Reports on OSP trooper’s past shootings don’t have to be shared with indicted FBI agent

Prosecutors don’t have to share investigative records on three earlier shootings by a veteran Oregon State Police officer in the case of an indicted FBI agent, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones made that ruling Monday afternoon after a meeting in his chambers with prosecutors and defense lawyers who are preparing for FBI Agent W. Joseph Astarita’s July 24 trial.

Astarita is accused of denying that he fired two shots as Oregon occupation spokesman Robert “Lavoy” Finicum emerged from his pickup truck at a police roadblock on Jan. 26, 2016, in Harney County. That was the day the FBI and state police arrested leaders of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. 

One shot hit the roof of Finicum’s truck and a second missed entirely, investigators said.

Astarita, a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of making a false statement and two counts of obstruction of justice.

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Thomas Mitchell – Free speech includes the right to be silent

The right to free speech includes the right to not be compelled to speak.

That includes not being required to pay dues to a union whose political view might be different from yours, not being required to advertise abortion availability at your faith-based pregnancy counseling service, not being required to use your cake baking talent to create a special cake or your flowing arranging expertise for a gay wedding.

All of these have come down from a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court in a matter of days.

Today the court ruled that public employees could not to be forced to pay dues to unions with which they might not agree. Justice Samuel Alito writes in the 5-4 opinion:

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Mike Lee on Trump’s short list for replacing retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, giving President Donald Trump a golden chance to cement conservative control of the high court.

The 81-year-old Kennedy said in a statement he is stepping down after more than 30 years on the court. A Republican appointee, he has held the key vote on such high-profile issues as abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, guns, campaign finance and voting rights.

Kennedy said he had informed his colleagues and Trump of his plans and that his retirement will take effect at the end of July.

Trump praised Kennedy as a man of “tremendous vision” and said his search for a new justice would begin “immediately.”

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According to Senator Mike Lee, Shooting of Unarmed Nurse Proves BLM Law Enforcement Must Go

Senator Lee is spearheading efforts in Congress to abolish increasingly militaristic and trigger-happy federal law enforcement offices. The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Office of Law Enforcement Services (OLES) is particularly odious, and many believe, has blood on its hands. From the tragic and absurd waste of life and resources Operation Cerberus Action in Utah to the Bundy Ranch raid, to shooting last week of an unarmed couple off-roading in California, BLM law enforcement is beginning to look like a frightening combination of Stasi and the Keystone Kops. That’s not mere hyperbole. Because federal OLES agents enjoy the protections of civil service status, not to mention large, insular bureaucracies to shield them from accountability, there is a seething culture within these organizations of corruption and lawlessness.

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Thomas Mitchell: Judicial bias depends on the party involved

Bias, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Earlier this year a three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision by Reno federal Judge Robert Clive Jones involving water rights in the Walker River Basin and ordered him removed from the case, saying he was biased against the federal government’s attorneys.

“We reluctantly conclude that reassignment is appropriate here because we believe (1) that Judge Jones would have substantial difficulty putting out of his mind previously expressed views about the federal government and its attorneys, and (2) that reassignment will preserve the appearance of justice,” wrote Judge A. Wallace Tashima, noting that in two previous cases the 9th Circuit had said Jones “harbored animus toward the federal agencies” and that “the judge’s bias and prejudgment are a matter of public record …”

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Here we go again. Banks, corporations holding up gun makers in Second Amendment battle

In the wake of high-profile mass shootings, corporate America has been taking a stand against the firearms industry amid a lack of action by lawmakers on gun control. Payment processing firms are limiting transactions, Bank of America stopped providing financing to companies that make AR-style guns, and retailers like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods imposed age restrictions on gun purchases.

The moves are lauded by gun-safety advocates but criticized by the gun industry that views them as a backhanded way of undermining the Second Amendment. Gun industry leaders see the backlash as a real threat to their industry and are coming to the conclusion that they need additional protections in Congress to prevent financial retaliation from banks.

“If a few banks say ‘No, we’re not going to give loans to gun dealers or gun manufacturers,’ all of a sudden the industry is threatened and the Second Amendment doesn’t mean much if there are no guns around,” said Michael Hammond, legal counsel for Gun Owners of America. “If you can’t make guns, if you can’t sell guns, the Second Amendment doesn’t mean much.”

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In age of Trump, evangelicals back Hof

When news broke that Hof had won the nominating contest for a state Assembly seat on June 12, evangelical pastor Victor Fuentes said he closed his eyes and prayed.

He did not ask God to deliver Nevada and the Republican Party from Hof, the thrice-divorced author of “The Art of the Pimp” who campaigned as the “Trump of Pahrump.” Although Christian groups have long rallied against the state’s legal brothel industry, Fuentes was willing to overlook Hof’s history as a champion of the flesh trade and gave thanks for his victory.

