Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Leniency Is For the Powerful

If you're a veteran police officer who beats, chokes, and sexually assaults a prisoner in the State of Idaho, you can anticipate a wrist-slap so trivial as to defy detection by the human nervous system.

If, on the other hand, you're a law-abiding, 66-year-old retired nun, who -- in the sanctuary of the jury room -- expresses the view that a juror's first allegiance is to God and the truth, you can expect to be charged with felonious perjury.

You can expect the same state Attorney General who displayed torpid indifference in prosecuting the abusive police officer to pursue you hammer and tongs. You can anticipate that the AG will make it a priority to put you in prison for the supposed crime of behaving like a conscientious citizen and carrying out the fundamental duty of a juror: Forcing the State to prove its case against a defendant, and voting to acquit if you're honestly convinced that the case hadn't been made. And if that AG had his way, you would probably spend the rest of your life in prison.

Kevin Buttars, formerly of the Montpelier Police, didn't escape punishment entirely for his March 2007 assault on Jared Finley. He will spend about two weeks in the local jail, and was stuck with a $500 fine and court costs of about $75. He will also be on probation for a year. This sentence -- imposed for a crime that involved physical battery and a sexual assault -- is much lighter than what the typical Idahoan would receive for driving with a suspended license.

To understand the magnitude of the break Buttars was cut by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, one need only learn that the prescribed sentence for the crime of "unnecessary assault by a police officer" -- which is a misdemeanor (!) -- is a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

For commonplace assault and battery, the Idaho Criminal Code prescribes a sentence of up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. And of course, if someone of the plebian class had dared to lay his unhallowed hands on the sanctified person of Officer Buttars in exactly the same way he attacked Finley, the punishment would have been a prison term of at least five years.

From the testimony provided by the victim and Officer Kenny Yellen, an eyewitness to the attack, it's clear Buttars should have received the full sentence, and change.

A year ago (March 5, 2007), Finley was arrested and booked into the Bear Lake County Jail. Ordered to sign a form, Finley committed the unpardonable crime of hesitating to read the paper and ask questions when he didn't fully understand what he was signing.

This fleeting and entirely justified delay was enough to pull Buttars' hair trigger: He thrust himself into Finley's face, barraging him with insults and -- more importantly -- insulting his father, for whom Buttars once worked in the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office.

Understandably infuriated by the profane outburst, Finley replied in kind. Like many bullies who take refuge behind badges, Buttars can be as bold as Achilles when he has numbers in his favor and his victim is unarmed. Accordingly, he beat Finley, slammed his head into a wall, choked him, and committed an act described as "simulated sodomy" after the two fell to the floor.

During his belated trial last January, Buttars insisted (in the paraphrase of a local reporter who covered the trial) that "the only reason he used force was because Finley was not in handcuffs and he was doing what he had to [in order to] protect himself and his fellow officers."

Note the plural here: "Officers."

So a solitary, unarmed, outnumbered, physically unremarkable prisoner was a lethal threat to several of Montpelier's Finest. Got it.

And the prison rape pantomime was necessary, because...?

Well, y'see, it really wasn't simulated sodomy, 'cause, y'know, the two of them fell to the ground in an "awkward position," and the only reason Buttars "pushed his hips into Finley was to keep him down."


At this point, I'm prompted to ask: Officer Buttars, are you perchance related to Larry Craig?* Your explanation here rivals Craig's immortal plea "I take a wide stance" for sheer inventive desperation.

In any case, one of those who witnessed the incident, Officer Kenny Yellen, broke ranks with the rest of his tribe to tell the truth.

When it became clear that Finley was going to press charges, Buttars, with the support of then-Chief David Higley, planned to cover up the offense. Yellen, a genuinely heroic young officer who remembers that the rule of law is supposed to apply to those trusted to enforce it, wasn't interested in abetting the cover-up. He surreptitiously tape-recorded a conversation in which Buttars acknowledged his intention to lie about the matter: The "I'm gonna make you my prison bitch" routine was intended to humiliate the defiant Finley, Buttars confided, and it would be relatively easy to cover up.

