Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Support Your Local Small Town Bully (Second Update, 11/1)
Emphatically making his point: Tony Lopez of Homedale, Idaho, lets the public know his sentiments regarding Daryl Crandall, who is running for Owyhee County County Sheriff. The first sign he displayed may land him in jail. (Photo by Scott Watson for Pro Libertate.)
[Note the important correction below]
Tony Lopez was watching a movie with his wife when he happened to look through the living room window and noticed that Daryl Crandall was standing in front of the couple's modest home in Homedale, Idaho. That unwelcome sight was just the beginning of the sorrows that ruined what should have been a pleasant and uneventful Saturday night.
Crandall, a Deputy Sheriff who is trying to unseat his boss in next week's Owyhee County election, was "standing with his hands on his hips and a disgusted look on his face," Lopez recalled to Pro Libertate. "Then he got into his car, threw it in reverse and was already on his cell phone talking before he pulled away."
Lopez and Crandall had a history. A few months earlier, at the behest of a neighbor, Lopez reluctantly attended what had been described as a dinner party but turned out to be a campaign event for Crandall. At the urging of both his neighbor and the candidate, Lopez agreed to support Crandall, and accepted a campaign sign to display in his yard.
As he left the event, however, Lopez noticed Perry Grant -- who had been a rival candidate for the Sheriff position -- arriving for the campaign event, attired in his police uniform Lopez considered this partisan political activism by a uniformed, on-duty police officer to be entirely improper, and immediately reconsidered his support for Crandall. Rather than displaying the yard sign, he left it in his shop.
Shortly thereafter, as Lopez related to me, he learned of another incident in which on-duty police officers were out canvassing on behalf of Crandall's campaign. This outraged him even further and prompted him to retrieve the candidate's yard sign and display it prominently on his front yard -- with one modification, a black circle with a slash through it, the universal symbol for "no."
Does this look like a crime scene to you? The campaign sign Daryl Crandall gave to Tony Lopez as a gift, complete with the supposedly illegal embellishment.
"That sign was on my front yard for weeks," Lopez pointed out to Pro Libertate. "We had police pass by our house every day, sometimes several times a day, and nobody noticed it or had a problem with it -- until last Saturday night [October 25], when Crandall came by and called the police."
Five minutes after Crandall placed his call, two police cruisers arrived and decanted three officers from the Homedale Police Department. One of the officers was the same Perry Grant mentioned above, a former sheriff candidate who dropped out following last May's Oywhee County primary, in which Crandall defeated incumbent Sheriff Gary Aman.
The decision to withdraw was an odd choice on Grant's part, since it left Deputy Crandall without an opponent. Some residents of Owyhee County -- Lopez among them -- believed that Grant had only entered the Sheriff's race in order to draw votes away from Aman, and that once Crandall had defeated his boss Grant's mission was over.
Whether or not Grant had acted as Crandall's catspaw in the past, he was acting on the candidate's behalf when he paid that Saturday night visit to the Lopez family. He informed Tony that Crandall had filed a complaint accusing him of "malicious injury to property" -- specifically, defacing a campaign sign that had been paid for by the Crandall for Sheriff Campaign.
"I explained to Grant that it was my sign, displayed on my personal property, and that they had no business telling me I couldn't express my political opinions," Lopez related to me. "He told me, `Do you see the writing at the bottom, where it says that it was paid for by the campaign? This sign actually belongs to Crandall, and defacing it is a crime.'"
Lopez tried to explain that he had attempted to return the sign to Crandall, only to be told that it was his to keep. That's a point we'll return to anon. In any case, Grant wasn't disposed to hear Lopez's side of the matter. Grant's intransigence prompted Lopez -- a mild-mannered fellow, but apparently not diffident in dealing with bullies -- to remark: "We all know where you're going to work when Daryl's elected."
Grant threw up his hands and drove away, leaving two young, rather embarrassed patrol officers the task of giving Lopez a citation that could lead to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. Crandall signed the complaint as the identified "victim."
"These guys were only doing their job," Lopez observed to me in a voice clotted with disgusted resignation. "They obviously didn't think this was a worthwhile use of their time, but they did give me the ticket and take my sign away."
Just a few hours later, a friend in the construction business supplied Lopez with the larger, more conspicuous sign seen in the photo above, which he keeps illuminated at night with a floodlight. "If Crandall is elected," Lopez promises, "I'll keep this new sign up until he's gone." Of course, Lopez by all rights should be able to display the modified Crandall campaign sign that drew the ire of the pathologically self-important candidate.
Yes, that sign was paid for by the Crandall campaign, but according to Lopez -- in testimony that would be difficult to dispute -- Crandall refused to take it back when offered the opportunity. That means it was conveyed to Lopez as a gift, and thus became the property of the recipient. Q.E.D.
Daryl Crandall, would-be Sheriff of Idaho's Owyhee County.
