On Aspen the Lost Dog and Other Imponderables

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I begin with a disclaimer, but not with the kind of disclaimer that is banned from these November observations of mine. Even though my adversaries believe I run everything in Moscow, I still do not constitute part of the Wilson legal defense team. These are the observations of someone who has had a seat on the fifty yard line for the whole game, and who has taken very few bathroom breaks. I do not speak on behalf of the guys in any legal way. I speak on behalf of wisdom and common sense only.

But . . . if you have any friends or loved ones who have had a modicum of legal training, or if they have a basic biblical understanding of justice, and you would like to see their faces melt (assuming for some good reason), I would urge you to bring them abreast of the behavior of the City of Moscow over the last year. I am referring to their deplorable behavior throughout what we have affectionately come to call Stickergate.

Perhaps you have been aware of the inexplicable and demented behavior of the city for some time now, referring here to the public facts of the case to date. But I am here with an update.

I would like to inform you that there is EVEN MORE inexplicableness going on, enough to make ourselves a 9 layer bean dip. The feature that gives it that spicy tang, not entirely appetizing to be frank, are the alternating layers of small town venality, corruption, small-mindedness, and incompetence.

If you can’t wait, and want to just cut to the chase, jump down to the section that has RIPER in the header. But if you are patient, you might enjoy the build-up. Because this thing, I must confess, is fruity and overdone. The whole thing is fruity and overdone, and if one is going to start in on fruity and overdone things throughout the course of November, why not follow the lead of hipster restaurants and begin by sourcing locally?

You Already Knew About the Selective Prosecution

Moscow is a college town, and as a consequence, there are stickers on poles. There are stickers on poles everywhere. There are stickers celebrating indie bands, there are lost cat posters, there are yard sale adverts, along with with totalitolerance stickers urging us kirkers to absent ourselves from the city limits, and the sooner the quicker. We are apparently harshing somebody’s mellow, polluting the diversity vibe, by trying to live here in a way that provides some actual diversity. Nothing ruins a diversity vibe like differences.

Concerning the ordinance that our guys are being prosecuted under, in the entire history of it, it has to be said that the ordinance has been, um, underused. It can be proved that it has not been the basis of any case for the last twelve years (since the ordinance was revised), and the history of the thing gets murky after that, fading as it does into the mists of antiquity. But it can be confidently asserted that this ordinance really is the wallflower at the prom. There have been years of this forlorn law never being used—and in a thoroughly bestickered town too. What makes this case unique? What about this case required this particular law to be brought out of mothballs by an ardent prosecutor? Well, I am glad you asked about that.

You see, the stickers in this case were critical of the behavior of the city. The stickers were political speech, and those being prosecuted are being prosecuted on account of that political speech. On top of that, the surname of the three being prosecuted is Wilson. Those three are my son, and two of my grandsons. This was obviously not to be borne. Wilsons? Criticizing the city? Where do you think this is, America?

Enter Aspen

Now after Stickergate was well under way, there was a gent here in Moscow who lost his dog, Aspen. This part of the story has a happy ending, so fret not, and I am bringing it forward simply to provide a white background to the greasy gray behavior of our city officials. I want to highlight how utterly inept our local magistrates, city attorneys, and constabulary have been—demonstrating that they plainly do not know how to read the story they are in. But by using that word inept, I do not mean to exclude the elements of cowardice and moral bankruptcy.

You see, after Aspen was lost, the owner absolutely plastered downtown Moscow with lost dog posters. And in saying “downtown,” we should not exclude the rest of the city either—hundreds and hundreds of flyers, all over tarnation. Now I do not begrudge him this, and I think it was swell that he did it. All of Moscow was on high alert, and so when Aspen was recovered, it was a front page feel-good story in our Daily News.

So Aspen is now safely home, and is once again receiving food and shelter, unlike the rule of law around here. The rule of law is still lost and wandering around, and we aren’t even allowed to put up posters looking for her.

But the law is the law . . . is it not?

No, it is not. You see, the owner of Aspen is no relative of mine, and the loss of Aspen was in no way critical of a political decision made by the honchos running and ruining our city government. Once you start thinking that the First Amendment protects speech that is critical of government officials and their decisions . . . one shudders to think of it.

But Wait, There’s More.

Over the course of this very tedious year, the city has made some concessions, and offered some others. For an example of the first, they dropped the thirteen misdemeanor counts down to one misdemeanor count. That means up to six months in chokey instead of six years. Magnanimous, I call it.

And when they (yes, even they) started to realize what a weird little wormhole they had decided to crawl into, they offered to reduce the charges further. But they need to reduce the charges, not drop them, because they need a guilty plea to something, which would mean that the guys would be waiving all future civil claims. So the poison pill here is that would prevent the hard reckoning that is clearly coming at the end of this story.