And when the case went to trial, Yellen's corroborating testimony was sufficient to convict Buttars. On the witness stand, Yellen recalled having to look away in angry disgust after Buttars took Finley to the ground.

Officer Yellen deserves a commendation and a promotion. Most likely, he will get neither. Although Yellen has received perfunctory praise from various officials, he will probably endure ostracism and various informal punitive sanctions for taking the side of a mundane against his fellow Heroes in Blue.

After Finley reported his experience, Buttars was placed on administrative leave -- essentially, a paid vacation. After it was revealed that he and Chief Higley were trying to cover up the assault on Finley, they were fired by the City Council. Buttars and Higley responded by filing a "wrongful termination" lawsuit. I suspect that it will soon be dismissed with prejudice, at least where Buttars is concerned. (Higley has yet to stand trial for his part in the cover-up.)

The corrupt audacity displayed by Buttars and his former chief reminds me of scandal that erupted here in Idaho late last year. In December, a graduating class of police trainees at the Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training (I-POST) academy chose as its slogan: "Don't suffer from PTSD -- go out and cause it."

PTSD, of course, stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a tragic and occasionally fatal psychological condition that follows an individual's experience with lethal violence. PTSD will be one of the lingering legacies of the Idiot King's criminal war in Iraq; its victims will be Iraqis on the receiving end of Washington's murderous "liberation," and many of the Americans sent to carry it out.

Needless to say, the line about PTSD that struck the next cohort of Heroes in Blue as such a thigh-slapper provoked nary a chuckle from the rest of us.

Clearly, some ugly things have taken up residence in Idaho's law enforcement culture, and even uglier things appear to be gestating in the I-POST academy. All the more reason, then, for Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to make an example out of Buttars, rather than flogging him with a single strand of overcooked linguine.

That's not to say that Wasden is incapable of dealing sternly with those who impede the course of justice, as he pretends to understand it. Take the matter of Carol Asher, the retired nun whom we met previously.

This stretch of sylvan splendor is the ugliest spot in Kamiah. I'm not kidding.

In 2005, Miss Asher was called to serve on a jury hearing a narcotics case in Kamiah (one of the most beautiful places with which God has favored fallen humanity). She is associated with "Police and Military Against the New World Order," an activist group led by former Phoenix Police Officer Jack McLamb. As its name indicates, the group opposes globalism and policies conducing to the creation of a domestic police state. It also emphasizes the role of the jury in reining in abuses of government power.

Despite her supposedly controversial background, Miss Asher was duly empaneled as a juror. The case she heard involved a warrantless search of an automobile that revealed a small quantity of meth. The prosecutor apparently considered a guilty verdict a foregone conclusion. But Asher didn't believe that the prosecution had proven that the defendant a young Indian man, was aware that the company-owned vehicle he was driving was carrying the drug.

During jury deliberations Asher expressed her views to the other jurors and urged that they vote to acquit the suspect. Chastised for refusing to follow the judge's precise instructions, Asher pointed out that it is the jury, not the judge, that is entrusted with the power to decide not only the facts of the case, but also to rule on the justice of the law. She also pointed out that District Judge John Bradbury, august as he may be, is not the supreme authority.

One of Asher's fellow jurors, driven by the perverse yet irresistible urge to tattle, relayed those comments -- made in the supposedly unassailable privacy of jury deliberations -- to the prosecutor. After the defendant was acquitted, the prosecutor, his lust to imprison somebody unappeased, filed felony perjury charges against Asher -- with the enthusiastic support of the same Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

Perhaps owing to the prominence of fully-informed jury activists in Idaho, jurors here are required to sign, under penalty of perjury, a statement attesting that they will be guided by the judge in determining the facts and law of a case. The intention here, of course, is to prevent "jury nullification" by effectively rendering the jury a nullity -- a body that exists solely to ratify the will of the presiding judge.

Oddly enough, the official guide to jury duty published by the State Supreme Court doesn't foreclose the possibility of "jury nullification." In describing the role and functions of the jury, that document says the following:

"After the jury has been selected, the jurors will be asked to rise and swear or affirm that they will render a true verdict according to the law and the evidence.