"Crandall and his wife came and knocked on my door a few weeks after I got the [first] sign," Lopez informed me. "He asked me where the sign was, and I told him it was in my shop. He asked me why I hadn't put it out, and I told him." As Lopez recalls the conversation, Crandall said, "Oh, the other side got to you" -- a reference to incumbent Sheriff Aman, who despite being defeated in the Republican primary decided to mount a write-in campaign against his deputy.
Aman, who reportedly had already received job offers in other communities, says he was deluged with phone calls from county residents who hadn't voted, expecting him to win easily.
Urged to campaign as a write-in candidate, Aman replied that he would do so if his supporters could persuade 1,500 county residents to sign a petition on his behalf. As it happens, Lopez had decided to support Aman, but not because of any inducements offered by the sheriff or his supporters.
Crandall apparently suspected otherwise, and -- as reported by Lopez -- attempted to win the voter's support with the vague promise of a government job. "You know, I'm going to be needing help in the county," Crandall allegedly told Lopez, alluding to various positions in the Sheriff's Office. When Lopez pointed out that money was already tight, Crandall reportedly replied, "Oh, there will be money." Nevertheless, Crandall failed to make the sale; Lopez still wasn't interested in voting or campaigning for him.
[Note correction immediately below the following paragraph]
But Crandall didn't see fit to retrieve his campaign sign; rather than reclaiming it, he actually put it up in Lopez's front yard, which is at very least an exceptionally presumptuous act. Any way a reasonable person would see it, Crandall had relinquished his claim on the campaign sign; it was now Lopez's property. So was the front yard in which the would-be sheriff planted the unwanted sign, an act which, under the relevant Idaho state statute, has a better claim to the status of "malicious injury to property" (by way of trespass) than Lopez's unauthorized modification.
Correction: In a follow-up conversation today (October 30), Mr. Lopez pointed out it was not Crandall who put up the sign in the Lopez family's front yard. While it is true that Crandall didn't take back the sign when it was offered to him -- "I told him I was lying down on it in my shop when I was changing the oil in my car," Lopez explains -- it was Lopez himself who put it up after modifying it to reflect his opinion of the candidate.
I am solely and exclusively responsible for the error in the original report, and I apologize to both Mr. Crandall and Mr. Lopez for my earlier, inaccurate report of this detail. -- WNG
Yet it is Lopez, whose property was violated and who claims to endure ongoing harassment by Crandall's supporters, who will be dragged into court on November 5 -- the day after the election -- because his chosen method of expressing a political opinion injured Daryl Crandall's overfed sense of self-regard.
"If Aman is re-elected, this whole thing will go away," Lopez predicted to me. "If Crandall wins, I suppose it will go to trial." Lopez, a father of four children (including a teenage son suffering from autism and mild mental retardation), was a stone mason until he broke his back on the job a few years ago. He now works as a paper carrier for the Idaho Press-Tribune, a newspaper published in nearby Nampa.
One of the nastiest little repercussions of Lopez's experience was a vituperative and ill-informed article by Press-Tribune associate editor Vicky Holbrook. "I work for that paper, and she didn't even think it was worthwhile to talk to me, to get my side of the story," Lopez protested.
Daryl Crandall hasn't had similar difficulty in getting out his version of events, despite his consistent refusal to speak with the press -- about anything. His campaign literature, abounding in promises, is barren of relevant biographical detail. Immediately prior to the May 2008 Owyhee primary, Crandall -- like every other individual campaigning for a county office -- received a survey from the local paper, the redoubtable Owyhee Avalanche.
Crandall was one of two candidates who refused to answer the questionaire, which -- in addition to inquiries regarding specific policy matters -- would have required disclosure of biographical details and professional qualifications. Crandall makes a point of describing himself as a military veteran, but few details of his service are publicly available.
Since graduating from Glenns Ferry High School in 1981, he has served in a variety of law enforcement and security jobs, both in Idaho and Oregon; he describes himself as a 26-year veteran of law enforcement. What little is known of his record doesn't inspire confidence regarding either his professionalism or judgment.
The week prior to the primary, the Avalanche (whose editor, it must be noted, is Joe Aman, the Sheriff's brother) reported that Crandall, who joined the Owyhee Sheriff's Office in 2004, resigned just a few months earlier from his post as police chief in Banks, Oregon, a tiny town near Portland.
According to an account in the May 20, 2003 issue of the Portland Oregonian, Crandall's resignation the previous week pre-empted his likely firing by the City Council, which was looking into allegations of personal and professional misconduct. The latter involved improper bookeeping and unauthorized use of city property; the former was much more serious -- an allegation that he had choked his teenage daughter during a confrontation in 2003.
No charges were filed in the alleged choking incident. Crandall's former mother-in-law, Lorraine Wodyga, claims that she and Crandall's ex-wife have "spent thousands of dollars trying to conceal the daughter's whereabouts from her father," as noted by the Avalanche. This claim makes an interesting companion to one of the few publicly available facts about Crandall's tenure as Chief of Police in Banks, Oregon.
In 2001, Crandall helped draft, and testified before the legislature on behalf of, a proposed law (Senate Bill 542) that would have criminalized the act of "assisting a runaway child." This would have been a class "C" felony punishable by a prison term of five years and/or a $100,000 fine.