They also are requiring Seamus to write a letter of apology, while, if you read on, the needed apologies are from another quarter entirely. The apologies really need to run in the other direction. If you catch my drift.

No, Wait. It Gets Even RIPER

So it turns out that—throughout this entire time—the city has been actively suppressing evidence. When the boys were arrested (and they were arrested), it was claimed that there was absolutely no audio or video of the encounter. You see, the boys had one account of the evening’s excitement, and the cops had another. Oh, that our technology were advanced enough to provide cop cars with a dashboard camera! For example!

For the better part of a year, the city has been stoutly maintaining that they had no recordings of the event. No audio, no video. They have told the defense attorney during discovery that they had no footage. They even responded to a subpoena with the claim that they had no footage. No got. Sorry.

And then, just a couple of weeks ago, just prior to the first time the cops had to testify under oath, because testifying falsely under oath is a species of lying that cops aren’t allowed to engage in, one of the cops said that, ahem, perhaps there was video footage. Oh, said everybody else.

What did the footage reveal? Again, I am glad you asked and am gratified that I have kept your interest thus far. The footage revealed three things. First, the footage confirmed the account of the arrest that the boys gave. Second, the footage contradicted the written statements that the cops gave when the decision was first made to prosecute. That was some days after the arrests.

Allow me to note here that the video they turned over still lacks audio. But even with the sound turned off (why is the sound turned off?) the footage confirms the boys as truth tellers, and the police on the scene as not so much that.

And third, the viewing log for the footage revealed that the MPD knew about the footage during the entire time the city was claiming they had no footage. The viewing logs for the footage shows that it was viewed during the time within which the city was saying things like footage, what footage?

Allow me to clear my throat, and say that part again.

The City of Moscow was prosecuting three individuals for having had the temerity to criticize our august leaders, and they were in possession of exculpatory evidence which they were required, by law and by common decency, to turn over to the defense, and they knew they had that exculpatory evidence, and they still refused to turn it over.

This did not come out until the cops were on the verge of having to perjure themselves. This is good evidence for the belief that the city will not amend their ways unless and until there are consequences.

Did I mention consequences?

Can’t Let Go, Can’t Not Let Go

Despite the gaudiness of all the preceding, the City of Moscow is still displaying all the focus and commitment of a kamikaze pilot in the last three minutes of his career, in which three minutes he misses the carrier and makes a brief but impressive splash in a minuscule portion of the ocean. The only thing the pilot succeeded in ending was his own aeronautical career. That, and the airplane.

And impressive splash or no, the effect remains anticlimactic.

I am tired of that metaphor, and will now switch to another one. The city decided, in what seemed like a good idea at the time, to jump on a wolf’s back in order to grab it by the ears. Having done so, their options have by this time narrowed down to two—which are hanging on or just letting go. If they hang on, there are bad consequences just a little bit later. If they let go, there are bad consequences now—but hanging on multiplies damages and worsens everything when the reckoning does finally come.

So there are no scenarios without really bad consequences for them.

Following the trail blazed by generations of short term thinkers before them, they are squeezing the wolf’s ears tighter, in the hope that this might somehow contribute to a better outcome.

I remain doubtful—doubtful to the point of being confident in the other direction. My money is on the wolf.

Deep Offenses and Hard Consequences

The stickers posted by the boys were making a serious point, but their manner of expression was not a serious offense. They were protesting the arrest of three of our church members at a perfectly legal outdoor psalm sing, and they protested by putting non-damaging stickers on poles already covered with stickers. That’s what they did. Got it?

What did the city do? They lost all sense of proportion, made a deliberate and prejudiced choice to prosecute, doing so simply because this made it possible to strike at me, and in pursuit of this, their leprous legal goal, they lied, suppressed evidence, covered up, stone-walled, and abused their prosecutorial privileges.

And when all of these mountebankeries were dumped out on the table in front of an astonished public, what did they then do? They continued with their most risible prosecution. What? One searches around for a reasonable explanation. One rummages through the knapsack of possibilities. The best I can do is that perhaps they had previously laid in a supply of malfeasance energy bars that they haven’t used up yet.

What should the consequences of all this be?

The answer to this is simple. The consequences need to be hard enough so as to ensure that the City of Moscow never ever dreams of doing anything like this ever again. To anybody. And absolutely all remedies should be on the table.

What does that mean?

