Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Martial Law Is Their Business, And Business Sure Is Swell (SPECIAL UPDATE, 10/2)

The "dream" realized: The Two Rivers Detention Facility, the proudest achievement of Hardin, Montana's political class. Sure, it's empty now, but I'm sure those nice men in the black SUVs can do something about that....

UPDATE, October 2

Hardin, Montana -- For an on-the-scene report on developments in the Hardin scandal, please go to LibertyNewsRadio.com and listen to this evening's program. I'll have a more detailed report here on Pro Libertate as soon as feasible.

If you build it, they will come.

That would appear to be the business plan of an enigmatic California company called American Police Force (APF), which appears to be effectively taking over the town of Hardin, Montana.

The "it" in question is
a large jail facility outside Hardin, Montana, that was built several years ago but thus far remains unused. "They" refers to prisoners to fill said jail -- a 114,000 square foot, 464-bed facility. APF has yet to become firmly established in Hardin (pop. 3,400), but the company's representatives are confident "the place [meaning the jail] would start filling up by 2010."

At present, the firm is said to be doing "market research," an ominous prospect, given that it's in the business of detention. And it has even spoken about the possibility of expanding the jail within a few years.

Say, that is good news -- at least for the people on AFP's payroll. Since last Thursday, when company personnel rolled into town in a convoy of black Mercedes SUVs embossed with seals advertising a non-existent "City of Hardin Police Department,"the company's payroll has increased by at least one, and possibly two, key local figures.

The first to be snapped up was Becky Shay, a former Billings
Gazette reporter whose beat included the Hardin jail. Within a day of AFP's arrival, she was hired away from the paper to serve as a $60,000-a-year spokesperson for the company (a pretty hefty salary increase for a local reporter in Montana). So quickly and slickly was this career change made that Shay's editor didn't even know she had talked with AFP about the position.

Yes, that logo just screams "America!" to me: There's nothing like the combination of a crown and a double-headed imperial eagle to summon the memory of the Revolutionary War patriots who fought to free themselves from an imperial monarch. Hey, wait a minute....

Also in "discussions" with AFP is Kerri Smith, a finalist in Hardin's mayoral race and wife of Greg Smith, Executive Director of the Two Rivers Authority (TRA). The TRA is Hardin's economic development agency, which issued $27 million in bonds to build the jail as a public works project.

In what must be the most ill-conceived piece of civic boosterism ever to assault my senses, the TRA's webpage presents the Hardin jail -- that's a structure intended to deprive people of their freedom, remember -- as the poetic expression of a cherished dream: A YouTube video proudly displays slides of the jail set to the unbearable strains of Russell Watson's wretched ballad "Faith of the Heart" (the musical accompaniment is heard on the TRA's "Detention Center" webpage):

*** ***

Yes, there's nothing quite like an effeminate power ballad to capture the pure aesthetic grace of a detention camp ringed by barbed wire.

Apparently, the "long road" to building that jail didn't end in prosperity.
Since the finished jail has remained empty, the bonds have gone into default. At one point, Hardin's city government indicated it would accept relocated detainees from Gitmo; this prompted a legal battle between the city and the Montana state government.

Yeah, these guys look legit: What could possibly go wrong here?

Last March, AFP was incorporated in California. Shortly thereafter it began talks with Hardin city officials and the TRA.

City officials eventually announced an agreement with the mysterious firm that would bring in $2.6 million for use of the jail, in addition to an "investment" of $23 million to build a new training facility for military and police (which are assumed to be part of one integrated coercive apparatus, of course) on the same TRA-owned property.

The deal -- which was publicly announced although the specifics were never publicly disclosed -- is supposedly a cornucopia of civic benefits: New computers for the schools; a homeless shelter; a fleet of Mercedes patrol cars for the envisioned city police force; donations to the local food pantry; an animal shelter; gold-plated fixtures for the Mayor's executive washroom. OK, I made that last one up. I think.

Have you seen this man? Greg Smith, Executive Director of Hardin's Two Rivers Authority, negotiated a deal to turn over his town to what appeared to be a Blackwater front group, then made himself scarce.

TRA Executive Director Greg Smith, whose wife is in discussions for a position with AFP, helped negotiate the deal. Immediately after it was finished, he was put on "administrative leave," and went to ground. (Calls from Pro Libertate to Mr. Smith's number at the TRA were not returned.)

What appears to be happening here -- and until relevant details are pried out of the prehensile grip of the people running things, we can't know for sure -- is nothing less than a corporatist-style military coup: the takeover of a small town in Montana by a politically connected, federally subsidized paramilitary organization.

They're talking, but saying nothing: APF spokeswoman Becky Shay (left) and corporate official "Captain" Michael Hilton.

At a press conference a few days ago, Becky Shay grandly announced that "The decision is the name of the parent company will not be released."

Suspicions were immediately aroused that APF is a tentacle of the corporatist mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater, but now doing business under the odd name Xe (pronounced "Zee"). However, a press spokeswoman for Xe informed Pro Libertate that "We have no connection to that company, and had never heard of it" prior to recent developments in Montana.

Hardin may well be the first of many economically devastated communities to be given a lifeline by the burgeoning military-homeland security-prison-industrial complex. Lifelines of that kind can quickly become nooses.

(Watch this space for more details as they become available....)