Once the jury has been sworn, the judge will give instructions about how the trial will be conducted--generally what the case is about and how the jury is to carry out its responsibilities.

Your duty as a juror is to listen to the judge, witness and lawyers; to deliberate calmly and fairly; and to decide intelligently and justly. Your decision must be made upon the evidence presented to you in court."

This is exactly what was done by Carol Asher and the other three jurors who voted for acquittal: They listened to the judge, examined the evidence, applied their intelligence, and decided that the State hadn't made its case. Of the four, only Miss Asher was prosecuted for "perjury," on the assumption that she had deceived the court by not disclosing her views about the primacy of the jury.

Carol Asher, a meek and unassuming former nun, did nothing to injure anyone or anything, other than the pathological pride of a pack of preening prosecutors. And for that offense Attorney General Wasden, the same bureaucratic Babbitt who held his punches in dealing with a depraved, perverted, abusive cop, was willing to send Asher to prison for up to 14 years -- a term that could have been a life sentence for the 66-year-old woman.

Somebody light a match! Idaho Governor "Butch" Otter (the well-coiffed one on the right) seems to be reacting to the stench of Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's hypocrisy. Either that, or Wasden and his colleagues are experiencing the olfactory aftermath of the extra-large burrito he had for lunch (the size of which he is illustrating with his hands).

Fortunately, Magistrate Judge Michael Griffin didn't buy what Wasden and his chums were selling. On March 7, 2006 (almost exactly a year before Buttars' assault on Finley), in front of a courtroom in Grangeville packed with honorable, peaceable people who may have rioted if Asher had been sent to prison, Griffin dismissed the perjury charge -- a decision that inspired a close friend of mine to defy courtroom decorum by exclaiming, "Praise be to God!"

For reasons left unexplained, my friend was not arrested for daring to assert that there is a power in the universe superior to that of trial judges. That's progress of a sort, I guess.

A brief post-script....

It's becoming apparent that random acts of physical violence against detainees, attended by profane verbal abuse, and followed by an attempted cover-up, constitute standard operating procedure in many local jails across this once-free country.

* An even more interesting question is this: Is former Officer Kevin Buttars of Bear Lake County -- which abuts the Utah border -- related to Utah state senator Chris Buttars? The latter is the sponsor of a bill that would help police officers suppress disclosure of both criminal and administrative charges. If the two are related, it's possible the Utah politician was thinking of helping his wayward relative get a law enforcement job on his side of the border.

Liberty in Eclipse is on sale now.

Dum spiro, pugno!


Anonymous said...

I remember reading about the perjury charges against Carol Asher.

Part of the explanation for the 95%-plus conviction rate in many criminal courts is that juries are told, "If you find that conditions A, B and C are met, then you MUST convict." There are tragic stories about juries who knew that the charges carried excessive penalties which they felt inappropriate, but were cowed into a guilty verdict by the stern "You MUST convict" admonition by some gray-haired guy in a black robe. A few heroes like Carol Asher are "fully informed" and stand up to the bullying.

Equally tragic stories emerge of juries who convict, only to learn that they were told only half the story in court. That's what happened to Ed Rosenthal in Oakland. The jury was told that he was a mid-level dope dealer, caught with dozens of pounds of pot. Only after the "trial" was over did they learn that Rosenthal was deputized by the City of Oakland to grow medical marijuana, under the protection of state law. But he and his attorney were gagged by the judge from presenting this uncontested fact in court. It wasn't a permissible defense. Needless to say, this was a federal court, where the acts of the states and the people are regarded as contemptible nuisances.

Official attitudes and notions of impunity filter down from the top. When the president can openly admit to felony violations of the FISA Act and get away with it, lower-level officials take this as carte blanche for any kind of vigilante "justice" they choose to mete out. The backslid USA is a moral hard case where reform must be carried out top-down, not bottom-up.

prairiesurfer said...

We live in a moral abyss. I am still shocked and horrified at blatant self serving behavior of public officials, but then I remember that it is a heathen society out there, and there should be no expectation of our public and civil servants acting in a civil manner. I have started to form the opinion that it will not get better until it gets worse, and hopefully the sheeple are stirred to action. An optimist I am.

