Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Nickel Rides," "Houdini Suicides," and the American Torture State

Like iron filings rearranging themselves in the presence of a magnetic field, reflexive apologists for the police quickly adapt to every official explanation for egregious misconduct.

Knowing that official insinuation suffices when facts are withheld, the Baltimore PD leaked the suggestion that Gray killed himself by banging his head on the walls of the vehicle. This account was supposedly provided by another arrestee during a jailhouse interview with a police detective. 

The alleged witness –who had a compelling motive to tell a story his captors would like -- didn’t actually see what happened. The detective’s report claims that the witness heard the sound of Gray frantically striking his head against the inner walls of the vehicle, as if driven by some perverse instinct to break his own neck.
Freddie Gray's arrest
When coupled with the unsourced claim that Gray had a pre-existing neck injury (he received a settlement in a case involving suspected lead poisoning), the officially promoted narrative indicted Gray as the culprit in his own homicide. This desperate act, we are told, has been exploited by the Revolutionary Left in its unending campaign to demonize the police

“Freddie broke his own neck,” sneered a Baltimore Police Officer named Avi Tasher in a post on his now-deleted Facebook page (which was archived for posterity by Photography Is Not A Crime). “Police never harmed him or denied him medical attention. He was faking injury to delay his arrest then snapped his own spinal cord in the wagon by smashing his head into the wall repeatedly. Even the other prisoner gave a statement to that effect.” In a separate post, Tasher protested that media coverage of Gray’s death – specifically by CNN – had fomented a “race riot” in Baltimore. 

Gray had an extensive arrest record, most of which dealt with trivial offenses that wouldn’t be considered crimes in a rational society. The police who arrested him were not acting on a complaint, nor did they witness him in the act of committing a crime; Gray fled in order to avoid contact with the police, which is the reaction of every sensible person who has that option

After being taken into custody, Gray was not only handcuffed behind the back, but thrown face-down into the police van “head first, ankles bound, arms bound,” according to an eyewitness. En route to the station, and before the unnamed “witness” was picked up, the police stopped to place more restraints on Gray. At that point, according to a video record, the victim was conscious and speaking. When the vehicle arrived at the station a half-hour later, he was unresponsive. 

Someone shackled as Gray was would not be able to beat his head against the wall. Since he was not secured by a seat belt he would likewise be unable to protect himself against potentially fatal blunt force impacts against unyielding surfaces as part of a widely practiced punitive ritual called a “nickel ride,” a “rough ride,” or a “wild ride.” In many jurisdictions, including Baltimore and Philadelphia, police are known to subject shackled prisoners to a series of sudden stops, turns, and accelerations. The practice is well-known, and quietly condoned by the same police administrators who publicly condemn it. 

Dozens of people have suffered significant injuries – including permanent paralysis – from this variety of police torture. There is no record of a police officer facing criminal charges, or significant administrative discipline, for inflicting a “rough ride” on an arrestee.

Invoking what might be called "Dumb and Dumber" logic -- that is, assuming that we shouldn't definitively rule out something that enjoys an infinitesimal chance of being true -- we could say that it is possible that Gray's fatal injury was self-inflicted. It must be understood that a severed spine is precisely the kind of trauma a “rough ride” is designed to inflict. 

Yet Punitive Populists and Law-and-Order Leninists readily embraced the staggeringly implausible claim that Gray, who was arrested without cause, taken into custody without resistance, and trussed in the fashion of a game fowl being prepared for the oven, somehow managed to kill himself by hurling his head against a bolt embedded in the wall of the police van. 

Freddie Gray was hardly the first young black man who supposedly displayed the flexibility of Reed Richards in killing himself while in police custody.

According to police in Jonesboro, Arkansas, 21-year-old Chavis Carter shot himself in the head while handcuffed in the back seat of a police vehicle during a July 2012 arrest. Two body searches conducted on the still-living Carter failed to turn up the gun that was supposedly used in the suicide. Officers Keith Baggett and Ronald Marsh, who had taken Carter into custody, were placed on paid vacation and quickly cleared by an internal investigation. A lawsuit filed against the City of Jonesboro and its police department was deflected by the predictable claim of “qualified immunity.”

Chavis Carter
Carter was apparently the first of several “Houdini suicides” committed by young men in police custody. 