UPDATE: Is the Balloon Going Up -- or is the Curtain Rising on a Farce?

My first reaction when I read a write-up of recent events in Hardin was that it was a retread of every "Blue Scare" story I had dealt with more than a decade and a half ago as a researcher at The New American magazine. (Here's a link to the radio program I did on Monday in which I first addressed the developments in Hardin.)

Right up until the OKC bombing there was a steady stream of alarmist rumors -- many of them provoked by events at Waco and Ruby Ridge -- of various paramilitary forces gathering in obscure, distant locations to wreak havoc on innocent people. Often the accounts would include vague but insistent references to the involvement of foreign troops wearing UN insignia (hence the expression "Blue Scare" as a generic description).

What made those stories credible at all was the fact that the government ruling us had displayed an uncanny ability to exceed our lowest expectations. There's certainly an element of that at work regarding the Hardin story: The militarization of law enforcement is a documentable menace, as is the increasing impunity with which police inflict lethal or near-lethal violence on innocent citizens. The preparations for outright military rule are likewise very real, and disturbing.

Still, there is something utterly surreal about the Hardin case; it's as if some kind of martial law melodrama were being played out as an enhanced "reality" program -- something like Red Dawn meets Jericho with a touch of the Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" broadcast added for good measure.

As much as it would pain me to have been played in this fashion, I'm hoping that's what we're dealing with here. In any case, I intend to visit Hardin, find out what I can, and publish what I learn. Perhaps by then this whole thing will have proven to be an elaborate version of "Punk'd." We'll soon see....

One last thought.

Shortly before the brilliant and principled people* running The New American decided they'd be better off without my services, I wrote a piece in which I made the following prediction:

"[E]ver-mounting debt, the impendingcollapse of the dollar, and the unfolding garrison state--could lead to some exceptionally unpleasant outcomes. For instance: it is possible that someday in the not too distant future a foreign interest like China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia could be in charge of our prison system....

Foreign lenders are preparing to buy our country out from underneath us, taking advantage of the dollar's decline and the desperation of cash-strapped state and local governments. Notes a recent USA Today front page story: "States and local governments across the USA are preparing to cash in valuable public assets for one-time windfalls that could reap tens of billions of dollars. The deals would let governments collect billions of extra dollars without raising taxes but would reduce their future revenue."

Highways, airports, state student-loan portfolios, sewer systems, state-run lotteries--all of these are being put up for sale. Could jails and prisons be put on the auction block, as well--as post-9/11 America takes an ominous turn in the direction of a police state? With more than two million residing behind bars in the United States, and states and municipalities increasingly turning to private, for-profit entities to run these facilities, the possibility really can't be dismissed outright. Beijing, Moscow, and Riyadh all have large dollar reserves and a lot of experience in the field of incarceration. This scenario is just one of several ugly possibilities arising from our present circumstances. "

("21st Century Feudalism," TNA, August 7, 2006; don't look for it on the magazine's website, since the folks in charge are busy scrubbing it of any evidence that someone named William Norman Grigg once wrote for that publication).

Assuming that the American Police Force isn't some kind of farcical reality theater road troupe, there's reason to believe its parent company has connections with some interesting people in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Once again, I'll keep looking, so please keep reading.

Second Update: Should We Call Him "Captain" Harold Hill?

Here's a significant piece of background info on "Captain Michael Hilton," the Montenegrin Mountebank running AFP:

[...] [W]hen Hilton came to town last week — wearing a military-style uniform and offering three Mercedes SUVs for use by local law enforcement — he was greeted with hugs by some grateful residents. The promise of more than 200 new jobs for a community struggling long before the recession hit had won them over.

But public documents and interviews with Hilton's associates and legal adversaries offer a different picture, that of a convicted felon with a number of aliases, a string of legal judgments against him, two bankruptcies and a decades-long reputation for deals gone bad.

American Police Force is the company Hilton formed in March to take over the Hardin jail.

"Such schemes you cannot believe," said Joseph Carella, an Orange County, Calif. doctor and co-defendant with Hilton in a real estate fraud case that resulted in a civil judgment against Hilton and several others.

"The guy's brilliant. If he had been able to do honest work, he probably would have been a gazillionaire," Carella said.

Court documents show Hilton has outstanding judgments against him in three civil cases totaling more than $1.1 million.

As for Hilton's military expertise, including his claim to have advised forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, those interviewed knew of no such feats. Instead, Hilton was described alternately by those who know him as an arts dealer, cook, restaurant owner, land developer, loan broker and car salesman — always with a moneymaking scheme in the works.

Hilton did not return several calls seeking comment. American Police Force attorney Maziar Mafi referred questions to company spokeswoman Becky Shay.

When asked about court records detailing Hilton's past, Shay replied, "The documents speak for themselves. If anyone has found public documents, the documents are what they are."

Shay declined comment on Hilton's military experience....

Hilton, 55, uses the title "captain" when introducing himself and on his business cards. But he acknowledged it was not a military rank.

He said he is naturalized U.S. citizen and native of Montenegro. Aliases for Hilton that appear in court documents include Miodrag Dokovich, Michael Hamilton, Hristian Djokich and Michael Djokovich.

One attorney who dealt with Hilton in a fraud lawsuit referred to him as a "chameleon" and he has a reputation for winning people over with his charm.