Anonymous said...

Having just completed 75% of my move to Idaho ( Howdy neighbor!) I have to say that people have treated us very well and are very friendly. Not that I've had any experience with the local cops... and pray that I never have anything but peaceable dealings.

But having said that your story about the nun reminded me of the time I served on a jury back in Midland, Texas (my former home town). The case involved someone being charged with drug possession and rape. The sad sorry examples of humanity dragged before the jury were pitiful enough but what got my goat was how flimsy the purported rape angle was handled. To be honest I can't say that it was clear at all. It was in the jury room that I found that not only was the jury indifferent but bamboozled by the "law". When we asked for clarification from the judge I can't say we got any. We convicted but afterwards I was of the opinion I'd been railroaded.

zach said...

Just read where 3/4 new law enforcement is out of the military. I think things are going to get much worse. I just watched a video of a marine throwing a puppy off a cliff and laughing about it. People like that are going to be in our police forces more and more.

Al Newberry said...

I love cop shows, even though I disapprove of much of their procedure. One thing that always irks me, though, is the attitude they always show about Internal Affairs. These same cops who often criticize criminals for objecting to "snitches" or "rats" call internal affairs people the same kind of terms and act as if they are the scum of the earth. In fact, they may be the only good guys in the system.

Anonymous said...

the rule of law is dead RIP

liberranter said...

Perhaps owing to the prominence of fully-informed jury activists in Idaho, jurors here are required to sign, under penalty of perjury, a statement attesting that they will be guided by the judge in determining the facts and law of a case. The intention here, of course, is to prevent "jury nullification" by effectively rendering the jury a nullity -- a body that exists solely to ratify the will of the presiding judge.

I realize that those who love liberty will be tempted to go all out to become empaneled in order to combat the prevailing apathy and ignorance that characterizes contemporary juries. However, it is even more imperative that we resist any attempt at jury tampering by prosecutors and allegedly "impartial" judges, which is exactly what this statement represents. It is therefore essential that one refuse to sign any such statement.

Al Newberry said...

These same cops who often criticize criminals for objecting to "snitches" or "rats" call internal affairs people the same kind of terms and act as if they are the scum of the earth. In fact, they may be the only good guys in the system.

Remember, "internal affairs" is staffed by cops who come from the same ranks as those they investigate. Given the all-pervasive nature of "the blue wall of silence" and the overwhelming evidence of the lack of serious punishment cops face as a result of their increasingly felonious behavior, internal affairs bureaus should be considered nothing more than instruments of coverup for the blue-clad criminal class.

To put it in a manner much more polite than that which I use over at the Copwatch forums, cops CANNOT "investigate" other cops any more than any other profession can "police" itself objectively.

Anonymous said...

"cops CANNOT "investigate" other cops any more than any other profession can "police" itself objectively."

Exactly! That's why you can't expect lawyers, doctors or politicians to investigate themselves. There is no incentive to do so. Their egos would never allow it.pa

Anonymous said...

Obey the speed limit and all other traffic laws and in the rare unfortunate circumstance that you do get pulled over - politely put on the charm - it works every time. I have never had a bad interaction with a cop over the last ten years due in part to following the aforementioned advice. And I have been pulled over by some real ornery ones.

Anonymous said...

We have the ballot box, the jury box, and ultimately the cartridge box, to deal with these supremely corrupt SoBs.

Anonymous said...

As a born and raised Idahoan I think I can say that people here are generally very pleasant and agreeable sorts. But, as I suspect elsewhere, they tend to have a 'lock-em-up' side towards those they consider outside their view of appropriate. Combined with the fact that most are 'dumber than fence posts' when it comes to history or constitutional principles can be a discouraging trait.

The thing that people need to realize about Idaho is that in our political sphere there are basically two dominant personality types - the good-ole-boys (a holdover from the age of less than honorable mining/timber/agricultural industrialists) and Mormons (probably the result of our unfortunate proximity to Utah). If you are not a good-ole-boy or a U-yoke, preferably both, you're not going anywhere politically in Idaho.

