Monday, November 30, 2015

Slapdown in Steamboat Springs: The Blue Tribe Targets Two Whistleblowers

 Under the reign former Chief Joel Rae, the Steamboat Springs, Colorado Police Department viewed the local citizenry as revenue-producing livestock, and officers were encouraged to "strike first and strike hard" whenever their targets displayed anything other than utter docility. 

Not surprisingly, this resulted in a blizzard of "excessive force" complaints and several civil rights lawsuits. More remarkable was the emergence of two whistleblowers whose public testimony led to the removal of Chief Rae -- but who now are being targeted for retaliation. 

Dave Kleiber.
Last March, former Detective Dave Kleiber, who resigned from the SSPD in 2013,  published open letter to residents of Steamboat Springs accusing Rae of cultivating contemptuous hostility toward the public and abetting aggressive disregard for individual rights Shortly after Kleiber went public, Office Kristin Bantle confirmed the substance of his complaints in a letter to the Steamboat Springs City Council criticizing the SSPD’s “culture of fear and intimidation” and its “militaristic” approach to law enforcement.

Within weeks Bantle was placed on “administrative leave.” She was also notified that a criminal investigation had been opened into alleged misrepresentations on a job application she had made to another law enforcement agency. On August 10 she was terminated from her job via email,  and five days later had her first court appearance on a contrived felony charge of “attempting to influence a public official.” Her trial is scheduled to begin tomorrow (December 1st). She has received, and rejected, several proposed plea deals, the terms of which she believes would have prevented her from warning the community about "a paramilitary police department" for which excessive force is standard operating procedure, and abuse of individual rights is commonplace.

Kleiber, who now works as a private investigator, learned in July that the County Prosecutor’s Office may prosecute him for alleged perjury during a 2013 criminal trial. His attorney Charles Feldman, insists that Kleiber’s whistle-blowing is why the “government [is] trying to look back through his disciplinary records and recordings and looking back through anything that they could find regarding his service as law enforcement….I represent people in the military all over the world, and it's a classic tactic to retaliate against a whistleblower that way.”
Kristin Bantle.

The advertised purpose of background screening for law enforcement applicants is to assess their “suitability” for employment in a position involving the privileged exercise of coercion. One need not be a cynic to suspect that the actual purpose of such scrutiny is to obtain potential leverage against employees who might become troublesome – by placing the demands of conscience over the dictates of tribal solidarity, for instance. Police officers understand better than most of us that it takes very little for a motivated prosecutor to turn a harmless person into a criminal.

Two years ago, disgusted by the overt militarization of the SSPD and the “contempt for outsiders” that characterized Chief Rae’s administrative style, Bantle applied for a patrol position with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office.
In preparation for a polygraph examination – a procedure that is every bit as scientifically valid as the Roman practice of seeking portents in the entrails of slaughtered animals – Bantle described two episodes in which she used forbidden substances while in the department’s employ. One of them involved a cannabis-infused “gummy” provided by her husband, who has a medical marijuana prescription. On another occasion several years ago, she was offered cocaine by her sister-in-law. She had not disclosed those incidents in her preliminary job application. 

Bantle, who was employed as part of a narcotics task force in Mason County, Michigan before moving to Colorado in 2011, can reasonably be considered a hypocrite for privately indulging in a vice for which she helped put other people in prison. That is just one of the countless layers of hypocrisy displayed by the murderous exercise in official derangement that is drug prohibition. 

Working undercover in the narcotics task force, Bantle frequently conducted “controlled buys” of drugs from people targeted for arrest. Narcotics officers are taught that, at their discretion, they can actually consume the contraband in the presence of suspects in order to make a bust. 
“When I went through Narc school, we were told to make the choice at the time that was right for [officer] safety,” Bantle explained to me, although she emphasized that this was not permitted as a matter of policy while she was with the task force. If she had consumed a “pot gummy” or a line of cocaine while preparing to make an arrest, this wouldn’t have created a problem for her. Indeed, it might have enhanced her job prospects. 

Bantle’s lack of candor resulted in her being denied a position with the sheriff’s office. That is the only officially-prescribed punishment for such an omission.

The “penalty” notice at the bottom of the job application specifies that “any falsification, withholding, or failure to answer mandatory questions completely and accurately may cause forfeiture of all rights to employment as an employee with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office.” A similar caveat is provided in the instructions Bantle received regarding the Personal History Statement: “Please be aware that failure to provide complete and accurate information is sufficient cause to deny you employment with this agency.”