His criminal record goes back to at least 1988, when Hilton was arrested in Santa Ana, Calif. for writing bad checks.

Beginning in 1993, Hilton spent six years in prison in California on a dozen counts of grand theft and other charges including illegal diversion of construction funds.

The charges included stealing $20,000 in a real estate swindle in which Hilton convinced an associate to give him a deed on property in Long Beach, Calif., ostensibly as collateral on a loan. Hilton turned around and sold the property to another party but was caught when the buyer contacted the original owner.

After his release, he got entangled in at least three civil lawsuits alleging fraud or misrepresentation. Those included luring investors to sink money into gold and silver collectible coins; posing as a fine arts dealer in Utah in order to convince a co uple to give him a $100,000 silver statue; and, in the case involving co-defendant Carella, seeking investors for an assisted living complex in Southern California that was never built.

Carella said he was duped into becoming a partner in the development project and that Hilton used Carella's status as a physician to lure others into the scheme. He was described in court testimony as a "pawn" used by Hilton to lure investors.

Those involved with Hilton say he is an accomplished cook with a flair for the extravagant — wining and dining potential partners, showing up at the Utah couple's house to negotiate for the silver statue in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes.

"This is the way we got taken," said Carolyn Call of Provo, Utah, who said she gave Hilton her family's silver statue to sell on the open market.

According to court documents, Hilton turned around and gave the statue to an attorney to pay for his services.

Two California attorneys said Wednesday that after learning of Hilton's latest activities they planned to follow him to Montana to seek payment on the outstanding judgments against him.

"Once I know that there is an asset or some sort of funds to go after, we'll go after it," said Call's attorney, Roger Naghash.

This doesn't answer everything, but it does suggest that we can stand down from General Quarters -- even though we should still keep our powder dry, as it were.

I think it's appropriate, once again, to refer to my radio program from Monday night in which I first dealt with the news out of Hardin.

(Thanks to "piglipstick" for the link.)

*Need I say that I was being sarcastic?

Be sure to catch Pro Libertate Radio each weeknight from 6:00-7:00 Mountain Time (7:00-8:00 Central) on the Liberty News Radio Network.

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Dum spiro, pugno!

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Lighter Damnation: "Clemency" for Veronica Rodriguez and Daryl Buck

Out of prison, but still not free: Putative sex criminal Veronica Rodriguez, who served a year behind bars for hugging a 13-year-old boy.

In the 1984 HBO movie "Sakharov," the eponymous Soviet physicist and human rights campaigner is seen addressing a small gathering of human rights activists outside what appears to a courtroom.

With a sense of grateful accomplishment, Sakharov announces that the death sentences originally imposed on three Russian dissidents had been reduced to twenty years in a labor camp. This news is greeted with enthusiastic cheers.

When I first watched the film a quarter-century ago this struck me as a bitter "victory": The activists had done nothing that reasonable people would consider a crime, and thus had no business being in prison -- yet the "good" news was that they would spent the next twenty years, or conceivably the balance of their lives, at hard labor in some frozen concentration camp.

I wondered what it would be like to live in a society in which such a resounding injustice would be seen as a triumph of clemency. I wonder no longer, thanks to a recent Oregon State Supreme Court ruling dealing with the cases of Veronica Rodriguez and Daryl Buck, two innocent people who served time in prison and will likely spend the rest of their lives as registered sex offenders.

Veronica Rodriguez and Daryl Buck were both residents of Oregon when they were convicted of first-degree sexual assault on a child younger than 14 years of age. Neither case involved coercion, seduction, or nudity. In fact, neither case involved actual skin-to-skin contact of any kind, or behavior that could be reasonably construed as lascivious.

Miss Rodriguez, at the age of 25, supposedly "assaulted" a 13-year-old boy by hugging him in such a way that the back of his head came into contact with her shirt. Most news accounts of the case mislead the public by saying that she had pressed the boy's head to her "breasts," as if she had not been wearing a shirt.

Mr. Buck purportedly "assaulted" a 13-year-old girl during a fishing trip. The back of his hand came into contact with the seat of her pants when she cast a fishing line; the incidental contact occurred because Buck didn't move his hand. Shortly thereafter, Buck compounded that alleged offense by brushing some dirt from her pants.

The Rodriguez trial was heard by a jury that convicted her of criminal hugging while deadlocking on a more serious charge involving allegations of more overtly sexual behavior. Buck waived a jury trial but was found guilty by a judge. In each case, the trial judge set aside the mandatory minimum sentence -- 75 months in prison -- choosing instead to inflict a sentence of sixteen months (less time off for good behavior), in addition to a life sentence as registered sex offenders.

Here we behold the righteous works done by the progenitors of the folks who brought you Oregon's Measure 11.

These acts of relative leniency -- to the extent sending people to prison for non-criminal behavior can ever be considered "lenient" -- infuriated the prosecutors who won the conviction.

Displaying a vindictive tenacity that might have struck Ahab as just a bit much, they appealed the sentences, insisting that under Proposition 11, a ballot measure enacted in 1994, trial judges had no discretionary power to waive the mandatory minimum, and that Rodriguez and Buck had to serve six years and three months in prison.

The Oregon State Supreme Court, by a 4-3 margin, ruled that the comparatively lenient sentences were appropriate -- while also upholding the convictions for sexual assault. So while Rodriguez and Buck are spared a descent into one of the lower realms described by Dante, they are to remain confined in one of the upper circles of hell for the rest of their lives.