Roughly two years later, 22-year-old Victor White III, according to the official account offered by the New Iberia, Louisiana Police Department, replicated Carter’s feat by shooting himself in the head while in the back of a patrol car

The original police account claimed that Carter, who somehow managed to find a gun that eluded the rigorous body search by his conscientious captors, fatally shot himself in the back. However, the coroner’s report, which wasn’t released until the fall, concluded that the fatal wound was inflicted from the front

White’s hands were never tested for residue, and the wound displayed none of the “stippling” associated with gunshots delivered at close range. Despite a welter of contradictions and evidence suggestive of a criminal homicide, Dr. Carl Ditch ratified the claim that White killed himself.
Victor White III
In November 2014, while White’s family was examining the freshly released coroner’s report regarding the death of their son, 17-year-old Jesus Heurta of Durham, North Carolina joined the ranks of handcuffed suspects who somehow managed to kill themselves in the back seat of police vehicles.  Despite a careful and methodical search of the suspect, who was handcuffed from the back, Huerta retrieved a concealed handgun and shot himself in the face as the vehicle was approaching police headquarters – or so the police would later insist.

“The evidence and information collected thus far indicate that Mr. Huerta had a handgun concealed on his person,” announced Captain L.J. Clayton, who presided over what was no doubt a comprehensive and disinterested internal investigation. Officer Samuel Duncan, who arrested the teenager following a family dispute, “did not discover this handgun during his search of Mr. Huerta. Mr. Huerta shot himself with that handgun.”

These findings were presented during a press conference from which the victim’s family was excluded.

Duncan, a rookie officer who had just finished his probationary period, reported that Huerta was the first person he had arrested and placed in his patrol vehicle that evening. The vehicle had been searched prior to Duncan’s shift. Duncan didn’t find any weapons during his pat-down search of Huerta. Another teen who was arrested at the same time testified that Huerta was not armed at the time of the police encounter.

Shortly before arriving at the station, Duncan claims, he heard a gunshot and leapt from the car out of fear that he might have been targeted. The unpiloted vehicle remained in gear and eventually collided with a tree. Huerta was found with a bullet wound to the front of his face. A well-worn .45-caliber handgun -- the same caliber used by the Durham Police -- was reportedly discovered at his side.
Jesus Huerta
Huerta was a small, wiry teenager. The gun he purportedly used to kill himself is a HiPoint .45, which is bulky and difficult to conceal. Retrieving a gun of that size, let alone using it to carry out a self-inflicted headshot, would have entailed flexibility worthy of a Cirque du Soleil performer, and highly visible exertion of the kind that should have been obvious even to the kind of intellectually stunted individual who typically chooses a law enforcement career.

As so often happens in cases of this kind, the patrol vehicle was equipped with a video camera that wasn’t turned on to record the critical event. The most recent record in a federal firearms database placed the handgun at a Georgia pawnshop in 1991. This nicely fits the description of a “drop gun” or a “throw-away weapon” – stolen or confiscated guns used by police to cover up murders, manufacture pretexts for arrests, or to conceal other criminal misconduct.

Responding to a timidly skeptical reporter who asked how a handcuffed man could shoot himself in the face, Deputy Chief Anthony Marsh displayed a staged photo of a shackled man contorting himself into a position in which this might be possible.

“Not only can it be done, it has been done in other jurisdictions,” Marsh insisted. Since this facially ludicrous story had become validated through repetition, and canonized by the State-aligned media, it was now simply incontestable that a handcuffed suspect who shows up at the police station with a fatal bullet wound is a victim of suicide, rather than police homicide.

This kind of thing is obvious to precisely the same kind of people – from police state catamites like Sean Hannity, to others who should be more sensible -- who want to pretend that Freddie Gray managed to sever his own spinal cord.
Mobile torture facilities in Philadelphia.
There is an interesting, and very troubling, resonance between these stories of domestic police torture and the official treatment of the June 2006 “suicides” of three detainees at Alpha Block of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Saudi captives Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, and Yemeni detainee Sala Ahmen Al-Salami had been held at Gitmo for several years without charges. They had participated in hunger strikes to protest their illegal detention and the mistreatment they had received.

After their lifeless bodies were found hanging in their cells, Camp Commandant Harry Harris described the deaths as “suicides” carried out as “an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” By killing themselves, the prisoners had actually victimized those who imprisoned them – or so we were instructed to believe. The official account was verified by the NCIS, which means that it is to be embraced as the unqualified and unassailable truth, notwithstanding the fact that it is a demonstrable lie.