It's entirely possible that Crandall's interest in the issue of runaway children was prompted by purely public-spirited motivations, and untainted by his own domestic concerns. In similar fashion, it's possible that Crandall's zeal to prosecute Lopez for defacing a campaign sign reflects a marrow-deep commitment to the protection of property in principle, and that his indignant body language upon discovering Lopez's supposed infraction was the anguished reaction of a paladin of public order, rather than the theatrical petulance of a petty, self-intoxicated bully.
As I said, those are possibilities ... in roughly the same sense that it's possible Paris Hilton could become the leader of a movement to restore teenage chastity.
Prior to his five-year tenure as Chief of Police in Banks, Crandall was police supervisor in Glenns Ferry for roughly nine months, from January to October of 1998. He held various law enforcement positions in Idaho's Blaine County, Shoshone County, Canyon County, and the Homedale Police Department before being hired by Sheriff Aman to serve as a deputy in Idaho's second-largest county. At some point, according to one source I spoke with, he also pulled a stint as a security guard at the Ore-Ida plant in Ontario, Oregon.
The patchiness and a pungency of Crandall's record are hardly improved by his determined evasiveness about its details. He's a very suitable illustration of the need for the much-maligned "Rate My Cop" system, which provides a customer satisfaction rating for law enforcement personnel. His resume is likewise suggestive of the ease with which "problem" law enforcement officers can migrate from one town to another and find employment without enduring anything approaching adequate scrutiny.
Building a surveillance state abroad, when the real struggle for freedom is here at home: Sgt. Anthony DeAugustineo, a 25-year-old native of Homedale, Idaho, uses a portable scanner to check an Iraqi's fingerprints against a database of terrorism suspects before allowing the man to ride the bus. Don't be surprised to see the same technology employed, ere long, in airports, train stations, and elsewhere here in Der Heimat.
Shortly after he was given a summons to appear in court for the supposed crime of altering his own property to express his political views, Tony Lopez had a telephone conversation with his 25-year-old son Jay, who is currently stationed in Germany following combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"When I told him about what happened to me," Tony recalled, his voice thick with emotion, "Jay said, `Dad, what the hell am I fighting for over here?... Don't let them bully you, don't let them intimidate you. I sure wish I were there with you."
Although Tony Lopez would probably disagree with my assessment, I believe his experience, and the potential conflict he could have with a Sheriff prone to abuse his authority, illustrate another reason why the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should be ended immediately.
As the government ruling us, from the imperial heights in Washington to the smallest retail outlets of tyranny found in rural America, becomes overtly hostile toward what remains of our liberty, the fittest and most idealistic of our youth should be engaged in the real freedom struggle here at home, in whatever fashion that battle may need to be fought.
UPDATE, November 1
Writing in response to the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial mentioned above, former Owyhee County prosecutor Ed Yarbrough takes to task Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook (incorrectly identified earlier as "associate editor") for "the false conclusion that Tony Lopez is guilty of a crime."
"The crime of Malicious Injury ... [requires] evidence of a specific type of criminal intent known as malice," Yarbrough observes. "Anyone can see that Mr. Lopez only intended to make a political statement. This is evidenced by the fact that he put a political sign in his front yard in broad daylight.... Criminals do not display their criminal deeds in their front yard for the world to see."
Given the absence of criminal malice involved in this matter -- unless, as Daryl Crandall's needy ego would dictate, we assume that public opposition to his candidacy is intrinsically malicious -- it "cannot even be considered a dispute," continues Yarbrough. "It is best characterized as a property misunderstanding. This fact makes the presence of criminal intent even less likely. It is easy to see that Mr. Lopez may have thought that the sign was his. It was left at his property un-displayed and effectively abandoned for many weeks. Mr. Crandall showed no concern for the sign until Mr. Lopez expressed his political speech with it."
"The truth is Mr. Lopez never acted like a criminal or with any criminal intent," concludes Yarbrough. "He was being a good citizen by expressing his political views. When a nerve was struck, Mr. Lopez was charged with a serious crime over a simple misunderstanding involving a sign of nominal value."
In this matter, is the prissy thuggishness of Daryl Crandall that is best characterized as a crime: Unable to countenance public criticism without getting his frilly underthings in a twist, he maliciously arranged for the spurious prosecution of an innocent and well-respected citizen, who certainly has better things to worry about than the time and expense that will be required to deal with Crandall's fraudulent charge in court.
Because Gary Aman's re-election will require voters to write in his name, and spell it correctly (a mis-spelling would void a ballot), there is a chance that Daryl Crandall could be elected sheriff next Tuesday, making him the paramount law enforcement officer in Idaho's second-largest county (in geographic terms).
This can't be permitted to happen -- not only because of the unprovoked crime Crandall committed against Tony Lopez, but also because the candidate's history demonstrates that he has no business whatsoever holding an office of public trust, particularly one involving the discretionary use of lethal violence. Watch this space for additional details, coming soon.
Dum spiro, pugno!