In 2005, Miss Rodriguez, whose case I have written about before, was a youth counselor at a the Boys and Girls Club in Hillsboro, Oregon. She and her family became quite close to a very troubled 13-year-old boy. Some people at the club -- both staffers and members -- became concerned that the young adult woman was taking too personal an interest in the young boy. On several occasions Rodriguez reportedly spent time with the boy alone, and took him on overnight trips to visit family and friends.

By any reasonable measure, Rodriguez's conduct was inappropriate and should have led to administrative action -- including, if necessary, termination. It would also have been a good idea for her father to take her aside and give her some pointed advice. But the first action taken by the club to intervene occurred after the hugging incident, which took place in a room occupied by scores of other people (hardly the ideal setting for a sexual predator to work his or her wiles on a helpless victim).

Two staffers at the club, a husband and wife, played the role of spitzel* by running to the local police and accusing Rodriquez of "assaulting" the boy, swaddling their accusation in a tissue of speculative innuendo. At the time, the administration of the Hillsboro Police Department was resentful over the club's decision to "downsize" the department's presence therein; it's difficult to see how this could not have influenced the investigation.

In an amicus brief filed during Rodriguez's appeal, the Boys & Girls Club of Portland complained that it is improper to permit a jury to infer sexual intent from non-sexual conduct. As paraphrased by the Oregon State Supreme Court, that brief argued that "permitting such inferences subjects those who work with children to the constant threat that an unhappy coworker may report them for sex abuse -- as apparently happened [to Rodriguez] -- leading to a criminal investigation and possible trial and conviction."

In its majority ruling the Oregon High Court observes that the contacts between Rodriguez and her alleged victim "were brief, if not momentary. There is no evidence of force or threats of any kind. The `sexual' or `intimate' body parts that were touched were clothed. There was no skin-to-skin contact ... no bodily injury or physical harm."

What this means, of course, is that there was no "sexual" contact, let alone "assault" of any variety -- and that therefore no crime had been committed. Yet the Court, for purely positivist reasons, insists that the contact in question was "unlawful" because a prosecutor described them as such and gulled a jury into ratifying that demented description.

Daryl Buck's case is quite similar. Once he was accused of "unlawful touching," several people suddenly remembered that he had said "inappropriate" things to the 13-year-old and her older sister. Like Rodriguez, Buck had no previous criminal record at the time he was accused of assaulting the girl.

If he had previously done or said things that gave the impression that he was a sexual predator, Buck shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near the girls in the first place. In any case, his reported conduct was not criminal in se; it was only construed as such when wrapped in vague but insistent allegations of other non-criminal behavior.

In its ruling, the Oregon Supreme Court notes that under the Measure 11-mandated sentencing guidelines, "Rodriguez and Buck would have received the same sentences if they had engaged in sexual intercourse with the children that they briefly touched." (Emphasis in original.) In addition to being deliriously disproportionate, this actually creates a perverse incentive for actual perverts; after all, if they would face the same punishment for a "bad touch" that they would receive for assault rape, why shouldn't they simply indulge themselves?

It's doubtful that the Oregon voters intended Measure 11 to dictate 75-month prison terms for people guilty of nothing more serious than a suspect hug or dusting off a youngster's jeans. The sentiment propelling that referendum was outrage inspired by the perception that judges were abetting violent crime by handing down criminally trivial sentences.

The referendum was chiefly the work of Kevin Mannix, a one-time McGovern Democrat who by 1994 had reconfigured himself as a Newt Gingrich Republican. The money behind Mannix was provided by former Oregon businessman Loren Parks, who moved to Henderson, Nevada a number of years ago but remains deeply involved in Oregon state politics.

C'mon, ladies, face it -- someday you're gonna have to deal with all this: Self-described sexual virtuoso Loren Parks, the money behind Oregon's Measure 11 and much of its conservative movement.

Parks became a multi-millionaire on the strength of his medical technology company, which manufactures various devices for measuring blood pressure and other vital functions. Its most notorious product is a device called a "Penile Plethysmograph," which supposedly measures sexual arousal by registering the degree of blood engorgement in the sex organ. That device is frequently used on accused sex offenders, often -- as Parks observes -- in the context of electro-aversion treatment.

Sexual deviance is a field in which Parks has some personal expertise. A number of years ago he was compelled to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman who was described as mildly retarded -- a child in mind, if not in chronological age. He settled the suit while admitting that he had been sexually involved with the handicapped woman.

More recently, Parks was sued for sexual harassment by Maria Guerin, a former employee to whom he had sent e-mails containing various kinds of pornography, including images of bestiality. One typically sedate and decorous message demanded that the employee, a native of Spain, wear a bra that could be unhooked from the front, since their "relationship" was dependent on his "acceso a tus tetas" -- having access to her breasts. Prior to a trip abroad, Parks used his leverage as an employer to compel the woman to sign a document described as a "contract to have sex."

Although he's a bald, nebbishy man in his early 80s, Parks claims to possess superhuman sexual prowess. He also claims the ability to cure various kinds of behavioral problems through hypnosis, which he practices as a self-styled "lay therapist."

