Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tyranny, Defiance, and the Death of LaVoy Finicum

LaVoy Finicum, who was shot at a roadblock by Oregon State Troopers and left to bleed to death in the snow, was not a violent criminal. He and his colleagues from the group calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom were traveling to John Day, Oregon to organize political resistance to federal control over lands in the western United States.

After trying to run the roadblock, Finicum plowed his vehicle into a snowbank. He exited with his hands in the air, staggering in the snow before making a motion with his right hand that the FBI claims was an effort to grab a handgun. Another possibility is that Finicum, as some witnesses claim, was shot while his hands were raised in a posture of surrender, and that his subsequent movements were involuntary. 

The carefully planned ambush, which displayed detailed intelligence regarding the plans of Finicum and his friends, was a joint operation between the FBI and the Oregon State Police. It was was not carried out in defense of persons or property, but to enforce the will of those in control of the Regime. Finicum, a 55-year-old rancher from Arizona, had become the subject of a federal warrant after renouncing his grazing contract with the Washington-based usurpers who control range lands in that state

The night before he was killed on Oregon’s Highway 395 in an FBI-orchestrated ambush, Finicum had denounced the “escalation” he had seen on the part of government officials seeking to end the CCF’s occupation of the Malheur National Refuge. On several previous occasions Finicum – who had raised cattle and scores of foster children -- made it clear that he would rather die than spend the balance of his life immured in a government cage.

Reasonable people can contend that the occupation was an imprudent provocation. That criticism can apply with equal validity to many similarly imprudent acts carried out by idealistic but obnoxious men during the 1760s and early 1770s, and now celebrated (in sanitized form) by inmates of the government-operated school system. Many of the same people who numbly absorb annual recitations of Patrick Henry’s oration at the Old South Church will see Finicum as a fanatic who committed “suicide by cop,” rather than someone for whom “Give me liberty, or give me death” was a credo, rather than a cliché. 

After being shot multiple times, Finicum fell on his back – but he didn’t die instantly. The video captured by an FBI surveillance aircraft showed him lifting his hand imploringly, and holding it up for several seconds before he lost consciousness.
Finicum raises his hand.
None of the officers on the scene approached Finicum to disarm him and render medical assistance while there was still a chance to save his life. In the press conference that served as a debut for the FBI’s snuff film, Greg Bretzing, a spokesman for the American Cheka, explained that potentially life-saving aid was withheld while the officers took Ammon Bundy and four others into custody.

This emphasis on “force protection” reflects the wartime priorities of an occupying army. Fallen enemy combatants are not owed the same consideration as criminal suspects. Thus Finicum’s mortal remains were left sprawled on the frozen ground, in a posture eerily reminiscent of the body of Lakota Chief Bigfoot following the vengeful Seventh Cavalry’s massacre at Wounded Knee.

The federal statute under which Ammon Bundy and six other members of the CCF have been charged, 18 USC section 372, offers no protection whatsoever to the persons and property of U.S. citizens. That measure, enacted in 1861, is designed to protect “officers” of the federal government (including administrative personnel and other bureaucrats) as they prey upon the Regime’s subjects.  It originally targeted actual and suspected sympathizers with the Confederacy, which in practice meant anybody who respected and defended the right of states to withdraw from the Union, even if motivated by an ignoble cause.
Chief Bigfoot at Wounded Knee.

After the Confederacy was defeated and the once-voluntary Union was repurposed into a Soyuz, the same measure was frequently pressed into service during the thirteen-year military occupation of the South. A Justice Department memo written in 1977 noted that “although this provision is more than 100 years old, it has been infrequently used. Most recorded cases have involved internal revenue agents whose efforts to track down tax-evading operators of illegal stills met with resistance.” 

Those anti-Bootlegger operations, significantly, continued for decades after the Regime ended the exercise in authoritarian derangement called alcohol prohibition: The 1977 memo cited three cases that occurred over the previous twelve years, the latest reaching the Supreme Court in 1971. The purpose of the memo, significantly, was to provide the FBI with a legal rationale for investigating and prosecuting, under the rubric of “conspiracy to impede federal officers,” acts that were not explicitly criminalized by other federal statutes. 

The “conspiracy to impede” statute “did not even contain a requirement that an overt act be done in furtherance of the conspiracy before the conspiratorial conduct would become actionable,” pointed out Assistant Attorney General John M. Harmon.  “The broad purpose of protecting the Federal presence as fully as possible supports a broad, rather than narrow, reading of the word `officer,’” he continued. Thus it was the Justice Department’s opinion that “the term `officer’… includes both permanent and temporary, full- and part-time officers and employees of the United States.”

