Rick Stanley Fights Our Battle in Colorado Court
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OPINION RELEASE: John Klar - Rick Stanley Fights Our Battle in Colorado Court
Many people may not have a full appreciation of Rick Stanley's battle with the judiciary/government, the latest skirmish of which is scheduled for hearing at the Colorado Court of Appeals on Feb 27, 2007 at 9:30 AM. Because I am an attorney who is familiar with the facts of Rick's case, I am writing to explain just how absurd this case against Rick is. Instead of being a case about a guy who pushed too far, this is more of a case about a "justice" system that has in fact gone way over the edge, and which reveals its true corrupt nature in the lengths it will go to penalize someone like Rick Stanley.
Let us first examine the back-drop for Rick's circumstances. As a state senate candidate who felt strongly that the City of Denver's newly passed ordinance banning the carrying of firearms was an unconstitutional abridgement of his right to bear arms, Rick deliberately wore a loaded sidearm in Denver. After being arrested, Rick the challenged another similar ordinance in Thornton, CO and was arrested again. Now some may regard this as deliberately provocative, but clearly this was an exercise of free speech: Rick's goal was not to "get away" with carrying a weapon like a gang member with a concealed handgun. He possessed a legal firearm, and wore it openly in a deliberate effort to publicize what he felt was a violation of the law. How else would he effectively draw attention to the issue that people were too uninformed or too sheepish to address. Ed Brown has taken a similar if more drastic action in New Hampshire - had he just gone to jail like an obedient slave, he would not have drawn nearly the attention that he has to the actions of the federal government. In fact, he would have modeled submission to what he perceives as tyranny.
Many may feel that Ed's and Rick's actions are extreme, and that they "asked for it." Some may not agree with Rick's interpretation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. But the Colorado Constitution is very clear in its protection of the individual's right to bear firearms, and Rick's convictions would be impermissible now because the Colorado legislature has enacted a statute prohibiting the kinds of ordinances Rick was protesting: in other words, Rick's stance has been unequivocally proven to be correct under Colorado law. But all should appreciate what happened to Rick next. After Rick was found guilty of violating the Denver and Thornton gun ordinances, he filed "motions" with the respective courts which stated that if he were incarcerated as a result of the these supposed violations, that warrants would issue by a militia group for the arrest and trial for treason of the judges who convicted him under the ordinance, for violating his (Americans') constitutional rights. He was subsequently arrested for these filings, and charged and then convicted on two counts of trying to influence a public official (felonies), and sentenced to three years on each count.
Aside from the issue of whether the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution was violated by these sentences (the prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" includes a "proportionality" test to determine whether a criminal penalty is "grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime" Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 69 L.Ed. 59 (1981)), it is apparent that even the prosecution of Rick for these pleadings was unconstitutional. This was clearly an effort by Rick to publicize his situation, and to stand on the Constitutional principles of our nation. He did not have actual militia warrants issued in secret, to be actually executed. The Courts apparently never made any showing that the judges were actually concerned for their safety; they didn't contact the police to protect them at the time; and they never established that there even was a militia to back up Rick's supposed "threat," or that they reasonably believed there was such a militia group. Could it be that the egos of these judges took exception to being criticized by a layperson?
The core legal issue is whether the state can penalize constitutionally-protected speech. Americans, at least at one time, possessed broad free speech rights, subject to reasonable limitation. One such limitation is content: threats to kill or torture others are outside of the scope of protected free speech (though they are now codified for the feds to actually perform rather than just say, in the case of "enemy combatants." No irony here.?) Because this can indeed be a fine line to draw, courts have tried to make that line clear for application. The most recent law on the subject states that "true threats" are statements in which the speaker "means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals."
If we apply this standard to Rick's case, it is apparent that he did not go over this line. Consider:
1) There was no actual threat of violence. To "threaten" to have someone arrested is apparently not deemed an act of violence when issued by an American court. And in Rick's case, he was clearly relying on a Constitutional provision for holding errant jurists accountable - he was invoking the law of the land. The "act" threatened was to have these judges arrested and tried for treason, which implies that they would obtain a trial with constitutional protections, and the threat of arrest is hardly a threat of violence, whether or not that arrest is lawful.