Although he has given nearly $11 million to conservative causes in Oregon, Parks -- a humanist who disparages belief in God -- is also a supporter of Planned Parenthood and a defender of Oregon's right-to-die policy. But he had a special affinity for the Measure 11 campaign; his commitment to that cause was reportedly born out of resentment toward judges and lawyers as a result of the lawsuits filed against him.

Mannix, who hoped in vain to ride the anti-crime wave into the Oregon Governor's Mansion, frets that the state supreme court's decision regarding Rodriquez and Buck will lead to a gusher of litigation by defense attorneys challenging the draconian mandatory minimums. If the treatment inflicted on Rodriguez and Buck is typical of the "justice" delivered via Measure 11, Mannix's prediction might come true -- and this would be a much-needed correction.

It would also be a welcome career boost for Mannix, who appears to be a canny opportunist -- one of many --- looking for ways to coopt that portion of the electorate that is susceptible to the appeal of punitive populism. Someone cynical enough to take an aging sex deviant as a partner in a puritanical anti-crime crusade has just the right combination of gifts to exploit the state supreme court's decision.

While Mannix plots his political strategy, Veronica Rodriguez and Daryl Buck, will continue their unjustified internal exile as registered sex offenders. But hey, what typical political career hasn't been built on at least a couple of ruined lives?

*"Spitzel" was the term used in East Germany to describe an informant.

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Dum spiro, pugno!

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Contempt of Cop"

(Click to enlarge)

(Please note corrections below.)

"The police are to the government as the edge is to the knife," insists sociologist David Bayley, who apparently couldn't explain why the typical tax-feeder isn't the sharpest blade in the cutlery drawer.

One suitable example is the specimen who ruined what was an otherwise pleasant drive to northern Idaho last Friday night (September 18) -- a fellow whose finely honed sense of unearned privilege coexisted with an intellect whose acuity was roughly the same as that of a rusty butter knife.

North Idaho vista: One view of the countryside near Lapwai, Idaho.

I was part of a small group traveling to the tiny but beautiful village of Potlatch, where I was to give the keynote address at the Liberty Roundup, a forum featuring candidates for state and congressional offices.

My friend Scott Watson was behind the wheel, my wife Korrin and our seven-month-old son in the backseat. We had just passed through Lapwai when we caught the dreaded sight of running lights in our rear-view mirror.

Scott pulled to the side of the road onto a shoulder that proved too narrow to accommodate the donut-burner as he went through the familiar shakedown ritual. Thus instead of approaching the driver-side window, the officer -- a member of the Nez Perce Tribal Police Department -- tapped insistently on the window next to me.

Yeah, I'll bet that this is going to go really well
, I thought grimly to myself as I rolled down the window.

"What's your hurry?" began the officer, reciting directly from the big book of police cliches in a voice heavy with affected heartiness.

"I'm not in a hurry," Scott said in a composed but slightly annoyed voice, reflecting his commendable dislike of being patronized.

"Well, I have you going 72 in a 55," the officer continued in the same contrived tone. (This was untrue; we were in a 65 MPH zone, as the GPS on Scott's dashboard demonstrated.) He then asked where we were headed, then paused while Scott busied himself procuring the required documents. The officer then cast a glance around the interior.

"Oh, and I'll need to see ID for the passengers as well," he said casually.

Here we go
, I thought.

"Why is that necessary?" I inquired in a level, formal tone.

"Because I told you so," the officer said with a slight edge to his voice, as if that settled the matter.

It didn't.

"I'm going to need a better reason than that," I explained in the same tone I had previously used.

During the pause that followed, I saw the officer's lips compress in frustration and color begin to flood the part of his face that was visible.

"The Idaho State Code requires that citizens present identification when ordered to by a law enforcement officer!" he hissed. "If you'd like, I'll bring the Code book and show you!"

"Yes, that would be nice," I said blithely, handing him Korrin's driver's license and my official state ID card (but not my license).

The officer (who made a point of keeping his badge, and thus his own identification, out of view) collected the paperwork.

"You just helped your friend get a ticket," he grunted in my direction as he turned toward his

A few minutes later the officer's voice was heard behind Scott's car:

"Mr. Watson, would you step out of your vehicle? I want to speak with you for a minute."

Scott -- an exceptionally level-headed fellow -- shook his head and let out an exasperated sigh as he exited the car.

"What is he doing with Scott?" Korrin asked me.

"He's back there playing some kind of alpha-male game," I replied, predicting that he'd find some way to do Scott a "favor" in expectation of Scott's submissive gratitude.

To Scott's considerable credit, he remained utterly stolid in the face of the armed stranger's posturing. When he came back to the car, he was even more disgusted than he had been when he left -- even though he brought the welcome news that he was not getting a ticket. As he handed our ID cards back to Korrin and me, Scott related the conversation to us.

"The first thing he asked me was, `How do you know William Grigg?'" Scott reported. "I told him, `Will is a friend of mine.' Then he said, `Well, you tell him that next time he encounters law enforcement, he'd better cool it!' Then he said that I wasn't going to get a ticket because I had been `cooperative,' but warned that there were two state troopers between here and Lewiston and that they'd stop me if I went as much as three miles over the speed limit, so I'd better be careful."

The old train station in Potlatch, Idaho, scene of the post-Roundup barbecue.

Of course, the officer lied when he promised to show me the section of the Idaho State Code supposedly requiring passengers to produce identification, as I expected him to.