Sixteen federal tax-consumers are usually stationed in the cluster of buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. They act as a salient representing an unaccountable federal bureaucracy that has usurped local jurisdictions by seizing land that was not theirs by right or constitutional mandate. Indeed, the federal claim to the land in Harney County, Oregon rests entirely on illegal settlement by white ranchers in violation of treaty obligations with the Paiute Indians.
Unlike the peaceful protest by the CCF, the illegal occupation of what would become Harney County in the 1870s did involve violence and extensive property damage – and it was actively encouraged by the Feds as a way of consolidating control over territory to which they were not entitled. That act of land larceny was “legitimized” in the fashion described by St. Augustine. A “government,” he explained in The City of God, is simply a gang that "acquires territory, establishes a base, captures cities and subdues peoples," and then achieves legitimacy "not by the renouncing of aggression but by the attainment of impunity." 

Although the CCF did express its intention to use force in self-defense, the “occupation” of the vacant headquarters buildings – which would be considered trespassing, if they were legitimately owned by a definable victim – was not achieved by violence. But because the action undermined the local franchise of a Regime claiming a universal monopoly on violence, it was treated as an act of terrorism. 

In her sophomoric screed called a “criminal complaint,” FBI Special Agent (she is, to be certain,  a very “special” agent) Katherine Armstrong uses quadruple hearsay to depict the “occupiers” as a nest of terrorists bent on wreaking bloody havoc in Harney County.  After the “occupation” of the refuge began, “BLM was notified … by a Harney County Sheriff’s Officer that a source informed him that the group … had explosives, night vision goggles, and weapons and that if they didn’t get the fight they wanted out there they would bring the fight to town.” 

The BLM in action: Who are the terrorists here?
None of this was true, of course, and the conveniently anonymous “source” is hidden beneath redundant layers of official deniability. The only “fight” conducted by the CCF was a quixotic campaign “to restore and defend the Constitution,” as Armstrong’s criminal complaint observes.  This kind of seditious talk was enough to cause Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, who displayed canine docility in doing the bidding of his federal masters, to irrigate his skivvies. 

The CCF, quavered Ward in a January 27 press conference, “have chosen to threaten and intimidate the America they profess to love.” No being in whom we can find even a faint flicker of rationality could genuinely believe that anybody -- let alone the entire country -- was threatened and intimidated by the “occupiers.” But people whose position in society depends on the threat and exercise of lethal violence are intimidated by those who are prepared to call their bluff. 

This, more than anything else, explains why LaVoy Finicum was left to die in the snow while his killers hurled flash-bang grenades at the terrified survivors in his vehicle. State-inflicted death is the last argument of tyrants, particularly those who fear that defiance may become contagious.

This week's Freedom Zealot Podcast examines the effort by the Ada County Prosecutor's office to imprison political dissident Matthew Townsend:

Last week's installment provided additional background and details:

Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Nullifying the Jury

“Could we discuss potential punishments?” asked the tall, middle-aged man identified as “Juror 25” during the voir dire for the trial of Matthew Townsend on a ludicrous felony charge of “witness intimidation.” His supposed offense was to publish a well-reasoned and inoffensive Facebook post complaining about being arrested without cause

Pointing out that he had worked as a prison mentor for many years, and had actually counseled inmates facing the death penalty, the juror thought it would be worthwhile to know what would happen to Townsend if he were found guilty. Trial Judge Lynn Norton pointed out that once the trial proper began, the jury would be instructed not to consider punishment in their deliberations.

If prosecutor James Vogt succeeds in manipulating the jury into delivering a guilty verdict, Judge Norton will decide how much of Townsend’s life would be stolen by the state – one possibility is a prison term of five years. 

Like most people in her justifiably disreputable profession, Norton treats the jury as a trivial impediment to the efficient operation the courts, which exist to transform citizens into “offenders” for delivery to the prison system. Like most of her peers she will not countenance the idea that citizens conscripted to sit in judgment of their neighbors should also be able to determine whether the potential punishment is proportionate to the alleged offense. The jury’s role is to go in the direction the judge points them, which in almost every case leads to conviction.
So determined are Norton and Ada County Assistant DA Vogt to avoid the question of proportionality that they arranged a mistrial when Townsend’s defense attorney, Aaron Tribble, referred to the obvious fact that the defendant had been charged with a felony.

