Here are the weekend’s developments in the story of the Arizona Daily Herald, an online news site that came to life for about 24 hours on Facebook before evaporating from the web.
As the Weekly already reported here and here, a 19-year-old communications aide to Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller, Timothy DesJarlais, has an online alter ego, Jim Falken. In a remarkable coincidence, Jim Falken is also the name used by whoever was behind the Arizona Daily Herald, which has many political observers suspicious that DesJarlais made a clumsy effort to masquerade as a reporter and publish stories on the Arizona Daily Herald site in order to report on issues involving his boss.
While he ran into a bathroom to avoid commenting on any connection to Herald website on Thursday, DesJarlais has since denied any involvement in the now-defunct online project.
“Regarding the current Arizona Daily Herald site and email address, those accounts are bogus accounts created by someone trying to impersonate me,” DesJarlais said in a statement. “As I work for Supervisor Miller and know both Kim and Marla well, I would have no reasons or time to pull any stunts like this. Nevertheless, I do apologize to anyone for the inconveniences caused to them and charge whoever did this to come forward and confess the truth.”
Miller has fully supported her staffer’s story and announced that she plans to file a report with the FBI.
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 ExplorerNewspaper (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.
But Dalton says he has no idea how he got tangled up in the entire mess. He says he has met both Miller and DesJarlais in passing but doesn’t have any kind of relationship with either one of them. He only learned that Miller was accusing him of orchestrating this plot after she began sending Facebook messages accusing him being involved in the scheme and he began to get phone calls from members of the media.
“I haven nothing to do with these websites or this fake name—Jim Falken or whatever,” Dalton said. “It’s frustrating to be accused of something that I have no clue about. It’s confusing, but at the same time, I want to get to the bottom of what the heck is going on. Ally Miller is posting stuff with my name on it. She should figure out who this is first.”
The story took yet another weird turn when the fake Jim Falken virtually resurfaced on Saturday with an email apologizing for all the confusion he had caused and claiming that his real name was John R. Dalton Jr., but not the John R. Dalton Jr. that Miller had implicated in the scandal.
“I have gotten into blogging and I wanted to start up my own news platform but to both protect my identity and make me seem objective, I utilized the pseudonym, Jim Falken, which I happened to run across while observing some nation roleplaying and blogs by a Timothy DesJarlais,” Jim Falken No. 2 aka John R. Dalton No. 2 explained in his email. “Although I did use the same pseudonym as Mr DesJarlais, under no circumstances did I ever intend to assume his identity. All of my social media accounts never used a single picture of him and I never mentioned his name in all of my work.”
“During the Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting, I was watching it via the county's online streaming webpage,” the email continued. “During discussion of the Ban on Texting Ordinance, I wanted a picture for my Facebook page and one of my friends gave me Timothy DeJarlais's number, who apparently was a staffer for Supervisor Miller and usually attended the meetings. I texted him requesting a picture, identifying myself as John Dalton, which he replied rather quickly. I posted up the picture and it did surprise me how quickly he seemed to respond, but it has now dawned on me that he may have confused me with another ‘John Dalton.’ Upon further research, there is another John Dalton out there who has come from Michigan and ran for Arizona delegate during this year's state convention. It has come to my attention that Mr. DesJarlais has gotten me confused with this John Dalton, although we are two different people with different phone numbers numbers. It also seems others have been confused and alleged that Mr DeJarlais is the owner of the Arizona Daily Herald.”
In his email, John R. Dalton Jr. No. 2/aka Jim Falken No. 2 appeared eager to set the record straight and clear DesJardais’s name. But calls to the number on his press release went unreturned.
However, 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.”