I didn't press the matter as forcefully as I could have because, after all, I wasn't the driver; I was willing to push back hard enough to make a point, but didn't want to cause further trouble for Scott.

The officer also lied when he said that his demand was backed by statutory authority. There is no section of the Idaho State Code that authorizes law enforcement to demand identification from a passenger in a vehicle, or the typical citizen on the street.

"A peace officer can require a person to display ID in a bar, or from someone who is driving a motor vehicle," explained Sgt. Clarence Costner of the Payette County Sheriff's Office in reply to my inquiry. "Officers can also check ID when there is probable cause of some kind that leads to an investigation of a crime -- for instance, there's been a burglary in a neighborhood, and someone might fit a suspect description. And of course, they can check ID on a consensual basis, the same way they can carry out a search."

However, Sgt. Costner emphasized, "there is no physical law that says people have to display ID on demand unless they're driving a vehicle."

"What about a passenger riding in an automobile?" I specified.

"No -- you don't have to display ID as a passenger; only as a driver," repeated Sgt. Costner.

Locke defines tyranny as power exercised beyond right. The officer who demanded my ID was acting as a petty tyrant. Had he threatened me with arrest for refusing to produce it, he would have committed a crime specifically defined in the Idaho State Code: Title 18, section 703
provides that "Every public officer ... who, under the pretense or color of any process or other legal authority, arrests any person or detains him against his will ... without a regular process or other lawful authority therefor, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

The presumptuous intrusiveness of the officer who stopped us reflects a martial law mindset: Like most law enforcement officers, he sees himself as a caste apart from, and set above, the "civilian" population, and thus empowered to command submission from us.

More to the point: He sees himself as possessing innate authority, rather than authority derived from the law. He is the law, at least in the theater of his small and otherwise uncluttered mind. Note how his idea of a legal warrant is the phrase, "Because I told you to."

My polite but pointed rejoinder was based on the tacit but clearly understood question, quo warranto? -- By what authority are you making this demand? This dispelled the officer's pretense that he is somebody to whom reflexive obedience is due, as opposed to someone whose authority -- such as it is -- must be considered derivative, limited, and conditional.

Sure, the officer succeeded in securing cooperation through a lie. But the frustration-inspired threat of collective punishment -- "You just helped your friend get a ticket!" -- and the impotent warning, delivered from a safe distance by way of my friend Scott ("tell your friend he'd better cool it!") give some indication, I suspect, of how deeply this encounter injured the officer's unearned sense of self-regard. Most acts of lawless police violence are committed in the service of that self-image, which is endlessly reinforced through training and peer socialization.

In 1992, amid a growing scandal provoked by a wave of criminal violence committed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, an investigation was conducted under the leadership of James G. Kolts, a conservative Republican retired L.A. County Superior Court Judge who had been appointed by Ronald Reagan.

The resulting 358-page "Kolts Report" described a department that behaved in a manner largely indistinguishable from the conduct of a Third World death squad: Beatings, extra-judicial killings, planting evidence, robberies, and other undisguised criminal actions were commonplace; they almost always went unpunished, and were often rewarded.

One particularly notorious deputy, Paul Archambault, was a serial killer with a badge; in two different instances he gunned down unarmed and harmless people, the first time actually stopping to reload before commenting, "he's still moving" and unleashing a second volley.

On one occasion, as sheriff's deputies pumped round after round into a man named Hyong Po Lee following a pursuit, one San Jose police officer who witnessed the event commented to another: "We just observed the sheriffs execute someone." In the year prior to the formation of the Kolts Commission, there were several instances in which deputies back-shot unarmed people; none of the shooters was ever disciplined in any way, let alone prosecuted.

Summary execution was not the only distinguishing activity of the LASO's under Sheriff Sherman Block. In April 1989, a man named Demetrio Carillo was seized and beaten after he rebuked deputies for driving on the sidewalk near his home -- one of many to face summary "street justice" for "mouthing off." Deputies were taught by Field Training Officers how to falsify official reports to justify an arrest after the fact when the real purpose of the arrest was to punish anyone who refused to display the required deference.

"This is the worst aspect of police culture, where the worst crime of all is `contempt of cop,'" observed the Kolts Report. "The deputy cannot let pass the slightest challenge or failure immediately to comply. It is here that excessive force starts and needs to be stopped."

The endless parade of abuses inflicted by police on citizens who fail to display the required docility testifies that this " aspect of police culture" has replicated itself nation-wide. In the company of my wife, our infant child, and a close friend, I encountered it just north of Lapwai, Idaho last Friday night. Things could have turned out much worse. Next time, they probably will.

In the original version of the article, I mistakenly identified the officer who figured so prominently in this story as a deputy in theNez Perce County Sheriff's Department. I'm grateful to Violet Harris for her help in following up on this story.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Idaho's Criminal Injustice System

(Second in an occasional series.

His name is Gilligan, but he's nobody's "little buddy." Employed as a prison guard at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution in 2007, Timothy Ryan Gilligan, by his own admission, repeatedly had sexual relations with an inmate.

Earlier this month (September 2009), Gilligan was arraigned on a charge of felonious sexual misconduct.
Thanks to the inexplicable leniency of the prosecution and the unwonted generosity of the Idaho Sex Offender Classification Board, Gilligan will not have to register as a sex offender. Nor will he face prosecution on the sex charge.