“According to the NCIS documents, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall,” observes international human rights attorney Scott Horton. “Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.”

Simone Weil famously defined power as a mysterious influence that “turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing. Exercised to the limit, it turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse into him.”

Out of fear or worship of power, others are eager to retail even the most obvious lies used to sustain it. People of that description are quite commonplace in torture states of the kind America has become.

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Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Globalizing America's "Divorce Regime"

A “single `no’ vote” by the Idaho Legislature disrupted “the finely crafted choreography” behind a UN child support treaty,
laments the New York Times. Unless this is reversed in a special legislative session, the paper tremulously informed its dwindling band of readers, the legal architecture of international child support enforcement could collapse.

This prospect is treated as an incipient catastrophe, rather than an outcome greatly to be desired. Threatened with the punitive withdrawal of federal funding, Idaho Governor Butch Otter called for a special legislative session on May 18 to “correct” the previous action. Ratifying the UN child support treaty, Otter predicts, should take “hours, not days.” Regrettably, Otter’s prediction will probably be validated. 

Shortly before the end of the regular legislative session, a group of nine Republican legislators voted to table a measure designated SB 1067. That bill would have reconfigured Idaho’s child support enforcement (CSE) practices to conform with the dictates of the 2007 UN Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (hereafter called the Hague Convention).
Rep. Nate.

Rep. Ronald M. Nate, who was among those who voted against releasing the bill from the House Judiciary Committee, objected that under the terms of the agreement, “Idaho could be stuck enforcing unfair and ill-gotten CSE orders made in foreign countries.” That much is incontestable: Article 28 of the Convention does specify that “There shall be no review by any competent authority … of the merits of a decision” handed down by judicial bodies overseas. This would be done for the benefit of bureaucracies, not the children whose interests they supposedly represent. 

The Hague Convention identifies parties to child support disputes as “creditors” – those to whom payments are due – and “debtors” – those from whom payments are to be extracted. Article 36 (1) of the instrument expands the term “creditor” to include a government entity “acting in place of an individual to whom maintenance is owed.” Section (2) of that provision decrees that “The right of a public body to act in place of an individual to whom maintenance is owed … shall be governed by the law to which the body is subject.”

Under those terms, CSE judgments made in foreign jurisdictions would indeed be enforceable within states that ratify the compact.  This led opponents of the bill to denounce its impact on “state sovereignty,” reflecting the widely held and morally unsupportable belief that it is entirely appropriate for government to intrude in private disputes as long as the entity doing so is geographically proximate. 

Such intrusion is unthinkable when carried out by officious, unaccountable bureaucrats with unfamiliar names and accents who live overseas – yet it is somehow appropriate when done by functionaries of that kind who share the same ZIP code, or at least live within the same national tax jurisdiction.

The Hague Convention is evil not because it would import foreign law, but rather because it exports and universalizes a hideous and tyrannical social engineering scheme.  America’s child support enforcement system follows the familiar formula: Find a policy that doesn’t work, subsidize it lavishly, connect it to a huge and expanding constellation of constituencies, and enforce it ruthlessly.

Presiding over this Hydra-like syndicate of extortion and state terror is the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OSCE), with state-level affiliates acting as its tentacles. To understand the scope of the Regime's war on non-custodial parents, this comparison is useful: In 2007, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the point of the spear in the "war on drugs," employed a total of 4,600 armed field agents; the OSCE at the time boasted more than 60,000 enforcement agents, all of whom are permitted to carry firearms under the "Deadbeat Parents Enforcement Act." 

In his horrifying study Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Dr. Stephen Baskerville examines what he calls the “Divorce Regime.”

"It is no exaggeration to say that the existence of family courts, and virtually every issue they adjudicate -- divorce, custody, child abuse, child-support enforcement, even adoption and juvenile crime -- depend on one overriding principle: remove the father,” writes Dr. Baskerville. When a family is broken up, each child "becomes a walking bundle of cash" -- not for the custodial parent, but for a huge and expanding population of tax-devouring officials who "adopt as their mission in life the practice of interfering with other people's children." 

"A parent [usually – but not always -- a father] whose children are taken away by a family court is only at the beginning of his troubles,” elaborates Dr. Baskerville. “The next step comes as he is summoned to court and ordered to pay as much as two-thirds or even more of his income as `child support' to whomever has been given custody. His wages will immediately be garnished and his name will be entered on a federal register of `delinquents.' This is even before he has had a chance to become one, though it is likely that the order will be backdated, so he will already be a delinquent as he steps out of the courtroom. If the ordered amount is high enough, and the backdating is far enough, he will be an instant felon and subject to immediate arrest."