Vogt’s artfully dishonest opening argument (discussed in more detail anon) depicted Townsend as a violent, predatory stalker who terrorized the valiant Meridian Police Officer Richard Brockbank by threatening his life and his family. 
That may be the only way to obtain justice.
Tribble began his opening argument by pointing out that the arrest out of which the felony charge grew involved a contrived accusation of jaywalking.
At the time Brockbank inflicted his unwanted presence on him, Townsend “was protesting taxes” at a street corner in Meridian, Tribble pointed out. After Brockbank saw Townsend legally crossing an intersection – stopping briefly in the crosswalk to display his protest sign – the officer decided to “educate” his better about pedestrian safety.

Brockbank tried to induce Townsend into admitting a violation of the law. When Townsend asked if he was being charged, the annoyed and frustrated tax-feeder didn’t answer, so Townsend shrugged and exercised his legal right to walk away.

“At this point, Brockbank said, `OK, I’m going to arrest you for resisting and obstructing,’” Tribble recounted. “And now what began as a jaywalking case has become a felony charge….”

It was here that Vogt objected and asked that the jury be removed from the courtroom. Once the jurors had been escorted out, Judge Norton helpfully suggested that Vogt move for a mistrial. 

Tribble pointed out that the charge had been described as a felony, and that the size of the jury – fourteen panelists, evenly divided between male and female – made it clear that the offense being considered was a felony, rather than a misdemeanor.  Vogt protested that the instructions to the jury do not permit them to be informed of, or take into account, potential sentencing options, and contended that they likewise “cannot take into account the degree of the offense.” 

I have discussed this development with several trial attorneys, all of whom said that referring to the “degree of offense” in an opening argument is a novel reason for a mistrial. Then again, the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office has displayed a gift for perverse ingenuity in pursuing its jihad against Matthew Townsend. 

During voir dire, Vogt had clearly prepped potential jurors to see the charges against Townsend as a violent felony. They had been informed that the charge was “intimidation of a state’s witness,” and to illustrate the supposed seriousness of the defendant’s actions Vogt had asked jurors to imagine being threatened or robbed at gunpoint. His own opening argument was an extended riff that re-purposed a Facebook post that pointedly and repeatedly repudiated violence into a direct threat to Brockbank and his family if the officer testified against him.

“Mr. Townsend gave Brockbank a choice, and he promised consequences,” Vogt intoned, mouthing the mendacious mantra he had fashioned out of the Facebook post: “I know where you all live … leave me alone or be the focus of my rage … kill me.”

Tribble undermined the caricature of Townsend as a violent felon by explaining – in a presentation punctuated by no fewer than four objections from Vogt – that Townsend had been involved in the peaceful exercise of his rights when he was arrested without cause, and was now being treated as a felon for complaining about that mistreatment in public.

As has been previously reported in this space, Townsend’s Facebook post, which was published on the eve of his preliminary hearing on the “resisting and obstructing” charge, was directed at Brockbank, the prosecutor’s office, and everybody else representing the malign yet formless entity called “the State.” It was “the State” that threatened his liberty and his life, Townsend observed, and it was to that disembodied abstraction he made the demand that the unwarranted charge against him be dropped.

He made no mention of Brockbank’s testimony, nor did he seek to dissuade the officer from testifying. Precisely the opposite was the case: Townsend clearly anticipated that Brockbank would testify truthfully, and that by making clear “the REAL reason I was harassed” he would leave the court no choice but to dismiss the spurious charge.

To the extent that Townsend’s statement implicated the question of Brockbank’s testimony, it was an admonition to the officer to testify “freely, fully, and truthfully,” rather than trying to prevent him from doing so, as the “witness intimidation” statute would require.

Vogt complained that Tribble had “poisoned” the jury through a presentation that contrasted the innocent behavior of the defendant with the seriousness of the charge against him. Norton found such contamination impermissible, which is why she prompted Vogt to move for the mistrial.

When the trial resumes on February 29, we can expect Judge Norton and her comrades in the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office to do what is necessary to keep the proceedings untainted by considerations of proportionality, accuracy, and justice. They won’t be willing to proceed unless they can, in effect, nullify the jury.

Judge Alex Kozinski of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, one of the few active jurists who consistently display concern for the rights of defendants, insists that jurors should not only be allowed to consider punishments during their deliberations, but should have a role in sentencing.

