One of the most insulting misconceptions about heavy metal is that the fanbase is made up of criminals. It’s a hurtful myth that has been propagated by politicians, church groups, and the media for decades, and one that many musicians have long been fed up with.
On October 29th, 2007, a sheriff in Fargo, North Dakota used an Ozzy Osbourne concert to bait people with outstanding warrants into a honeypot. Sheriff Paul D. Laney created a fake pre-concert party for Ozzy’s fans. Under the name of a fictitious company called PDL Productions, Laney sent out 500 invitations to the gathering. The invites, which offered the same perks included in Osbourne’s official VIP tour packages, went to people who’d allegedly ignored court summons and child-support payments or failed to pay fines. Upon their arrival, the “guests” were immediately handcuffed and arrested. Afterward, Laney held a televised press conference to proclaim the success of the sting.
Denying prior knowledge of the operation, Osbourne took personal offense to Laney’s antics. In a statement, he said:
“Instead of holding a press conference to pat himself on the back, Sheriff Laney should be apologizing to me for using my name in connection with these arrests. It’s insulting to me and to my audience and it shows how lazy this particular sheriff is when it comes to doing his job.
“Sheriff Laney went out of his way to tarnish my reputation by implying that I somehow attract a criminal element, which is certainly not true,” Ozzy added. “My audiences are good, hard-working people who have been hugely supportive of my music for nearly four decades. They have also been very supportive of my wife Sharon’s colon cancer charity by raising over a million dollars (partly through VIP ticket sales) at my shows. It’s obvious to me that this sheriff has an agenda and is just trying to make a name for himself on my back.”
Although Ozzy’s comments might have seemed harsh, he went on to say that he harbors no ill will toward the people of Fargo and plans to return to the city in the future, “under more favorable circumstances.” So far, that has yet to happen.
For his part, Sheriff Laney offered a backhanded apology of sorts, “We meant no disrespect toward Mr. Osbourne or his show. What we did was a very creative law enforcement technique to lure individuals who had active criminal warrants to come to us.
“They get very creative in how they abscond from the law. We just got real creative in how we reeled them in.”