Dr. Baskerville’s assessment is neither partisan nor particularly controversial.

“The problem begins with child support orders that, at the outset, can exceed parents’ ability to pay,” acknowledged the New York Times shortly before the paper condemned the Idaho Legislature for impeding efforts to globalize the CSE system. “When parents fall short, the authorities escalate collection efforts, withholding up to 65 percent of a paycheck, seizing bank deposits and tax refunds, suspending driver’s licenses and professional licenses, and then imposing jail time.”

Sarah Geraghty, an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights, explained to the Times that parents “who are truly destitute go to jail over and over again for child support debt simply because they’re poor…. We see many cases in which the person is released, they’re given three months to pay a large amount of money, and then if they can’t do that they’re tossed back in the county jail.”

In many jurisdictions, notes the Times, “support orders are based not on the parent’s actual income but `imputed income’ – what they would be expected to earn if they had a full-time, minimum wage or median wage job.” In one case that is probably not unique, a man spent more than a decade making court-imposed child support payments for the supposed benefit of  someone else’s biological daughter.

For thirteen years, Houston resident Willie Carson endured wage garnishments despite the fact that a DNA test proved he wasn’t the father of the child in question. 

Notwithstanding recent judicial recognition of that fact, Carson is still liable under what Texas calls the “law” for $21,000 in overdue payments and accumulated interest – not to the teenage girl, whom Carson has never met, but to the state agencies supposedly representing her interests.

That story presents the reality of the CSE system in microcosm. It exists to sustain itself; the children are useful as assets – and, where necessary, as hostages. After Idaho legislators refused to play their scripted role by ratifying Idaho’s involvement in the UN child support treaty, the Regime in Washington threatened to withhold $46 million in CSE program subsidies. According to some calculations, this would deprive “Idaho’s children” – or at least the bureaucracies who supposedly represent their interests -- of up to $200 million in child support transfers

Press coverage dutifully recites the claim that 155,000 Idaho families would suffer because of the intransigence of a handful of “extremists” at the statehouse – without sparing a moment to contemplate the unreasonable stubbornness of the extremist in the White House. After all, according to the official narrative, the Obama administration is willing to inflict suffering on children to punish the state for its political deviationism. This assumes that the children in question actually benefit from the system – which, as we’ve seen, isn’t the case – and that the system is morally supportable – which it manifestly is not.

The CSE system, as Janelle T. Calhoun documented  in the Mercer Law Review, is a “Juggernaut of Bureaucracy” that grew out of the welfare system. Prior to the enactment of the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program eighty years ago, there was little government involvement in child support matters, and no federal involvement whatsoever.
The AFDC program (now known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF) enshrined in federal policy the principle of parens patriae – the State as father. Through AFDC, “the government became a provider for America’s children,” commented litigator Daniel Robert Zmijewski, casually endorsing the proposition that children are a collective “asset” of the nation-state.

While this began with children in households receiving federal transfer payments, that claim was quickly expanded to encompass all children residing within the United States. As GK Chesterton observed, describing how this process unfolded in Great Britain a few decades earlier, the State appointed itself “not the guardian of some abnormal children, but the guardian of all normal children.”

There’s nothing new in that arrangement, nor is it a recent discovery that it cannot possibly work. In Book II of his Politics, Aristotle condemned the idea that children are in some sense “community” property: “Each citizen will have a thousand sons who will not be his sons individually, but anybody will be equally the son of anybody, and will therefore be neglected by all alike.”

In keeping with the iron law of social engineering – “Each intervention will create an indefinitely self-sustaining cycle of failures and `reforms’” – the welfare system created during the New Deal underwent several refinements, each of which resulted in more deeply entrenched poverty and a corresponding expansion of an intractable bureaucracy.

Like Stalin-era agricultural commissars blaming “Kulaks” or perversely consistent bad weather for their perennial harvest shortfalls, those presiding over Washington’s welfare bureaucracy indicted “deadbeat Dads” for the predictable failure of a system that encouraged and subsidized the destruction of family commitments. This led to creation of the federal CSE apparatus, which amplifies the misery of single parents and neglected children while acting as a major tributary feeding the vast river of misery that is the American prison system.