In fact, there's a very good chance he won't serve any prison time.
This is because the Ada County Prosecutor's office, in collaboration with4th District Judge Ronald Wilper, arranged an agreement in which Gilligan was permitted to plead guilty to a charge of burglary -- despite the fact that t he only thing the offender may have taken by force was a captive woman's self-respect.

The Sex Offender Classification Board helped out by relieving Gilligan of the prospect of being a registered sex offender, or even a violent sexual predator (VSP). This decision was supposedly made on account of the results of a "psycho-sexual evaluation" carried out by
SANE Solutions, a quasi-private psychological counseling service that provides such evaluations and supervises treatment of convicted sex offenders.

Gilligan, who worked as a "psychiatric technician" in the prison system subsequent to his admitted offenses, may have known how to game that system. Then again, it's obvious that Gilligan's erstwhile colleagues in the criminal "justice" system have extended every conceivable professional courtesy in the effort to avoid ruining his life by forcing him to register as a sex offender.
In sex abuse cases not involving employees of the state criminal "justice" system, the Ada County prosecutor's office has distinguished itself for its zeal, at considerable expense to due process.

One splendid example among many that could be cited to illustrate that tendency was
the bizarre trial of David Dutt, who was convicted of sexual misconduct with a child based solely on the self-contradictory account of the adolescent accuser -- and despite physical evidence (the existence of an intact hymeneal membrane in the purported victim) that was sufficient not only to provide reasonable doubt, but to prove the innocence of the accused.

Somehow, the Ada County Prosecutor's office managed to convince a criminally credulous jury that the "victim" in the Dutt Case possessed a uniquely resilient anatomy, one that permitted her to regenerate her traumatized and violated hymen in much the same way that certain lizards can re-grow severed tails. That, coupled with the theatrical, tearful summation of prosecutor Jean Fisher (who suggested that the jury would be party to the little girl's abuse if they didn't believe her allegations), was enough to convict an innocent man and send him to prison for up to 30 years.

The Dutt Case illustrates how the Ada County Prosecutor's office can arrange a sex offense conviction in the absence of evidence. Thus it's astonishing to see the same office refuse to prosecute Gilligan for sex crimes to which he has admitted guilt.

To understand the role played by the Idaho Sex Offender Classification Board in the Gilligan case, one must first understand that its rulings are entirely capricious. This was entirely by design, a fact that was admitted on the record during a May 19, 2006 meeting of the Board.

"The statutory vagueness regarding VSP [Violent Sexual Predator] designations was intended to provide for the board to use its discretion in considering cases," reports the official minutes of that meeting. "A designation criteria checklist is not feasible due to the wide variation of sexual offense/offender behavior. As such, each case is different and considered on its own merits."

Gilligan's conduct -- using his position of power over a captive and (apparently) unwilling woman to force her into sex -- is difficult to describe as anything other than that of a violent sexual predator. Yet the Board didn't see the "merit" in applying that designation to Gilligan, despite his admissions.

One is tempted to think that this validates a comment made not long ago on Idaho Public Television by Idaho state senator Denton Darrington: "I'm concerned ... that we don't get pranksters on the Sex Offender registry, but that we do get those who are deviant on the Sex Offender registry. In other words we don't want the fraternity kid on the football team who's doing a prank to go on the registry."

Forgive me -- I neglected to mention that before he found employment with the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC), Timothy Gilligan was a starting wide receiver with the Boise State Broncos.

Granted, it would be difficult to prove that Gilligan's acts were non-consensual. But they were professional compromising and at the very least suggestive of a derangement in his character that made him a potential danger to others.

Whether this is sufficient to warrant prosecution is a matter about which reasonable people can disagree. But this much is incontestable: Given that there are people (such as David Dutt) in prison and on the sex offender rolls in Idaho whose guilt was not reasonably established, the solicitude displayed toward Gilligan screams and reeks of official corruption.

Gilligan admitted to acts recognized as sex offenses under the law, and won't be prosecuted for them. Mark Wicklund, an attorney who transplanted himself to Idaho from the Midwest, was compelled to plead guilty to alleged sex offenses despite the absence of either an alleged victim or a witness. He was sentenced to seven years of probation under the supervision of the above-mentioned SANE Solutions.

On April 24, 2008, despite the fact that Wicklund had committed no additional act to justify such treatment, he was designated a Violent Sexual Predator by the Sex Offender Classification Board. That designation came close on the heels of a probation violation filed against Wicklund for maintaining an internet-based consulting business, which was described, incorrectly, as impermissible under the terms of his probation. As a result, his probation was extended an additional three years.

Wicklund contends, quite plausibly, that both of those actions were retaliation for his refusal to obey a warning he was given by Fourth District Judge Thomas Neville: "Stay away from the Dutt Case."

Judge Neville presided over both the Dutt Case and Wicklund's case.

A few years ago, Wicklund agreed to devote his considerable legal talents to organizing the evidence for David Dutt's post-conviction appeal. His work product lays out a deeply documented, multi-faceted case for overturning Dutt's conviction on numerous grounds -- including, but not limited to, ineffective representation of counsel, several instances of prosecutorial misconduct, and abuse of discretion by the trial judge -- that is, the same Judge Neville who later threatened Wicklund.