Apart from what she described in the background check, there is no evidence of any prosecutable misconduct on her part. The exhaustive background check by the FBI’s National Crime Information Center reported “no identifiable record in the NCIC interstate identification index.” Significantly, neither Sheriff Garrett Wiggins nor Undersheriff Ray Birch (who supervised Bantle’s background check) saw fit to inform the SSPD or pursue charges against the officer –until May 26 of this year, months after she had gone public with her criticism of Chief Rae and the departmental culture he had created. 

Two months earlier, in her letter  to the Steamboat Springs City Council, then-Officer Bantle described the “militaristic” culture that had developed in the SSPD under Chief Rae.

“One of my first trainings [sic] at the SSPD was something called Krav Maga,” a mixed martial arts fighting technique devised by the Israeli military, Bantle explained to the City Council. “I was uncomfortable with the level of force I was being encouraged to use. For example, I was advised to `make a fist to punch people in the face’ as a means of control. I have never struck someone in the face, let alone made a fist to punch people. I have never felt the need to be so aggressive. This tactic is also referred to as `strike first and strike hard.’”

Bantle had previously been trained in less aggressive methods involving “pressure point control techniques” and suggested to Chief Rae that the department should include that approach – and de-escalation tactics – in its training. Rae blithely dismissed that suggestion.

“Even after four excessive force lawsuits the department as a whole has not received de-escalation training,” Bantle lamented in her letter to the City Council. Those lawsuits, in her view, reflected the department’s reliance on “physical violence” in response to any perceived non-cooperation, a “lack of consistent supervision and mentoring,” a “lack of cameras,” and, most importantly, an institutional “`Us against them’ ethos.”

Former Detective Kleiber provided a much more detailed critique of the department’s militaristic culture in his own March 9 “open letter” to the residents of Steamboat Springs.

“A brand new officer’s first experience at the Steamboat Springs Police Department is to be told at a department meeting to `stand up and tell us something about yourself,’” related Kleiber, who spent nearly 20 years in law enforcement prior to his resignation. “Upon starting to speak, the officer is then shouted down by a chorus led by Joel Rae, of `Shut the f**k up, and sit down.’… And thus, the atmosphere is set.”

Kleiber professed disgust over what he described as the departmental focus on “policing for profit.” Chief Rae constantly reminded his officers that they were “at-will” employees expected to generate revenue for his department. This was made apparent when he added a “surcharge” to every citation.

“The money from these tickets is then funneled directly back into the Police Department yearly budget,” Kleiber disclosed. “Patrol Officers are given an unofficial quota on the number of tickets they must write to help fill the Police Department’s coffers. Each Officer is then provided an annual performance evaluation, with one area of evaluation being whether they wrote enough tickets or not.”

The ever-escalating police shakedown produced not only a blizzard of spurious citations, but an avalanche of pretext charges, as well: Within two years of Rae’s appointment as chief, 34 local residents were arrested for “obstructing police.”

“This is a criminal charge that is almost never utilized and is commonly referred to as `contempt of cop,’” Kleiber points out.

Another of Rae’s innovative ways to turn harmless people into “criminal offenders” was to require each officer to “complete a `field interview card’ in its entirety upon any contact with any person for any reason,” Kleiber continued. “The information that Joel Rae was requiring his officers to collect went well beyond what they law allowed… [including] home addresses, sex, height, weight, hair color, eye color, race, facial hair, glasses, home phone numbers, cell phone numbers, places of employment, `personal oddities,’ and vehicle description including vehicle ID number and license plates.”

This illegal and unconstitutional policy, predictably, led to routine abuses by patrol officers, and at least one lawsuit.

Steamboat Springs resident Chelsea Blanchette was accosted by a police officer while she was working out at a 24-hour fitness club. Without probable cause or grounds for reasonable suspicion, the officer demanded that Blanchette provide him with the information to complete an “interview card.” When the woman refused to submit to a “field interview” – as she had every right to – the officer assaulted her, then arrested her on a charge of “resisting arrest.” She was briefly detained, then released without an apology.

Blanchette was one of four victims of abuse at the hands of SSPD officers who filed suits against the department within two years of Chief Rae’s installation.

Ferrugia and his wounds.

Almost exactly one year prior to Blanchette’s experience, John Ferrugia filed a lawsuit after being assaulted and arrested without cause at the same 24-hour health club. David Weaver, the plaintiff in a third suit, was beaten after having his hands cuffed behind his back. He suffered kidney damage as a result of Krav Maga-style “knee strikes.” Another SSPD officer beat Nick Holdridge with a flashlight while the victim’s hands were cuffed behind his back.

