proved that J.D. had been singled out for prosecution?

The federal magistrate took the case under advisement.

APRIL 14: J.D.'s GI Bill house was hard to notice behind the horse buggies. Three of them, lined up in the yard, were little more than frames on wheels; two more, decked out and upholstered, sat to each side of the front door on a covered porch. J.D. liked to take buggy rides up Waterline Road, around the shoulder of Doyle Mountain and into the basin of the volcano in the tallest mountains in Arizona, the San Francisco Peaks.

"The most beautiful road in Arizona, and I live right smack at the bottom of it!" he said. "God is so good to me."
When he got his boat and Bush effigy back, he said, he was going to tow them through Flagstaff behind his Amish buggy, the effigy hanging from the scaffold bolted into his boat jerking with every step of the horses, sporting a sign that reads, "Freedom of Speech Is Dead in Coconino County."

J.D. waved at four bags of trash in his pickup. "I'm getting ready for my community service," he said. "I picked this all up last week. I love picking up trash. It makes me feel powerful. It's the most meaningful thing I do. And the least controversial."

Five Great Pyrenees, two blue-tick hounds and a barrel-shaped brown mutt from the pound greeted J.D. at the gate of a dusty pen. His horses and mule were in another pen. There were four geese in the barn. Cats were everywhere-40 cats, J.D. said-except in the house and the tool shed. An ultralight airplane that hadn't flown since J.D.'s emergency landing in the parking lot of Juanita's Trading Post in 1985 took up one corner of the shed. Pistons from the Wisconsin-brand engine of his sawmill were lined up on a wooden table.

He didn't know why he hadn't called Sheriff Richards as a witness, J.D. said as he ripped up Highway 89 toward Wupatki in his '64 MG Midget. "I never even had a basic premise that all the questions would support," J.D. said. "I even forgot to ask Sam Henderson what he said to Sheriff Richards." Richards, he said, "raised his right hand and said, `I'll swear on my honor Superintendent Henderson has agreed to submit a medical retirement for you if you'll come down.'"

North of Sunset Crater, cones and hills level into a sagebrush plateau that tilts toward the Painted Desert. Approaching the Wupatki Visitor Center, the first sight over the rise was a flagpole. It was the flagpole. The very one. A tour bus was parked beside it.

The woman behind the counter greeted J.D. warmly. "I didn't recognize you with your beard growing in," she said. He asked if Rangers Watson or Fender were working, but they weren't. "I was hoping to retrieve my boat and Swiss army knife and hat and charcoal lighter," he said.

On a walk to the ruins, J.D. pointed out where the Lucky Strike set had stood, across several walls of one of the main dwellings, and where cameras were set up. "When I'd stand in front of that one," he said, "they'd film with the one up here, then I'd run up here and they'd start shooting with the other one." He showed where reinforcing bars are hidden in the orange rock of the dwelling walls. He pointed to the last dwelling he worked on, where he had pressed fresh clay into chinks between the flat rocks.

What about that can of charcoal lighter the prosecutor had made such a big deal about? "I was gonna set the effigy on fire with it," J.D. says. "The pole was to hang it on when I burned it, so it wouldn't set fire to the boat. That was if the TV cameras had shown up. Can you imagine that? Burning an effigy of the president on Presidents Weekend?

"If the television stations had shown up, I was gonna put that porta-potty up on the seat, put on that Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant's hat, and take a shit right in front of the cameras. I'd probably still be in jail."

ON APRIL 16, the verdict came in on the four sets of charges. Trespassing, tampering, vandalism: guilty, $100 fine plus $10 special assessment. Interfering with agency functions: guilty, $100 plus $10 special assessment. Disorderly conduct: guilty, 90 days, suspended, and unsupervised probation. Public assemblies and meetings: not guilty.

J.D. received notice he was being fired. The five-page letter from Park Superintendent Sam Henderson outlined J.D.'s on- and off-duty conduct, including "bizarre appearance and attire," such as reporting to work with his face painted red, white and blue, that had had a "disruptive effect" on his co-workers. The letter cited his appearance, in Park Service uniform, white hood and black armband with a Martin Luther King Jr. button pinned to it, in the front row at a Northern Arizona University presentation on the Middle East given by a CIA analyst. It cited the flagpole incident.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tim Shinabarger