“In most jurisdictions, jurors in non-capital cases are not told what the likely punishment will be if the defendant is convicted,” Kozinski pointed out in a magisterial essay published by the Georgetown Law Journal. “In fact, we tell jurors not to consider punishment in deciding guilt. I don’t understand why this is appropriate. In making most life decisions, we consider the consequences in determining how much effort to put into deciding and the degree of confidence we must feel before we go forward.”

Conscientious individuals seek to learn everything they can about potential consequences before making life-altering decisions for themselves, Kozinski observes. Why are jurors not allowed to do the same when they’re required to make decisions that will alter the life of others?

“Jurors should be told the gravity of the decision they are making so they can take it into account in deciding whether to convict or acquit,” he continues. “As representatives of the community where the defendant committed his crime, the jury should be allowed to make the judgment of whether the punishment is too severe to permit a conviction. Having to confront the jury with the severity of the punishment they are seeking to extract may well deter prosecutors from using overcharging as a bargaining tool.”

That last possibility implies the existence of a moral floor beneath which prosecutors will not descend. On the basis of their irrational and vindictive pursuit of Matthew Townsend, it appears that James Vogt and his professional colleagues are the kind of officials who would attack that moral floor with jackhammers.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Single-Serving Stalinism: The Continuing Persecution of Matthew Townsend

The State of Idaho remains perversely determined to steal five years from the life of Matthew Townsend
as punishment for publishing a defiant but harmless statement on his Facebook page.  His supposed offense was to criticize Meridian Police Officer Richard Brockbank by name, demand the dismissal of an equally spurious “resisting and obstructing” charge filed by the officer, and to promise a “non-violent and legal shame campaign” employing “peaceful but … annoying” tactics in the event that charge wasn’t dropped. 

The trial, which will be a Soviet-style exercise in seeking the imprisonment of a political dissident, will begin on January 19. 

Townsend, who is active in the police accountability movement, was arrested without cause on February 2, 2015 after he chose to end a conversation with Officer Brockbank. At the time, Townsend was conducting an anti-tax protest while garbed in the attire of the Grim Reaper. Pretending that there was evidence of jaywalking on Townsend’s part (although the conduct described in his incident report doesn’t meet the statutory definition of that violation), Brockbank inflicted himself on Townsend to “educate” him, which in practical terms meant trying to browbeat him into admitting to a chargeable act.
Matt Townsend at home.
After a brief and pointless verbal exchange, Townsend -- declining to play his assigned role in Brockbank’s puerile little game – asked if he was being charged with an offense. When the officer refused to answer, Townsend shrugged and walked away, which he had every legal right to do. At the time, he was not under arrest and had not been told he was being detained.

Rather than being man enough to accept that tacit rebuke from one of his betters, Brockbank petulantly assaulted and abducted Townsend, filing a cover charge of “resisting and obstructing” rather than candidly admitting that he was punishing Townsend for the grave but unlegislated offense called “contempt of cop.”

On the eve of his hearing, Townsend published a Facebook post in which he promised to mount a “shame campaign” against his kidnapper and any public officials who collaborated in that outrage unless the meritless charge was dismissed.

“The State has 3 options,” wrote Townsend. It could “drop the charges and leave me alone” – which is the course of action honest and decent people would select; “Endure my non-violent retaliation (do you want to be the focus of my rage?),” or “Kill me and deal with those that know, love, and care about me. Make your choice.”

To the extent that a “threat” was involved in Townsend’s post, it was his recognition, and clear description, of the fact that everything done in the name of the “State” carries an implied or overt threat of lethal violence against those who do not submit. Rather than threatening violence against anybody, Townsend was underscoring the fact that the State and its agents were threatening him

In an act of intellectual inversion worthy of the East German Stasi, the Meridian Police Department filed a felony “witness intimidation” complaint against Townsend in the hope of being able to arrest him at the hearing on the misdemeanor “resist and obstruct” charge.  District Judge James Cawthon, displaying sobriety and honesty all but unknown to those in his occupation, rejected the prosecution’s request that Townsend be taken into custody, ruling that nothing in his Facebook post constituted a threat of violence against anyone.

Displaying a now-familiar alloy of pettiness and viciousness, the Meridian Police Department and the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office went judge-shopping, and through an ex parte hearing obtained an arrest warrant that resulted in an after-dark raid on his home by the Ada County Sheriff’s Office on a Friday night. 

The clear intention was to arrange for him to spend the weekend in jail, which – given that Townsend, unlike his tormentors, is gainfully employed in the productive sector – would have likely caused him to lose his job. 