“These suits are a clear message that people’s constitutional rights are being violated by the Steamboat Springs Police Department under the leadership of Joel Rae,” observed Kleiber. Significantly, Rae – a Marine Corps veteran who, per Kleiber’s account, sports an incongruous SS tattoo, actually compelled his officers to swear an adulterated oath of office and required them to defy Colorado’s marijuana laws.

“Immediately after Amendment 64 was passed, Joel called a Department meeting,” Kleiber narrated in his letter. “He entered the meeting and declared that every officer’s previous oath of office was now invalid. He then ordered everyone to stand and had a judge administer a new oath of office declaring obedience to `Federal Law’ with the clear message of usurping the will of the Colorado voters and denying individuals their rights as afforded under the State Constitution.”
Deputy Chief Devalle.

Chief Rae and Deputy Chief Devalle were placed on “administrative leave” in March, following Kleiber’s disclosures. On July 17, Rae resigned. However, his departure hasn’t ended the campaign of retaliation against the conscientious ex-officers who spoke out against his abusive reign – and Kristin Bantle is bearing the brunt of that attack.

Last spring, an internal affairs investigation into Bantle’s performance as a School Resource Officer was launched after the SSPD received a complaint “about some rough language I used in teaching a self-defense and anti-bullying course,” Bantle recalls. “I did say what was reported, because saying things such as `Get the f**k off me!’ is a legitimate technique in dealing with an assailant.” 

There were also concerns about stories Bantle had shared regarding unusual traffic stops and drug raids. For example, she related a stop during which she found a man pleasuring himself with a sex toy, the size and composition of which she described in unpleasant detail. She shared those gamey anecdotes after students – most likely hoping to relieve the tedium of their daily incarceration -- had barraged her with questions about the “weirdest” experiences she had as a patrol officer.

Josh Carrell (second from left) as an SRO.

Detective Josh Carrell, a former School Resource Officer with the SSPD, investigated the complaints against Bantle. His report clearly demonstrates that Bantle was not “badge-heavy” and was seen by students and faculty alike as professional. There were two conspicuous exceptions, both of whom were students whose fathers were employed in local law enforcement. One of them took offense when Bantle said that some police officers inevitably “become corrupted.”

Indulging the prurient curiosity of teenagers and occasionally resorting to vulgar language are venial offenses – but it is a species of sacrilege against the exalted Brotherhood in Blue for an officer to admit that police corruption exists.

Reasonable people may conclude that Bantle’s lack of candor justifies her termination. Filing felony charges against her, however, is an unambiguous act of retaliation. According to local defense attorney Kris Hammond, the cover charge used against her – “attempting to influence a public servant” – is frequently employed to chastise Mundanes who offend their uniformed overseers. 

Hammond refers to one case in which a client was hit with that charge after supposedly threatening a police officer after being arrested. The prosecutor’s office insisted that this statement wasn’t merely an ill-considered expression of frustration, but an attempt by the detainee to compel the officer to let him go – and thus an illegal effort to “influence” the officer. On the basis of her previous experience, Hammond is optimistic about Bantle’s chances of victory in court: “I don't know of one case where this charge has made it past halftime at a trial.”

The obvious intent behind the specious charge isn’t to deal with an actual offense, but to put a whistleblower through the expense and anguish of an entirely unwarranted trial – thereby demonstrating to her former colleagues what they could expect if they undermine the solidarity of the enforcement caste.

This week's Freedom Zealot Podcast examines how collective delusions fuel the rise of the police state:

Dum spiro, pugno!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Donald Trump's Presidential "Heel Turn"

Ladies and gentlemen, the 45th President of the United States.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign makes perfect sense once it is understood to be the political equivalent of what is called a “heel turn” in professional wrestling. 

In 2007, before becoming a “reality TV” star in his own right, Trump was cast by World Wrestling Entertainment for a major role in an extended storyline that culminated in Wrestlemania 23. The climax of that pay-per-view event was a proxy battle between wrestlers representing Trump and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. The victor would shave the loser’s head in the center ring. 

A standard-issue bout of scripted, artfully choreographed mayhem ensued, during which Trump executed a cheap-shot, blind-side tackle of McMahon. After Trump’s surrogate emerged victorious, he gleefully inflicted a humiliating tonsure on his rival – the only authentic injury inflicted during the entire affair. 

