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Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006 10:02 pm

A taste of his own medicine

One-Eyed Jack finds out what it’s like to be the victim of misinformation

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I got an e-mail recently from an unlikely source. A roiling tale of police shenanigans ranging from political incorrectness to official misconduct, it might’ve been the beginning of a good little news story if it were accurate. But it’s not easy to get within spitting distance of reality when two of the three players involved cannot talk about the incident, and the third has a reputation for being a taco short of a combo plate. Still, if you wheedle enough bureaucrats and glimpse enough documents, you can piece together a more realistic version of the same story in the e-mail an come up with an amusing little romp reminiscent of The Three Stooges . . . if Larry and Moe had had cell phones.   The escapade started with a prank call. Not your garden variety “Do you have cotton balls?” monkeyshine (“You do?! What are you — a teddy bear?!?”) but something vulgar broadcast (thanks to speakerphone) over the mobile device of Sangamon County Chief Deputy Tony Sacco while he was dining in a restaurant. Sacco was, by all accounts, understandably upset. It wasn’t just the nastiness of the call that bothered him; it was the fact that some prankster had obtained the digits to his Nextel — a phone meant for law-enforcement business only. The next day, he obtained a subpoena requiring Nextel to provide the identity of the subscriber from whose phone the call had been placed. As it turned out, that phone was registered not to an individual but to an obscure local business. The company’s name, which is not listed in the phone book, included the word Don, thereby raising an intriguing question: Could this phone belong to Sacco’s long-time nemesis, the former radio shock-jock Don “One-Eyed Jack” Jackson? Their feud — as all townies undoubtedly recall — dates back to July 3, 1998, when Jackson’s big fireworks show at Lake Springfield went tragically awry. A few lamparies experienced premature kablooey, setting off a huge explosion and badly injuring two technicians aboard the fireworks barge. On shore, Jackson and Sacco had a heated argument about whether it was safe for officials to approach the barge. Sacco ended up filing a misdemeanor assault charge against Jackson for throwing a cup of water on him. The subsequent trial left Jackson fuming about Sacco to this day. “He lied in a court of law. He said I threw a glass of water on him, and it wasn’t true,” Jackson claims. “And if it were true, it would be something to laugh about.” Perhaps it was an awareness of Jackson’s grudge that inspired officials at the sheriff’s department to waste no time tracking down the obscure company that owned the prankster’s phone. It’s hard to know for sure since Sacco can’t discuss the matter, except to say the sheriff’s office routinely responds to citizens’ complaints of telephone harassment with this same enthusiasm. In this particular case, the sheriff’s investigators discovered that the offensive call had been placed not by Jackson, but by one of their very own badge-wearing officers. This explains why Sacco isn’t able to talk. “We’d like to be able to tell you the whole story, but we couldn’t comment about that,” he says. “It involves a personnel matter and I don’t think we can answer anything about it because there was discipline involved.” The officer who placed the call — let’s just refer to him as Curly — obviously can’t speak about what happened, nor will his attorney, citing the substantial suspension his client has already suffered. Jackson, however, is not only free to talk but anxious to complain he was the victim in this scenario. He says Sacco sicced his Drug Investigation Response Team on him, slandered him throughout the hallways of the sheriff’s department and the State’s Attorney’s office, threatened to seek a felony charge against Jackson for interfering with a law enforcement officer, and promised to invite News Channel 20 to film his arrest. I found zero evidence that the DIRT team had been alerted, nor that the state’s attorney’s office had been asked to issue a felony warrant. But Jackson insists it’s all true. “People from the sheriff’s office picked up the phone and called me and told me!” he says. “It was a matter of a top cop running amok, and it just blows me away.” He’s so outraged, in fact, that he brought this whole yarn to me — the writer whose last article about him carried the headline “How One-Eyed Jack wrecked my life” [Feb 13, 2003]. Without rehashing too much painful history, let’s just say I was burned by Jackson myself, simply by being a guest on his radio show the day he defamed one of my professional colleagues, by broadcasting a rumor that was patently false. Surely he had gained some empathy, some remorse for what he did to my colleague and me — now that he had been unjustly accused. Right? Sadly, no. “There’s a huge difference between a radio talk show and an individual from the sheriff’s office running amok,” Jackson claims. In his mind, a little chatter in the halls of some county offices was somehow worse than slinging mud willy nilly via radio airwaves. What ails Jackson can’t be cured even with a dose of his own medicine.
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