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Daniel Ruth

A case of excessive ego in the first degree

This just in! Stop the presses! Get me rewrite, baby! Grady Judd has just announced he had Cheerios for breakfast this morning! Grady Judd has also proclaimed he plans to have a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch and as for dinner, stand by — a press conference will be forthcoming.

In fact, the high sheriff of Polk County will be holding a press conference to release — exclusively — details of a future press conference, just as soon as he can figure out which arrest du jour he wants to hold up as yet another sterling example of sleuthing skills that make Dick Tracy look like a night watchman.

Are you beginning to get the feeling the Sheriff of Grady I Am spends more time on television hawking himself than the late Billy Mays? Can Judd pimping Popeil's pocket combination chicken roaster and fingerprint set under the lights of the Home Shopping Network be that far behind?

We probably don't really want to know.

The High Sheriff of Narcissusham was in rare form the past few days over the arrest of a hapless mope from Colorado who is to literary cafe society what WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to keeping a secret.

Philip Ray Greaves, who wrote the least seller The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lovers Code of Conduct, was yanked out of Colorado by Judd's office and whisked away to Polk County on charges of distributing obscene material after an undercover deputy persuaded the author to send him an autographed copy of his tome.

It is certainly true that as a piece of writing, Greaves' tawdry exercise in abusing the English language isn't likely to make its way to Oprah's Book Club anytime soon. But if the High Sheriff of Hubrisham starts tossing every twisted author with bizarre fetishes into the hoosegow, to paraphrase Roy Scheider in Jaws, we're gonna need a bigger jail.

There is also no argument Greaves, who looks like a Keebler elf in a trench coat, and his book represent the most outer fringes of the First Amendment protections of free speech. The courts have struggled for decades to precisely define exactly what constitutes obscenity.

Indeed the U.S. Supreme Court once famously forced itself to watch porn movies — over and over again, just to make sure it grasped the evidence — in a still unresolved and unsatisfactory effort to arrive at some sense of a universal standard of obscenity. And all we have been left with is that old line Justice Potter Stewart offered up: "I know it when I see it."

In Grady Judd's eyes, he's seen it and it looks like Philip Ray Greaves. And given this is Polk County, by the time the prosecutors get finished with this chap, jurors are going to think Larry Flynt looks like Mister Rogers.

The problem, of course, is that if the High Sheriff of Egoham gets it way, where do you draw the line of cheesy, kinky sexual material involving underage youth? Would video stores, for example, fear prosecution for renting Louis Malle's film Pretty Baby, or Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver?

Would public libraries find themselves hauled before Grady Judd for having Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita on the shelf?

After all, it would only take Grady Judd getting his badge all in a wad to launch of a good ol' boy fatwa turning Polk County into a First Amendment nuclear winter.

Judd, who one might think has more public relations flacks on staff than SWAT team members, quickly called — what else? — a press conference to express his outrage.

But the High Sheriff of Me-Me-Meham was only getting started. Within days of the Greaves caper, Judd called another — what else? — press conference to announce he was yanking all the basketball hoops out of the jail, as if miscreants are plotting crimes in Polk County just so they can get arrested in order to practice their jump shots.

It was yet another publicity stunt on the part of the High Sheriff of Mirror-Mirror-on-the Wallham to establish his bona fides as the Joe Arpaio-lite of Florida, after the preening Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff who has never met a camera he didn't fall in love with.

For all his publicity gimmicks to hype himself as a hard-charging crime-fighter, when it comes to his own department's shortcomings, Grady Judd suddenly becomes more shy than a three-toed sloth, as was the case in 2002 when a 16-year-old was killed in a crash following a high-speed car chase by one of his deputies. By the time the evidence was more compromised than Madonna by Judd's department, state investigators were unable to bring additional charges.

This time, Judd sent out one of his public affairs minions to field questions.

Well, he was probably too busy preparing his next press conference to announce a massive crackdown on low-hanging pants.

A case of excessive ego in the first degree 12/27/10 [Last modified: Monday, December 27, 2010 5:58pm]
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