Every pro wrestling persona embodies a marketable “angle.” The WWE character called Donald Trump © was a narcissistic billionaire blowhard who was supposedly tough enough to do what was necessary to bring down the “establishment.” Although he was clearly the fan favorite, Trump didn’t choose to be a “face” – that is, a good guy –because “heels” are always more popular.
Eight years later, Trump has resurrected his WWE character for use in the Republican presidential primaries, which are every bit as farcical as– albeit immeasurably more harmful than -- the steroid-saturated soap opera called pro “wrestling.”

The most coveted quality in a pro wrestling performer is “heat” – the ability to attract attention, whether in the form of adulation or vilification. In wrestling, polarization is the easiest way to generate heat. The same is true in politics, which generally is an exercise in mobilizing hatreds. 

Wrestling arenas are regularly filled with thousands of people who have paid substantial amounts to join in the collective execration of the designated “heel.” Similar dynamics exist in political rallies, but there is one important difference: The target of focused hostility will be somebody other than the figure on stage. Occasionally a heckler in the crowd will emerge and provide the audience with a more immediate hate target. This appears to be what happened at Trump’s rally in Birmingham on November 21.

Local agitator Mercutio Southall, Jr., began chanting “Black lives matter!” during Trump’s speech, inciting a scuffle and disrupting the event. According to the account of a Washington Post reporter on the scene, one of the Trump supporters in attendance “punched and attempted to choke” Southall, while a female supporter – to her credit – pleaded: “Don’t choke him!”

After he became aware of the disruption, Trump exclaimed, “Get him the hell out of here, will you please?” He then launched into a soliloquy – at once self-pitying and self-aggrandizing – complaining about how the media would depict the event, and inviting applause for handling a heckler more assertively than Bernie Sanders did when Black Lives Matter protesters simply commandeered the microphone during a campaign event in Seattle

The punches reported by the Washington Post correspondent weren’t visible in the available video of the incident, and if any blows landed they probably had as much impact as the typical “stage punch” one sees at a professional “wrestling” event. Like a “jobber” hired to perform alongside a “pushed” or featured wrestling star, Southall did his best to “sell” the fight. Trump’s reaction to the news that Southall had been “roughed up” was not to point out that the evidence supporting that claim was ambiguous, but to suggest that a beating would have been warranted. 

“Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” Trump told Fox News, reveling in his role as a “heel.” His next words underscore the fact that he is engaged in a performance, rather than a conventional political campaign: “I have a lot of fans, and they were not happy about it [Southall’s interruption]. And this was a very obnoxious guy who was a trouble-maker who was looking to make trouble.” (Emphasis added.)

Trump has “fans,” not “constituents” or “supporters.” Conflict being the key to building a fan base, I found myself entertaining the cynical thought that Trump might have hired Southall to stage the disruption as a way to build “heat.” This wouldn’t be necessary, given Trump’s natural gift for polarization – and the growing ease he displays in his chosen role as an American avatar of Benito Mussolini.

Donald Trump’s official campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again.” His unofficial motto should be: “We have no choice” – a claim he uses to punctuate calls for various abridgments of liberty, such as the creation of a military “deportation force”; expanded surveillance of mosques, and –where he deems necessary – the forcible closure of those deemed to be objectionablewatchlists, databases, and special identification protocols targeting Muslims; and the restoration of torture as an interrogation method

“We have to be strong,” Trump grunted during a November 22 interview when asked about waterboarding by the precious little fellow named George Stephanopolous. “You know, they don’t use waterboarding over there, they use chopping off people’s heads, they use drowning people. I would bring it back. I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they do.”

In theory, a U.S. president is restrained by the limits on power supposedly contained within the U.S. Constitution. Trump has never provided any evidence that he has read the document, let alone that he understands its provisions and takes them seriously. In fact, the only element of the Constitution for which he has expressed unqualified approval is the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment, which authorizes the government to seize property through “eminent domain” – a process through which Trump, the crony capitalist par excellence, has enriched himself considerably. 

On the available evidence, Trump’s view of presidential powers doesn’t differ in substance from that of Barack Obama, whom he has consistently criticized for being “weak” and timid in the exercise of those powers. 

Trump’s Republican “fans” consist, for the most part, of people who see Obama as a dictator – but who devoutly wish for Trump to inherit the distended powers of the office Obama now occupies, and exercise them more assertively. They aren’t interested in a leader who would apply sound principles in defense of individual liberty and private property; they lust and ache to be ruled by someone they consider a suitable symbol of American “greatness.”