Growing up here I can say that in my youth, Idaho used to be a pretty tolerant place to live (at least from the time former Gov. Stuenenberg, well before my time, got his just rewards courtesy of striking miners from the northern part of the state). The sheriff showed up at a 'keggar party' and collected the keys - in the morning he came back and returned them. Some of the best pot available was in the trailers buried in the orchards of Senator Steve Symms fruit ranch where he housed his illegals. It was, to some extent, a live and let live place as long as it wasn't too blatant or obnoxious.

My personal observation is that there were two major things changed this dynamic. The first were a whole onslaught of changes at the federal level that tied being able to belly up to the federal tax trough to mandating that states adopt laws that the feds could not constitutionally enact directly (official payolla in my opinion). Take your pick - drug enforcement money, highway funds (think 0.08%, used to be 0.1%), TANF funds (think mandated levels of child support). The other was rapid assimilation of wash-out cops from California who came on the scene looking for 'asses to bust'. Not that we don't have our own homegrown variety mind you - Canyon County's sheriff Nourse was run out of office in the late 70's after it was discovered he had a penchant for late night beatings of prisoners in their cells (unfortunately, he's a good-ole-boy and back in his position as sheriff).

In the ensuing years, I think the draw of the federal payola tax trough and the influence of the 'bust-some-ass' authoritarians has come to be predominant in many areas of the state, especially the southern regions - and I wouldn't even get close to the counties bordering Utah. And the U-yokes are flexing more and more muscle every year (one only has to look at how they circled the wagons around former mayor Brent Coles - at least until he got busted 'wacking-off' outside his secretary's home at 3:00 a.m. apparently too much for even a U-yoke in good standing).

As for the other 'Anonymous' who councils a pleasant approach when dealing with the previously described personalities, all I can say is that apparently you are an individual more predisposed to licking boots than am I, may your chains rest lightly on you.

Anonymous said...

Well Mr. Grigg, I am completely disgusted with you! You should be so ashamed of yourself!!!!
Let me tell you few things! Kevin was a police officer for almost 20 years,I guess you make it that far beating the sh** out of people right? Kevin & Finleys Dad got along just fine! The night of the incident Kevin was called in to help. Why? Because Jared Finley broke the law!!! He was found in possesion of drugs, which was later dropped because YELLEN was an idiot and did an illegal search. Jared became physically and verbally abusive. Which he was charged and found guilty. You forgot to mention that! Why? Answer me!!! He was out of control! How would someone as perfect as yourself taken him down and held him? Huh, Huh, Huh? Do you not know how obnoxious a druged up person can be? The tape recording, he said I can cover that, not cover up. BIG DIFFERENCE!!!. Meaning: he could explain. Why was he not convicted of simulated sodomy? I guess some people are just too stupid to get it or they just hear what they want to! I am so proud of Kevin! I would never let some punk Bit** disrespect me the way he did and say those things to me. I would of done much worse if given the chance!!! He (Jared) thought he could get away with it because his daddy was a cop.
And how dare you even make the assumption that we are related to Senator Buttars,He lives close to the border so he must be related... Are you retarded? I guess because you are black, you are related to every gay black man, every black murderer, & every black child molester. Should I go on? Now do you see how ridiculous you sound? Maybe next time you decide to write a story you could write the facts and get both sides. Have you ever heard the old saying "There is always two sides to every story"
Makes me wonder what else have you not been open minded and tried to get the full story?

William N. Grigg said...

Dear Mrs./Miss Buttars -- I'm sure that aphasia is a condition amenable to clinical treatment. Please seek help, assuming that you're interested in learning effective communication skills.

And if you're going to be a successful bigot, you're going to have to master rudimentary ethnic stereotypes. I'm not black; I'm dark brown, reflecting my Mexican ancestry. So rather than rummaging around in your barren mental cupboard for insults involving black criminals, you might want to try out a few dealing with "wetback" farm laborers, or suchlike.

Anonymous said...

You described yourself well enough that I really don't have to say anything more! Thanks! You certainly didn't answer any of my questions, tells me what kind of man you are! I read your profile of yourself and indeed, you are inadequate!