2) The most sacred of protected forms of speech is political speech. Location and vulgarity may be restricted (e.g., public schools, or foul language). But political speech is granted more protection than, say, artistic speech. And for good reason: the founding fathers rested our whole nation on this paramount principle, to prevent a new tyranny. Clearly Rick's court filings were true "political" free speech efforts. When he carried guns to flaunt unconstitutional ordinances, this was a form of free speech: by action. But the court filings were in written word, delivered right to the court. If this is not political speech deserving protection absent a clear showing of violent intent, what is?
3) It is quite a stretch to call these political free speech efforts "a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence." How serious was the threat, and how obvious to a grade schooler that Rick's motive was to publicize what he viewed as unlawful decisions by the courts?
Rick's pleadings claimed he was convicted pursuant to an unconstitutional law; he demanded that the judges involved overturn the conviction on constitutional grounds; he told them that their failure to do as he requested would trigger a charge of treason against them for their failure to remain faithful to their sworn oath of office to uphold and to defend the U.S. Constitution - which was a condition for them to become judges; and the treason charge would result in a "Mutual Defense Pact Militia warrant" being issued for their arrest if certain specified conditions were not met.
These formal pleadings led to Rick's arrest and conviction, and a sentence of six years in prison. The "threat" was conditional on those judges not reevaluating his convictions: certainly such a conditional threat is not an immediate threat of violence. Furthermore, how can this be said to be trying to influence a judge by threat, when Rick was relying on legal authority for his position, and even for the "threatened" consequences? How can these pleadings be construed as "true threats" under Constitutional law?
Much more serious "threats" than Rick Stanley's have been thrown out of court over the years, and it can only be hoped that the Colorado Court of Appeals will wipe (some of) the egg off the judiciary's face by overturning these convictions, recognizing that Rick's offense was against juvenile egos that deserved it, not laws which were never intended to be applied in such an illogical and stifling way.
Meanwhile, we see people reading from the Bible being charged criminally with hate crimes, and an old man who suggested that in Saddam Hussein we "hung the wrong man" being visited by Secret Service agents. We are at war, folks, to retain our freedoms. Rick Stanley has spent tens of thousands of dollars and many years fighting this battle, at great personal risk. He has been raided and persecuted, and his business undermined. Rick is doing something which is tangible and which publicizes these issues, at great personal sacrifice. He is thus an American hero, lacking in these cowardly times. I see Ed Brown the same way, even though I for religious reasons do not agree with his use of violence and risk of death on these facts - it is not for me to condemn Ed for not embracing my religious views. It is his right to fight by the means he deems fit, and he is still fighting the same battle as the rest of us should be fighting. (For me and many other Christians, it is not my right to fight government when it curtails my God-given freedoms, but it is my duty to fight that government when it commands me to violate God's laws: my day is coming..) We can support Ed Brown and Rick Stanley without endorsing their means, because they are still fighting the good fight, and to fail to support them is to allow our rogue government to divide us.
In any event, there is no issue with regard to Rick Stanley's means in his pending case - he did not use violence or even a viable threat thereof, and yet he has been sentenced to an extraordinarily harsh penalty. The Colorado judges violated his Constitutional rights in so doing, whatever the merits of his original permit violations. These judges thus violate all of our rights: their offense is against all Americans who would embrace the Constitutional freedoms on which our nation was founded. To abandon Rick's fight as not our own is to abandon ourselves, and our children. To abandon Ed Brown's fight as not our own is similar cowardice. Wake up, America, and retake your land from these intimidating government thugs, or be enslaved, and know you deserve your slavery!
Disclaimer: Information shared in the Stanley Scoop is not necessarily the opinion of the editor or staff. It is shared for information purposes only and it is recommended that you come to your own conclusions.
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