It means, in the first place, that the consequences of this mottled and diseased custard of a case are already terrible for the city. Every day that goes by makes it worse. And if you don’t think that the city ought to be buying Nate Wilson a lake cabin—and we don’t—that is hardly a good reason for pursuing a course of action that will get him two lake cabins.

This matters because as soon as the case is dropped, or is frogmarched to the door of a rational courthouse and kicked to the curb, it becomes possible for Nate to sue the city. Now, riddle me this. If the city drags this wet rope of a case around for another three months, say, do you think the damages will increase or decrease? Not a difficult question to answer.

This would not be in order to obtain a pound of flesh, or for the sake of vindictive retaliation. It would not be done out of a desire for personal vengeance. It would be done to protect the tattered remnants of the rule of law in our small town. It would be to protect all our residents from high levels of small town venality and corruption.

Walking away with a lame statement from the city that “mistakes were made,” and that we should “let the healing begin” will not accomplish what needs to be accomplished here. Accepting something like that would do even more harm to our community.

In order for us to be able to live in a peaceful and safe community, it is necessary for the police department to be held in high regard. But the level of murky water disgrace in this episode was so deep that we are going to need to send in three Servicemaster trucks.

And incidentally, friends of law enforcement in this town have to stop circulating defenses of MPD’s behavior that were contradicted by the cops own testimony under oath. The video that was not turned over was not lost, and was viewed during the period of time that the department said they didn’t have it

Those enforcing the law on our behalf absolutely must retain high honor for the law. In this case they need to recover it.

Something like this needs to happen: An entity with prosecutorial authority—perhaps the county prosecutor, but because they were the ones prosecuting Seamus, it might need to be the Attorney General of Idaho—needs to put on some hygienic gloves and take up this matter.

The central thing to discover is who made the initial decision to pursue this. Who was that person? The cops obviously didn’t intend for this to spiral out of control this way. They arrested the boys, separated them, ran the cop car lights for a bit, cuffed one of them, clearly intending to just jam them up a bit—and then topped it all off by sending them home. Days later, somebody at the city decided to nail some Wilsons, and so the cops had to scramble after the fact. They had to write up retroactive statements that justified what they had done the night of the arrest. But the problem was that that video didn’t confirm their statements. Shoot, we lost the video. But it seems to me that the police simply need to stop covering for the dunderheaded move from some superior that created this mess. It is all going to come out. Why not now?

If the investigators were to be the county prosecutor, there might be a conflict of interest in two different ways. If they were complicit in the monkeyshines, then the conflict of interest would be because they were investigating themselves also. But if they were just following the city’s lead on this case, taking their word for stuff, then they might be mad about this giant oven omelet that the city has just thrown in their face, and have a conflict of interest that way also.

So Attorney General it is. At any rate, somebody with full law enforcement authority needs to come in and investigate this overflowing dumpster. The MPD needs to be investigated by someone equipped with subpoenas, search warrants, (and possibly Garrity letters ). The AG should create a special task force for this thing. Then, when they are done, they should issue a public report that reveals all of the findings, and they should also perform any required actions, up to and including any prosecution.

“Who did what?” needs to be established, and real accountability applied to this. The city must be required to make the injured parties whole by means of 1. public apology, 2. remuneration of costs, 3. punitive damages, and also 4. they must create and implement a publicly displayed system that would prevent future “misplacing/losing/hiding” of evidence.

Depending on the results of the investigation, it is quite possible that certain careers need to end, whether through firings, dismissals, or disbarment. But the investigation should be fair, even-handed, and judicious—in other words, utterly unlike what was done in this prosecution of the Wilson three.

I Mentioned the Daily News Earlier

Some might object to this little screed of mine, saying that as the father and grandfather of the principals, my advocacy is suspect. “Why is the only voice talking about this situation the voice of a Wilson?”

That is actually a great question, and I propose that it be directed to the Daily News. I hear they have reporters on staff. Hey! Daily News! Why is the only voice talking about this situation the voice of a Wilson?

Your have a city government SCANDAL. What’s not for a reporter to love? You have lying cops, selective prosecution, suppression of evidence, defiance of a subpoena, and I haven’t even said anything about their refusal to turn over text messages in response to FOIA requests. That is an additional fifty gallon drum full of diseased worms.

But as we are right at the beginning of November, maybe I will have an opportunity to write about all of that before the month is out.

This NQN Giveaway

This month there will be multiple free book giveaways, both from the Mablog Shoppe and from Canon Press. This first one today is from the Mablog emporium. If the giveaway is from here at Mablog, the free item will be available at no charge for a week, unless I forget to switch it back to the regular price of one dollar. If that happens, then help yourselves as long as my dotage continues. When the giveaway is a Canon title, I will let you know what the terms and conditions are at the time.