As Wicklund related his experience to me, his work on the David Dutt's post-conviction appeal triggered all kinds of punitive mistreatment from people connected to the Ada County prosecutor's office through SANE, the IDOC, the department of probation and parole, and other government and quasi-government entities.

Granted, Wicklund could be dismissed by some as an ax-grinding sex offender (one thus designated, recall, without either a victim or a witness). However, he has documented his allegations, and key elements are confirmed by officials in the state government's employ. Wicklund alleges that the probation violation and VSP designation caused both his mental and physical health to deteriorate rapidly.

This is confirmed by Dave Ferguson, a state-employed counselor assigned to Wicklund, who testified in an affidavit (see page one here, page two here) that he not only suffered from anxiety and depression, but that "his physical health also appeared to deteriorate.... [H]e had to call me from the hospital on at least two occasions after he had been admitted, to indicate that he would have to miss his meetings with me."

Wicklund suffers from congestive heart failure, and Ferguson recalled that following the probation extension and VSP designation Wicklund's weight increased "dramatically" as a result of edema related to his heart condition. Open sores and a staph infection developed in his legs owing to circulatory problems.
"The ongoing legal problems, the isolation, probation extension, and the stigma of the VSP designation" all detracted from Wicklund's mental and physical health, concluded Ferguson.

Parole Officer Sutherland: His Facebook page jocularly lists "S&M, chains, whips" among his "interests." Sure, it's a joke (I guess), but if he didn't work for the state as someone in charge of supervising sexual deviants, he'd probably be in trouble of some kind.

Another complication arose when Wicklund was taken to jail following his alleged probation violation.

For several years, Wicklund has taken a strong prescription narcotic called Norco to palliate chronic pain in his knees.

When he was taken to jail by Parole and Probation Officer Brandon Sutherland, the Officer denied Wicklund access to Norco; this led to an involuntary "de-tox from the drug without the benefit of medical supervision.
After three days of compelled de-toxification in jail, Wicklund was rousted by Officer Sutherland and taken to undergo a polygraph examination -- paid for with an IDOC voucher -- to answer questions about his purported probation violation.

The exam was administered by Jim Page, at the time a partner with Chip Morgan in a state-contracted firm called Polygraph Associates.

When Morgan, caught a glimpse of Wicklund's condition, he urged Page not to administer the test. According to Morgan, Page dismissed Morgan's concerns -- which were dictated by the ethics of his profession -- with a shrug and the statement, "I really need the money." (Wicklund's original, four-page December 12, 2008 complaint can be seen here, here, here, and here.)

That comment so alarmed Morgan that he dissolved the partnership immediately and started his own polygraph service.

"I observed that Mark Wicklund appeared physically ill," recalled Morgan in an affidavit. (See here, here, and here.) "He had sweated his jail-issued jumpsuit completely through, was visibly sweating all over his face, was panting heavily and was pasty white in complexion. He also appeared to be `in and out' of tracking with the conversation."

He obviously was in no condition to serve as the subject of a polygraph. Yet Page performed one anyway, and the results were used to uphold Wicklund's probation violation.
This prompted Morgan to dissolve his partnership with Page and open his own shop, Morgan Polygraph. Jim Page continues to perform polygraph examinations on sex offenders, despite a patent conflict of interest: His wife, Tess Buttram, is a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney who works on sex crime prosecutions for the Ada County Prosecutor's Office.

Shortly after that incident, Wicklund was summoned to the Fourth District probation office for a meeting he described to me as being akin to "the Spanish Inquisition." In that meeting, Wicklund insists, he was told to "stand down" from his investigation of misconduct by the Ada County Prosecutor's Office and the misbehavior of Jim Page -- which seemed to share a pattern of abuses similar to those committed in the prosecution of David Dutt. If he didn't comply, Wicklund was warned, he would be jailed on "discretionary time," which would mean an open-ended jail term.

Wicklund didn't relent, and neither did his enemies.
Earlier this year, his attorney filed a motion for early release from probation; that motion contained two supporting affidavits. According to Wicklund, "Individuals in the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney's Office ... gained access to the court file and removed the two supporting affidavits from the file and destroyed them. Further, individuals from the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney's Office gained access to the official register of court actions for [my] case and deleted the entry documenting the submission of the [two] affidavits."

At present, Judge Neville refuses to review any of the relevant evidence -- which, if Wicklund is correct in describing the judge's threats, isn't surprising.

All of this, once again, was allegedly done in retaliation for Wicklund's work dealing with David Dutt's post-conviction appeal. The Dutt Case appears to be a very sore spot for Judge Neville and the Ada County Prosecutor's Office, and for good reason: That case displays, in very compelling fashion, what critics of the Idaho "criminal justice" system perceive to be institutionalized corruption in the prosecution of sex crimes.
How much of this can Wicklund prove? We're likely to find out quite soon.

On August 12 he filed a "Notice of Tort Claim" (available here, here, and here) giving ninety days' notice of his intent to file a lawsuit. He names as defendants the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney's Officer, the Idaho Department of Corrections, Ada County, and the State of Idaho.

By filing his suit Wicklund is taking a large club to an immense, over-stuffed pinata filled with dirty diapers and dead cats. The fallout, while exceptionally unpleasant, will be quite revealing.

Watch this space for additional developments....

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