Bail was arranged and Townsend remains employed, which means that he is able to deal with at least some of the accumulating legal expenses that have resulted from this protracted exercise in official persecution. 

Townsend’s legal costs thus far amount to nearly $10,000, and that figure will climb dramatically while implacable tormentors have the luxury of spending money extracted from the legitimate earnings of better people. He has already endured severe punishment without being convicted of an offense.

The conduct of trial Judge Lynn Norton thus far suggests that she is not only a partisan of the prosecution, but – as we shall see – is actually helping it frame its case in order to manipulate the jury into ignoring the lack of evidence regarding the key element of the offense.

In order to convict Townsend of “witness intimidation,” the prosecution would have to prove that he attempted to prevent Brockbank from testifying “freely, fully and truthfully” in any court proceeding arising from the resisting and obstructing charge. That requirement is the last of nine elements of the charge of “witness intimidation” specified in the Idaho Criminal Jury Instructions dealing with that offense

In his motion to dismiss that felony charge, Townsend’s defense attorney, Aaron Tribble, pointed out that the only evidence provided by the prosecution of witness intimidation was the Facebook post, and that statement was utterly devoid of “any mention of testimony by Officer Brockbank.”

“There needs to be some evidence linking Mr. Townsend’s comments to Brockbank’s potential testimony,” Tribble continued. “The State has nothing to offer.”

It took a great deal of time for Tribble to research and compose a legal memorandum in support of his motion to dismiss the charge. It took him a little more than ten minutes to summarize his most important arguments during a January 8th hearing before Judge Norton.

It took twenty seconds for Ada County District Attorney James Vogt to make his case for Norton to dismiss Tribble’s motion.  Vogt didn’t achieve this through incisive reasoning scintillating eloquence, but rather by simply asking Norton to dismiss the motion without bothering to present an argument on behalf of the request. 

The gravamen of Tribble’s argument was that the “evidence” assembled by the prosecution, which had just recently been made available through discovery, amounted to the single Facebook post. Since the evidence assembled doesn’t cover the most critical element of the offense, there is no logical, legal, or ethical reason to proceed with the trial. 

Like most functionaries of her kind, however, Judge Norton defines her role in terms of facilitating prosecution, rather than administering justice – and Vogt knew how to capitalize on that inclination. 

“Your honor, with respect to the missing element, I would just point to the fact that there has already been a finding of probable cause by the Magistrate, Judge Gardunia. Mr. Tribble can point to nothing in the record that can contradict that, so I don’t think there’s really much else to argue about with respect to that.”

That finding of “probable cause” occurred in April, months prior to the closing of discovery in this case, which didn’t occur until last December. The Ada County DA’s office, using a familiar prosecution tactic, didn’t finish discovery until after a critical deadline had passed for the defense to file motions before Judge Norton. Despite the fact that no new evidence of a crime was developed, and the existing evidence is inadequate to justify a prosecution, Norton promptly threw out Townsend’s motion to dismiss.
Meridian PD SWAT operators pose for the camera.
This isn’t to say that she didn’t consider that motion; indeed, there’s reason to believe that she examined it carefully in order to act as a coach and a consultant for the prosecution.  If Norton honestly found Tribble’s arguments 
unconvincing, she needed only say as much and reject his motion. Instead, she presented a detailed discussion of ways the prosecution could overcome the fact that Townsend never threatened Brockbank or even mentioned his testimony. 

“One thing that I would want to note is that Mr. Tribble does seem to argue that there must be direct evidence to support an element,” Norton commented during the hearing. Evidence can be direct or circumstantial” for intent to intimidate, she insisted, and “the law does not differentiate between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.”

The only “circumstantial” evidence of “intimidation” would consist of speculation, inference, and imputed motives. As the official who would rule on admissibility, Norton has indicated that she intends to give the prosecution as much latitude as it may need to make a "circumstantial" case for an offense that -- by statute and precedent -- requires direct evidence in order to sustain a conviction.

“The jury can consider circumstantial evidence, looking at all of the evidence as a whole and not just looking at one particular statement,” Norton declared.

While the prosecution will apparently be permitted to impute “intent” to Townsend on the basis of things he didn’t say, write, or do, Norton insisted that the defendant’s actual words are not definitive evidence of his intent

“Just because in this particular case there was a note in that particular Facebook post where he referred to – as almost as a caveat referring to `’non-violent’ – that doesn’t mean that that’s binding on a jury to actually decide that’s what his intent was, any more than an assault is remediated just because as the person pulls the gun away from somebody’s head they say `just kidding,’” Norton asserted, reciting an argument made by the prosecution during last April’s probable cause hearing. 

