Sheriff Says No Apologies For Ozzy Sting


November 8, 2007

One Ozzy Osbourne fan thinks it’s clever while another thinks he should sue. Either way, the Cass County sheriff who used Osbourne’s concert as bait in a sting operation says he’s not apologizing to the hard rock musician.

“If Mr. Osbourne has a desire and a need to speak to me, he can contact me at the Cass County sheriff’s office,” Sheriff Paul Laney said, in response to a statement from Osbourne demanding an apology. “I’m proud of my staff. We’re not going to apologize for doing our jobs.”

Laney’s department sent out 500 letters to people with outstanding warrants, inviting them to a phony party at a local nightclub before Osbourne’s concert with Rob Zombie last week at the Fargodome. The offer included two free tickets to the show.

More than 30 people showed up and were arrested. They were being sought on charges ranging from delinquent child support payments to traffic and drug fines.

Osbourne said in a statement that the sting tarnished his reputation by implying his concerts attract criminals. He could not be reached Wednesday for further comment.

Anthony James, 36, an Ozzy Osbourne fan from Fargo, said Osbourne should sue the city and the sheriff for using his name without permission.

“It’s not right. It’s not fair,” James said. “It also implies that all of his fans are criminals and crooks. That’s stereotyping us.”

Fargo lawyer Michael Raum said North Dakota does not have “false light” laws that aim to protect against invasion of privacy, and it’s unlikely that Osbourne has any legal recourse because he is a public figure.

“He would be facing an uphill climb,” Raum said.

Troy Salonen, 39, who owns a guitar store in Fargo, is an Ozzy Osbourne fan and member of a local fan club for Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde. Salonen laughed at Osbourne’s comment that the sting hurt his reputation.

“I think snorting ants and biting the heads off doves and bats has done more to damage his reputation than this sting,” he said.

“I thought it was ingenious,” Salonen said. “If somebody has broken the law they have warrants out for them, they should get picked up. It was clever and I think it was the right thing to do.”

The sheriff’s department was not specifically targeting the Osbourne concert, Laney said. “That show came up during the time we were dealing with the situation,” he said.

Managers at Playmakers, the nightclub that hosted the sting, said they were assured the location would be kept quiet, and said they won’t hold another one.

Rob Sobolik, executive director of the Fargodome, said he hoped the incident would not hurt efforts by the dome and its managing company, Global Spectrum, to attract concerts.

“I think it’s important to point out that the Fargodome and Global Spectrum had nothing to do with this. We didn’t support it. We didn’t condone it,” Sobolik said.

Sobolik said he was contacted by authorities about holding the phony party at the dome.

“We said, ‘absolutely not,'” Sobolik said. “We didn’t see any benefit by doing that.”

Steven Mottinger, a Fargo public defender, said there may have been a better option for the sheriff’s department.

“They knew where to send these people letters,” Mottinger said. “If they were Cass County residents, don’t you think they could just go out and pick them up?”

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