This brings up a transgressive question at least one “mainstream” legal commentator was willing to ask: Why do we allow the government to pretend that being a “deadbeat Dad” is an offense that falls within its jurisdiction?

Failure to pay child support “is not a crime,” writes defense attorney and CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos. Although some states criminalize delinquency in child support payments, this is “rightly a civil matter. Skipping child support court should similarly not be a crime either.” The current approach is “bill collection, only with a collection agency bristling with lethal and other weapons, and acting under color of law.”

Writing in 1992, prior to the most recent enhancement of the federal CSE system and the attempt to globalize it via the Hague Convention, Janelle Calhoun reported that the default rate for child support payments “is nearly 50%” compared to “a default rate of only 3% for car loans….”

She offered that comparison without fully appreciating its significance: Lenders who underwrote automobile purchases enjoyed a 97% compliance rate without threatening borrowers with imprisonment or death as punishment for default. The penalty for failure to make car loan payments is repossession of the vehicle, coupled with a stain in one’s credit history.
Acting in the "best interests of the child."
For someone who is suited by character and disposition to be a parent, no conceivable punishment is worse than being deprived of the company of his or her child. 

For those who treat marriage in covenantal terms, preserving that union – where possible -- for the benefit of the children is a responsibility dictated by honor and enforced through the intangible but effective pressure of solemn commitments made in the presence of honorable people. The State – a fictive entity devised to justify violence and plunder -- cannot compel honorable behavior.

For most of our nation’s history, marriage was treated as a commercial contract. In my view, that derogates from the true meaning of the institution – but even that arrangement was preferable to the one that currently prevails.

“Thirty years ago, with no public discussion of consequences, no-fault divorce laws effectively ended marriage as a legal contract and precluded couples from entering binding agreements to raise children,” points out Dr. Baskerville. “Deception was involved from the start. Laws advertised as allowing divorce by mutual consent actually created unilateral divorce, permitting one spouse to dissolve a marriage without accepting any liability for the consequences.”

Rather than recognizing marriage as a private contract, and removing it entirely from the purview of government, the “no-fault” enactments “created a public-private complex of judges, lawyers, psychotherapists, mediators, counselors, social workers, child support agents, and others with a vested interest in perpetuating divorce,” Dr. Baskerville continues:

“Whatever pieties these practitioners voice about the plight of fatherless, poor, abused, and violent children, the fact remains that their livelihood depends on a steady supply of such children. The children of divorce fill government coffers, fuel political patronage, expand police powers, justify surveillance of citizens, and create a host of problems for officials to solve – to which [has been] added the problem of creating more healthy marriages.”

The “child support enforcement” system helps sustain this vast and ever-metastasizing population of privileged parasites – which is why demolition of that system is an urgent necessity.

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Dum spiro, pugno!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Gary Raney, Oath Breaker (Update, April 28)

Already planning his next career move: The double-minded Raney is sworn in, January 2013.

When Gary Raney was re-elected as Sheriff of Idaho’s Ada County in 2012, voters who made that unfortunate choice expected that he would remain in office until the end of his term. Most of them probably didn’t anticipate that Raney would spend the next two years auditioning for a lucrative sinecure with the federal Justice Department, and then announce his state-subsidized retirement when his pension triggers were pulled.

In making his retirement announcement on April 24, Raney displayed the eagerness of an understudy in an off-Broadway production who had just gotten his big break.

“It’s been an absolutely wonderful career and I still love my job to this day,” Raney gushed at a press conference in the fashion of a starlet accepting an award. “I love the people I work with, and that’s really what job happiness is…. But there’s a time for everything. When I first took office as sheriff, I said that when I’ve taken the Sheriff’s Office where I can take it and I’ve done what I wanted to do, then I’ll move on and do something else.”

If Raney were a public servant and a man of his word, he would admit that the proper time for leaving office would have been at the end of the term he had promised to serve – unless, of course, a sufficient number of disgusted and sound-minded people in Ada County had joined the movement to recall him from office. On the evidence Raney has presented it’s clear that the interests of his constituents played no role whatsoever in his decision to retire – with a tax victim-subsidized pension –a 52 years of age.

It's all about...
Raney explained that there were five factors – in addition to being fully vested in his state pension, of course – behind his decision:

“I wanted to continue to learn. I wanted to continue to be relevant in making change. I wanted to be able to set my own schedule. And whatever I did, it’s got to be fun, because life is too short.”