In his relentlessly self-preoccupied and borderline-aphasic speeches and media appearances, Trump displays a rhetorical style not terribly different from that of a skilled professional wrestler “working the mic.” He dilates upon his accomplishments, most of which are dubious at best, boasts of his standing in the polls, commends his “fans” for the wisdom they display in supporting him, and spends a great deal of time discussing obscure and petty personal affronts. He will engage in pure, malicious invention, as in his bizarre and completely dishonest claim to have witnessed “thousands and thousands of people cheering” – Muslims, to be sure – on 9/11 as the World Trade Center collapsed.

One thing Trump has never done, and most likely will never do, is describe how he would reduce the power, size, cost, and invasiveness of government. Rather than curtailing the ever-metastasizing police state, he would appoint "the best people" to supervise it. His self-described mission, we must never forget, is to restore the government’s “greatness,” not to bring about individual liberty. He seems to believe that this would apparently be done through the simple act of electing him president – and a remarkable number of Republicans agree. Trump offers them nothing but an opportunity for the vicarious exercise of power -- and for such people this is enough.

In “The Revolt of the Masses,” which was published in 1930 – a  time when Mussolini was still in favor with the bien-pensants -- Jose Ortega y Gassett observed that through Fascism “there appears for the first time in Europe a type of man who does not want to give reasons or to be right, but simply shows himself resolved to impose his opinions.” That human "type" isn't limited to one end of the statist political spectrum: It is plentifully represented among supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, as well as Donald Trump.

Mass movements of that kind aren’t organized around principles or ideals, but rather propelled by what Ortega y Gassett called “appetites in words,” particularly the basest appetite, which is a desire for power over others. As a professional wrestling performer, Donald Trump offered his “fans” a relatively harmless way to indulge that appetite vicariously. The same cannot be said of his cynical heel turn as a presidential candidate.

This week's Freedom Zealot Podcast examines Trump's "We Have No Choice" agenda, and some possible approaches to dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis:

Dum spiro, pugno!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Justice for Jack Yantis: Don't Leave the Investigation to the "Professionals"

Scene of the crime shortly after Jack Yantis was fatally shot.

The first rule of bureaucratic crisis management is: “Find someone else to blame.” This is true even in agencies as small as the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Ryan Zollman would have an insuperable conflict of interest were he to conduct the official inquiry into the November 1st killing of Jack Yantis. He could have avoided that conflict by firing the deputies, charging them as private citizens, and then turning the evidence over to a special prosecutor. 

This would have provoked trouble with the Fraternal Order of Police and precipitated a grievance with the Idaho State Industrial Commission, but it would also have demonstrated to Zollman’s constituents that the killing was being investigated as a criminal homicide, rather than a suspected “assault on law enforcement.” 

The inquiry was handed over to the Idaho State Police, an agency that reliably botches investigations of this kind – whether they deal with a previous officer-involved homicides, or pervasive corruption within Idaho’s prison system. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has now invited the FBI to conduct its own investigation.

“We want to be deliberate and thorough,” insists Wendy Olson, the U.S. Attorney for Idaho. “ISP will be thorough, the FBI will be thorough.” In the meantime, “people need to be patient” as official procedures are followed.
Thoroughness is not the summum bonum in an investigation of this kind: Anybody engaged in a cover-up is certainly motivated to be thorough. Richard Nixon expected his “plumbers” to be thorough in their efforts to prevent transparency and accountability. 

Furthermore, the objective in staging multiple investigations is not thoroughness, but diffusion of responsibility. There is a vanishingly small possibility that the still-unnamed and still-publicly compensated killers could be put on trial for criminal homicide, or face federal civil rights charges in the event no state charges are filed. On previous performance it’s more likely that the two “independent” investigations, which will be sharing the same evidence, will both rule the killing “justified.” Should that happen, Yantis’s family and friends will receive the familiar condescending lecture about the need to “respect the process.” In less elevated language this means, essentially, “Sucks to be you.”

The officials presiding over the “independent” inquiries operate on a sliding scale of zealousness. Lawrence Wasden displayed great zeal in pursuing felony charges against Carol Asher, a retired schoolteacher who frustrated a prosecutor by acting as a conscientious juror

In her ardor for what she pretended was justice, Wendy Olson set aside the findings of a local investigation and threatened to send Bonners Ferry resident Jeremy Hill to federal prison for the supposed crime of shooting a grizzly bear that threatened his family. She eventually extorted $1,000 from Hill to end her vindictive and unwarranted prosecution. 

