The mystery surrounding that question took some mind-bending turns over the weekend, including an FBI report over a stolen pseudonym, and a threat by John R. Dalton Jr. to sue whoever is using his name to explain away the acts of Mr. Falken.
You may recall that on Friday, I reported on the appearance and disappearance of a news site calling itself the Arizona Daily Herald. The Herald first became widely known on Sunday, May 15, when a person calling himself Jim Falken sent emails to the Pima County supervisors and the candidates for supervisor, asking their opinion of the road-repair plan Supervisor Ally Miller had released the day before.
My reporting — and that of the Tucson Weekly and Tucson Sentinel — suggested that the Herald website may have been set up by a staff member in Miller’s office, Timothy DesJarlais. He had repeatedly used the pseudonym Jim Falken in an online role-playing game. He has also apparently set up online news sites before: The web sites Tucson Trumpet and NSNBC International list him as the contact or contributor.
On Friday, Miller had a choice of whether to cast her suspicions on DesJarlais, a 19-year-old staffer who works part-time for the office and is running for the Marana school board, or to defend him. In a decision that could determine her political future, she chose to back him, full force.
Although she and DesJarlais refused to respond to multiple messages from the Weekly over two days last week to explain their side of the story before a report was published, Miller lashed out the media for reporting the story.
“Our crack reporters have done another bang up job...smearing the name of a 19 year old young man who works on my staff,” Miller posted on Facebook. “He was accused of contacting candidates etc. I know the name and phone number of the individual who did this and I have filed an FBI cybercrimes report as has my staff member. This individual has committed federal crimes. He wasn't quite as smart as he thought he was. I will keep you updated and hope to see this loser prosecuted. Oh and as for the media who put these reports out on a 19 year old kid. You ought to be ashamed!”
Miller told KVOA News that the “hacking” incident was designed as an elaborate affair to smear her and her office. She pinned the blame on a man named John Dalton during an interview with the Explorer Newspaper (which is owned by Tucson Local Media, as is the Tucson Weekly).
As it turns out, there is a John R. Dalton Jr. in Tucson. He’s GOP activist who moved to Tucson from Michigan about a year ago.
That John Dalton is not happy about being targeted by Miller.
... the John R. Dalton Jr. who has been on the receiving end of accusations by Miller has been willing to talk as he tries to clear his own name.
Dalton sent out an email dismissing the email message from Jim Falken 2/John R. Dalton Jr. as “fraudulent in its entirety. The person who wrote the e-mail obviously did so as an act of desperation and made some very big mistakes. The person says that he is not to be confused with the other 'John Dalton out there who has come from Michigan and ran for Arizona delegate...' In this section of the e-mail, it is apparent the person is referring to me, yet at the end of the e-mail he signs off using the full legal name of the only John Dalton, in the entire city of Tucson, who is from Michigan and was a state delegate, John R. Dalton Jr. (me).”
Dalton also called for an investigation and said he wanted to pursue a civil action against whoever was using his name.
“Since Supervisor Ally Miller has already filed complaints with the authorities to investigate who the idiot is that is behind all of this, it is my hope that an investigation goes forward, so we can bring the person responsible up on criminal charges and placed behind bars,” Dalton wrote. “On top of this, once a name is released, it is also my full intention to file a civil case in court against the individual or individuals. I do not take lightly to someone using my name for illicit activities.”
In short, Miller has gone all-in defending a questionable story by her young aide.
The investigations by law-enforcement officials and journalists will reveal if that was a good choice.