The retirement notice Raney sent to the Ada County reflected the same irrepressible narcissism: Of the roughly 300 words contained in that letter, 61 of them were the first-person singular vertical pronoun, “I.”

Nestled within this Obama-grade masterpiece of self-preoccupation was a failed attempt at self-effacement: “No leader, and certainly no elected official, should stay too long.” This is certainly true, particularly for people ill-suited for positions of responsibility in the first place. 

It’s worth reiterating that the appropriate time to make an announcement of that kind would have been prior to the 2012 election. It must also be emphasized that Raney’s resignation isn’t akin to Cincinnatus putting his hand back to the plow, but rather the act of a cynical careerist exploiting new opportunities in the coercive sector. On July 1, Raney will begin his new gig as a consultant to police agencies in Idaho that apply for federal “help.” 

Many, perhaps most, Idaho residents who are concerned about civil liberties and criminal justice issues are understandably worried about federalization of nominally local law enforcement agencies. Most of the state’s 44 elected sheriffs have expressed specific concerns about the prospect of new federal anti-gun rights measures.

Raney, by way of contrast, is a federal supremacist who sees “local” law enforcement agencies as retail franchises of the centralized homeland security state. If Congress had enacted anti-gun measures, or Obama had imposed them by decree, Raney would have done the bidding of Washington, irrespective of the price imposed on his Ada County constituents. 

“I have been asked many times in the past couple of weeks whether I will uphold my oath to defend the Constitution and proclaim an intolerance of federal action against the Second Amendment,” Raney wrote in a January 2013 Idaho Statesman op-ed column. “Many others have indulged that pressure and now we see Oregon sheriffs, Wyoming legislators and others making hollow promises to protect you from the intrusions of the federal government.”

“I did not swear to uphold just part of the Constitution,” Raney continued, before tacitly promising to do precisely that. Although the Constitution “includes the right to keep and bear arms … it also includes the `supremacy clause’ that says that every state shall abide by the laws passed by our Congress.” On this construction, if the federal government imposes measures nullifying the innate right to armed self-defense – which exists independent of any constitution or legislative enactment – it is the duty of law enforcement officers to secure compliance, and to imprison or liquidate those who refuse to submit. 

Despite his personal opposition to “some of the gun control measures currently under consideration, my oath requires me to uphold the laws that are passed by our federal and state representatives,” concluded Raney, thereby demonstrating that for him the “supremacy clause” is the only part of the Constitution that matters. 

Raney’s invocation of the supposed duty to execute the will of the central government, however odious, brought to mind an editorial published a while ago by the Telegraph and Democrat Review of Alton, Illinois:

“The law in question may be defective – it may, in some particulars, be unnecessarily severe; its operation may, in a few cases, prove oppressive, perhaps unjust. But so long as it shall remain on the statute book of the United States, it will be the bounden duty of every good citizen to interpose no resistance to its execution.” 

That editorial was published on November 22, 1850, and the law to which it referred was the Fugitive Slave Act, under which local sheriffs and constables of Gary Raney’s ilk tracked down human beings who had fled from chattel slavery – or free black men who were falsely described as “escaped slaves” -- and delivered them into the hands of others who claimed to own them. 

If Idaho had been part of the Union in 1850, and Gary Raney had been Sheriff of Ada County, he would have enforced the Fugitive Slave Law with the same avidity he has displayed in enforcing the federal narcotics laws that are distant but undeniable kindred to that repellent measure. 

Shortly before Raney published his paean to federal supremacy, the Idaho State Legislature passed HB 219, which would have made it a misdemeanor offense for any peace officer in the state to participate in federal civilian disarmament initiatives. That measure, astoundingly, enjoyed the support of the rank-and-file of Idaho’s Fraternal Order of Police and nearly every member of the Idaho Sheriffs Association. Raney’s anti-gun perspective was very much a minority view within the organization over which he presided, but this didn’t deter him from setting out to scuttle the bill. 

Raney deployed ISA Executive Director Vaughn Killeen – the former Ada County Sheriff who had mentored him – and Mike Kane to lobby the senate against HB 219. Killeen and Kane cornered key senators and rehearsed the litany of supposed horrors that would descend if the legislature offended the Feds – such as curtailment of Justice Department grants and perhaps even an end to the officially sanctioned plunder called “civil asset forfeiture.” 

Raney’s lobbyists succeeded in killing the bill in the senate – and they did so without filing the proper lobbyist disclosure forms. 