The tortured analogy between pointing a gun at a terrified person’s head and writing a nasty note on Facebook offers decisive proof that both the prosecution and Judge Norton know this case is without merit: Under Idaho case law, Townsend could not be convicted of witness intimidation if he had pointed a gun at Brockbank – as long as there was no direct evidence that this was done to prevent him from testifying “freely, fully, and truthfully.”

In 2011, the Idaho Court of Appeals overturned a witness intimidation conviction in which relatives of a man facing a narcotics charge, acting on the suspect’s direct request, invaded the home of a potential witness and held her at gunpoint.  

Saying that he was acting on behalf of “Michael” – that is, Michael O’Neill, the jailed defendant – one of the invaders told witness Sarah Phelps, “You’re f***ed; you’re going down,” as he thrust a .45 caliber handgun in her face.
The Appeals Court recognized that because there was no direct evidence that this violent crime was committed for the purpose of “affecting future testimony,” as opposed to “retaliation,” it did not meet every element of the offense called witness intimidation. 

Of course, Sarah Phelps was a mere Mundane, rather than a swaggering, armor-clad dispenser of State-sanctioned violence. During the probable cause hearing in the Townsend case last April, Brockbank strode into the courtroom in full battle array for the purpose of testifying that he is an incontinent coward who had been frightened and intimidated by Townsend’s Facebook post. In his defense, I don’t believe that Brockbank committed perjury. 

The purpose of prosecuting Matthew Townsend is not merely to enforce a “safe space” for delicate creatures like Richard Brockbank; it is to demonstrate the weight of the insubstantial entity called the “State.” 

During the Great Purge of the Soviet Communist Party, the Soviet forebears of the personalities employed by the Ada County DA’s Office ran across a particularly recalcitrant Old Bolshevik named Kamenev who simply refused to confess – just as Townsend had refused to concede Brockbank’s claim that he had been jaywalking. 

Offended by the Muscovite’s impudent assertions of innocence, Vyshinsky’s understudies could have treated him to a “Lubyanka breakfast” -- a cigarette and a bullet to the back of the head. But without a confession, the exercise would have been sterile: The entire point was to extract a confession, and to display the broken defendant to the public as proof that the state was both infallible and pitiless. This wouldn’t be accomplished by executing a man who defiantly insisted on his innocence.

Seeking guidance in dealing with the recalcitrant suspect, NKVD official named Mironov  sought an audience with Stalin, who listened intently. After the troublesome case had been described in detail, Stalin sat in quiet thought for a moment before asking an unexpected question.

“Do you know how much our state weighs, with all the factories, machines, the army, with all the armaments and the navy?” Stalin inquired. “Think it over and tell me.”

Perhaps believing that Stalin was telling a joke – and the Dear Leader was, of course, renowned for his sense of humor – Mironov reacted with a nervous chuckle. 

“I am asking you, how much does all that weigh?” Stalin repeated, his eyes narrowing as he emphasized every syllable. 

Sweating and stammering, Mironov replied, “Nobody can know that, Yosif Vissarionovich. It is in the realm of astronomical figures.”

“Well, can one man withstand the pressure of an astronomical weight?” Stalin prompted the thoroughly intimidated underling.

“No,” Mironov answered weakly, no doubt cringing in anticipation of what was to come.

“Now, then,” Stalin concluded in a tone of voice that could freeze magma, fixing the NKVD operative with a malicious glare, “don’t tell me any more that Kamenev, or this or that prisoner, is able to withstand that pressure. Don’t come report to me until you have in your briefcase the confession of Kamanev!” 
Meridian, Idaho in 2016 obviously isn’t Moscow, Russia circa 1936 – at least in terms of the extent and pervasiveness of government-imposed injustice. The fact that Stalinesque abuse isn’t commonplace doesn’t make single-serving Stalinism any less abhorrent. 

In his Facebook post, Townsend pointedly identified “the State” as the entity seeking to put him in a cage, and expressed contemptuous and entirely commendable defiance toward that malignant entity. The Meridian Police Department, the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, and Judge Norton are display same mindset exhibited by Stalin: They are using officially sanctioned violence to crush a political dissident, for the greater glory of the murderous abstraction they serve.

This week's Freedom Zealot Podcast examines the background of the standoff in Harney County, Oregon:

Dum spiro, pugno!