Neither of those “offenses” involved actual crimes of violence against human beings. But neither of those “suspects” was swaddled in the habiliments of the state’s punitive priesthood, or invested with “qualified immunity.” And besides, Jack Yantis was “no stranger to the police,” as the Washington Post archly observed, taking note of an inconsequential record that included a traffic infraction, two DUIs and a charge of “resisting and obstructing,” the last of which should have earned him a commendation, rather than a citation.

The Post and other state-centric media outlets continue to insinuate that Yantis was in some sense responsible for his own death. This is true only to the extent that if Yantis hadn’t cooperated with a request to help the over-matched deputies deal with the wounded bull, which underscores the wisdom of avoiding any contact whatsoever with the state’s privileged purveyors of sanctified violence. 

Media coverage of the Yantis killing, predictably, is freighted with intimations of potential violence against Sheriff Zollman and other officials from the rural “anti-government extremists” who populate Adams County. Sheriff Zollman, who seems like an earnest and decent man, reports that his family has received death threats, and he has refused to disclose the names of the deputies who killed Yantis in order to spare them similar treatment. This wouldn’t be a problem if the deputies had been charged with a criminal offense and taken into custody – or even released on bail once charges had been filed. Threats of the kind Zollman allegedly received are precipitated by frustration over the privileged status of law enforcement officers implicated in wrongful deaths or other acts of criminal violence.

Any evidence that Yantis assaulted or threatened the deputies would have been provided to the public within hours of the incident. If two Adams County citizens had shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy, they would have been incarcerated without bail, and their names would be known.

Despite Sheriff Zollman’s reticence, Adams County residents have identified two of his deputies as the shooters. If those men (whose names have been made known to me) are not the would-be suspects, the sheriff is doing them no favors by withholding the names of the deputies who killed Yantis. In either case, the pretense of secrecy cannot continue much longer in the age of social media.
Whenever law enforcement agencies investigate each other, the priority is to uphold “order” and vindicate “authority,” rather than to impose accountability for official misconduct. Stipulating that the “official” authority claimed by any government functionary is entirely fictitious, Sheriff Zollman could have exercised moral authority in the service of ordered liberty by filing charges against the deputies and requiring them to undergo the same process that would be endured by similarly situated defendants who were not part of the state’s enforcement caste. 

Since Zollman has abdicated his responsibilities, the task of carrying out a truly independent investigation should be carried out by a citizens’ grand jury. That panel would act as a fact-finding body, taking testimony from witnesses and, if suitable evidence is found, delivering a “presentment” against the deputies to the county prosecutor. 

The State of Idaho’s official judicial guidelines describe a Grand Jury as “a panel of citizens called together to hear evidence and determine if criminal charges should be initiated.” There is no requirement that the panel be “called together” by the sheriff, prosecutor, or the local courts.

Were a citizens’ grand jury to be assembled in Adams County, the air will be clotted with frantic warnings about “vigilante justice,” the Southern Poverty Law Center will denounce the development as a manifestation of the much-dreaded and little-defined “sovereign citizen movement,” and sanctimonious chin-pullers will insist that matters of this kind are best handled by “professionals.” This will make sense only to people completely ignorant of the original purpose of the grand jury.

As legal scholar Roger Roots points out, the “grand jury in its primal, plenary sense … was a group of men who stood as a check on government, often in direct opposition to the desires of those in power.” Far from being an instrument of the political elite, “American grand juries initiated prosecutions against corrupt agents of the government, often in response to complaints from individuals.”

When the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure were adopted in 1946, the grand jury – which had always been a non-government entity – became the “total captive of the prosecutor,” in the words of former federal Judge William J. Campbell.The Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure, significantly, was an appointed body without legislative authority, popular mandate, or accountability: It was assembled by the FDR regime out of people representing the prosecutorial class. The result was a “grand jury” procedure that effectively ended the public’s role in the administration of justice. By organizing an independent grand jury to investigate the Yantis killing, Adams County citizens would be acting to restore the rule of law, rather than to subvert it. 

Like all “official” investigations of its kind, the inquiry into the killing of Jack Yantis is a liturgy intended to reinforce the “legitimacy” of the agency that employed the killers. This is why the pursuit of actual justice is a task that cannot be entrusted to the “professionals."

This week's Freedom Zealot Podcast deals with the rise of the "Safe Space" Totalitarians:

Dum spiro, pugno!