When the legislative session ended in May, Rep. Mark Patterson, who had sponsored the bill, filed a complaint against Kane and Killeen. Following an inquiry by Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Kane grudgingly provided an amended lobbying report on May 15 – but that document still didn’t disclose his work on HB 219. After Rep. Patterson submitted a second complaint, Kane was compelled to fill out a second amended report and register as a lobbyist – long after Raney had achieved his objective.

Patterson still wasn’t satisfied. On May 21, 2013, he filed a complaint with Secretary of State Ysura about Raney’s illicit lobbying effort. Acting in his official capacity Patterson also dispatched a letter to Raney’s office demanding “the accounting records for the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association” dealing with expenses incurred by the organization’s lobbying effort, in order to determine if taxpayer funds had been illegally used to defeat the bill.

On the following day, Raney sent Patterson notice that he was revoking the state representative’s concealed weapons license (CWL), supposedly because Patterson hadn’t disclosed a withheld judgment for an assault charge nearly forty years earlier.

That withheld judgment had been expunged from Patterson’s record, which meant that he was not required to disclose it. In similar fashion, Raney was not allowed to use that judgment to deny Patterson’s application. Under Idaho law, a withheld judgment is not an impediment to receiving a CWL. Furthermore, Raney became aware of Patterson’s withheld judgment no later than 2007, when he first issued his CWL, and was reminded of it through a background check run in 2012 when Patterson renewed that license.

In his notice to Patterson – which, once again, was sent on the day the sheriff received official correspondence regarding his own misconduct – Raney said that the representative could challenge the decision in an administrative hearing scheduled for August 26. During the intervening weeks, Rep. Judy Boyle, a political ally of Patterson, sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office requesting clarification about the state’s CWL statute as it applies to withheld judgments. In its reply the AG’s office confirmed that a withheld judgment is not a disqualification for a CWL.

Following the August 26 hearing, Patterson was told that he could expect a final decision within two weeks. Without explanation, that deadline was moved back to October 29. Just hours before receiving the final decision from Raney’s office, Patterson received an email from Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey, who said that he had learned that the sheriff’s office had pulled his CWL and that wanted to discuss the representative’s “criminal past.”

Popkey’s email about the outcome of the administrative hearing came before Patterson received the news from his own attorney. The only possible source for that information was Raney’s office. The same is true of the legally protected information in Patterson’s NCIC report, the “raw” FBI file used in the background checks following his CWL application.

Five days before sending his email to Patterson, Popkey contacted the Clerk of Florida’s 13th Circuit Court to request information about the 1974 case, in which a 21-year-old Patterson, accused of sexual assault by an emotionally disturbed woman who had lost custody of five children and just been released from a mental hospital, pleaded guilty to a charge of “assault with intent to rape.” 

In May of 1974, Florida Circuit Judge Harry Lee Cole, who had been given the sobriquet “Hangin’ Harry” as a tribute to his severity, accepted Patterson’s plea and placed him on five years of supervised probation. Because Judge Cole retained jurisdiction, the conviction would be expunged from Patterson’s record after probation was concluded. At that time, according to Florida law, Patterson would not be considered “a convicted person” and would be legally entitled to “deny having a conviction, even when subject to deposition or while testifying in court.” 

As it turned out, Patterson didn’t have to wait five years. His conviction was vacated by Cole – who, once again, was not well-acquainted with the concept of leniency – in July 1976, after a private investigator hired by Patterson’s family provided evidence that the alleged victim had recanted her accusation. 

Rape and attempted rape are vile, horrendous crimes, irrespective of the background or character of the victim. Mark Patterson never committed that offense, or anything akin to it. His qualified guilty plea was wrung from him following a period of pre-trial detention during which he was beaten and threatened with sexual assault. 

Mark Patterson and his family.

After Judge Cole released him from probation three years early, Patterson was an innocent man, both in law and in fact. Over the intervening decades, Patterson built a career in the productive sector, creating a hugely successful business in Boise. After he was financially secure, he married -- somewhat later in life than most Idaho residents -- and started a family. He was elected to the Idaho Legislature as a "Tea Party"-aligned conservative in 2012.

His long-resolved legal proceedings left a residue in an FBI database, however, which offered an ethically deprived sheriff the means to retaliate against him decades later, with the help of a reporter who was similarly unhindered by scruples. 

In a November 1, 2013 conversation with Rep. Boyle, Popkey reportedly said that “somebody, simply out of a sense of duty … called Sheriff Raney and told him that he knew Mark Patterson had lied on his CWL [application] and directed Raney to this specific 40-year-old case in Florida.” 

The fact that Patterson had a CWL was not public knowledge. His personal information in the NCIC database was confidential and protected by federal and state law. The only people who would have known about these matters are Raney and a few of his subordinates. In response to an inquiry Raney insisted to me that “the actions by the Sheriff’s Office followed the law, including protecting personal information relevant to concealed weapons permits.”

Yet somehow, according to the story both Raney and Popkey have told, some still-unnamed person, burdened with pious purpose and propelled by civic resolve, provided Raney with this crucial and long-ignored intelligence on the precise day that he could use it to retaliate against a state legislator who was investigating the sheriff’s misconduct.

Whoever leaked that material to Popkey committed a criminal offense, but on this occasion Raney’s zeal for enforcing the law failed him. Once Patterson had been traduced as a “rapist” in the local and global media, Raney insisted that the matter was “closed” – without explaining what he had done to plug this leak of protected information, or identifying those responsible for granting and renewing Patterson’s CWL despite his supposed omissions. 

Smeared and threatened: Rep. Boyle.

Rather than cleaning up affairs in his own office, Raney expanded the compass of his retaliation to include Rep. Boyle. 

In an October 31, 2013 letter to Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke, Raney claimed that Boyle’s letter to the Attorney General inquiring about the CWL conferred a personal benefit on Patterson in “violation of the Ethics in Government Act.” He also suggested that Boyle had committed “theft through diversion,” and demanded that she face an ethics investigation.

Forcedout of the legislature and driven from the state after his reputation was ruined, Patterson filed notice of an impending lawsuit against Raney and Popkey. Shortly after that tort claim was filed, Popkey resigned from the Statesman and took a new position with Republican Congressman Raul Labrador. Now Raney is making an unexpected career change of his own. There are indications that in his new federal position Raney will continue to indulge his well-established appetite for retaliation against critics.

In 2010, Raney was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as one of two sheriffs on the Advisory Board of the National Institute of Corrections. (The other sheriff on that board, interestingly, is Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glantz, whose corrupt departmenthas been the focus of a great deal of recent media attention.) More recently he was appointed chair of the Washington-based Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), a public-private partnership within the prison-industrial complex.

During a recent online exchange, former Justice Department official Dennis Bartlett, Executive Director of the American Bail Coalition (ABC), suggested that Raney’s new federal job would require that he resign from his position at the PJI.

“No, Dennis, [I] won’t be leaving PJI,” Raney replied. “In fact, I will be investigating the widespread corruption in the commercial bail industry and your unethical blood-sucking practices. I’ll be in touch.”

That investigation would be an exercise in turf warfare, rather than an effort to serve the public interest. The PJI and ABC lobby on behalf of competing cliques of prison industry profiteers. 

Raney’s smug threat reflects the fact that as a Justice Department employee, he will have the advantage of enforcement “authority” and “qualified immunity” in pursuing the interests of his corporatist tribe. He will also be able to make use of a professional network he has built over four decades of employment as part of the enforcement caste.

During his teenage years, Raney was recruited by the Police Explorers, which is sort of a Komsomol for American youths who want to make a career in the state’s punitive apparatus. Five years later he became a reserve officer, and he has never had a job in the productive sector.

As sheriff, Raney never gave the Feds cause to worry that he would interpose against them on behalf of the rights and interests of his constituents. The Feds appreciate a sheriff who knows the length of his leash and licks the hand that fills his dish. Raney’s canine subservience explains why the Feds are taking such good care of him now.

UPDATE: Raney Will Retain His Place Within The Tax-Feeding "One Percent"

Idaho's average household income last year was a little less than $48,000. As a 52-year-old retiree in Idaho's Public Employee Retiree System, Raney will be paid $64,000 a year, notes Dustin Hurst of If he remains in his new federal position for at least three years he will also qualify for a smaller federal pension.

As of 2012, Raney's salary was at least $115,535, which made him one of the highest-paid figures within Idaho's parasite class. Through pension "double-dipping" he will continue to be paid a very large portion of that amount -- in addition to whatever windfalls he will enjoy from his connections within the coercive sector.

                                  "The Drug War and the Prison-Industrial Complex"


I recently had the tremendous honor of being interviewed by Dr. Ron Paul concerning my recent article about Idaho's incarceration industry. 

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