“People want to know how an evangelical can support a self-proclaimed pimp,” Fuentes said in an interview at his home in Pahrump, an unincorporated town of 36,000 people that is the largest community in the sprawling, rural district where Hof is favored to win in November’s general election.

He said the reason was simple. “We have politicians, they might speak good words, not sleep with prostitutes, be a good neighbor. But by their decisions, they have evil in their heart. Dennis Hof is not like that.”

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Bias in the media? We’re shocked! Shocked we tell you! – Thomas Mitchell

Columnist Victor Joecks noted that the media jumped all over an obscure Nye County commissioner disendorsing Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt for failing to endorse the Republican primary winner in Assembly District 36, brothel owner Dennis Hof who has been accused of sexual harassment, but totally ignored a press release two weeks ago from Republican Sen. Dean Heller accusing Democratic primary senatorial nominee Jacky Rosen of resume enhancement.

In fact, the same day’s paper carried a lengthy story about the commissioner’s disendorsement of Laxalt along with quotes from Hof about how the move might hurt Laxalt in Nye County and a prepared statement by Laxalt stating, “Adam respects the will of the voters in District 36, however, as a husband and a father of two young daughters, he has stated that he will not be supporting Mr. Hof’s campaign.”

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Lawyers for indicted FBI agent suggest a state trooper may have fired shots in question

Lawyers for an indicted FBI agent suggest in court papers that one of the state troopers who shot and killed Oregon refuge occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum may have fired  the two earlier shots at Finicum as he emerged from his truck at a police roadblock.

The trooper, a member of the state police SWAT team identified in court papers only as “Officer 1,” was involved in at least two unrelated fatal shootings of civilians before the Finicum encounter, according to lawyers for FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita.

The government has refused to provide documents to the defense about those past shootings despite repeated requests, the agent’s lawyers said. Astarita’s lawyers are now asking a judge to compel the prosecution team to release the material.

“Such evidence could potentially reveal a pattern of behavior that might shed light on what Officer 1 did on January 26, 2016, and why he may not have been truthful about that conduct in the days and weeks that followed,” defense lawyer Tyler Francis wrote in a motion filed this week in U.S. District Court in Portland.

The motion reveals a theory of Astarita’s defense lawyers intended to cast doubt on the prosecution’s contention that the FBI agent fired at Finicum and then lied about it. One of the bullets hit the roof of Finicum’s truck and the other went astray.

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Oregon refuge occupier Blaine Cooper sentenced, last of 18 convicted in armed takeover

But the judge didn’t budge. A package of material about Cooper that his lawyer submitted to the court under seal “warrants concern,” Brown said.

The judge noted that she had received an email that morning with audio attached that purportedly contained “death threats” Cooper made while in custody in Nevada. Brown said she didn’t listen to the audio, was advised not to open it and considered it hearsay.

The judge said she was aware that during the case there was a “lot of bluster coming out of Mr. Cooper, making outlandish statements.”

Shipsey said she didn’t listen to the audio either, but didn’t receive any complaints during Cooper’s custody in Nevada and listened to his recorded jail calls.

After the sentencing, former Bundy supporter Melissa Laughter, who has been an outspoken critic of the defendants, said she sent the email to the judge, suggesting Cooper receive more time behind bars. She provided a copy of the audio and email to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Laughter said she got the audio from a 2016 Facebook post from a Bundy supporter.

The recorded jail call starts out with Cooper issuing a disclaimer that nothing he says should be considered a threat but that he’s simply “venting animosity and discontent” after learning that Mark McConnell was a government informant. McConnell was driving the Jeep with Ammon Bundy inside when Bundy was arrested.

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Prosecutors to recommend Oregon refuge occupier Blaine Cooper be sentenced to time served

Prosecutors will recommend a sentence of time served, plus three years of supervised release and that Cooper pay $7,000 in restitution, according to court documents.

The government will ask that Cooper, 38, participate in a mental health program as a condition of his release, but Cooper’s lawyer objects to that requirement.

Cooper, who pled guilty in the Oregon case in June 2016 and became a government witness at a trial against refuge occupiers Jason Patrick, Darryl Thorn and two other co-defendants in 2017, has been on pretrial release since October 2017.

“During that time he participated in a mental health assessment, and it was determined that he was not in need of any further treatment,” his attorney Krista Shipsey wrote in a sentencing memo filed this week.

Cooper has acknowledged that he agreed to cooperate with the government in the hope of reducing an earlier, recommended six-year prison sentence.  He also pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy in the Nevada case.

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Ruling expected in 2 weeks on forensic experts in case of indicted FBI agent

Defense lawyers argued Friday that the government’s reconstruction of an FBI agent’s alleged shots at Oregon occupation spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum isn’t based on sound forensic methods.

“They come in and present this evidence as if it’s precise. It’s just not so,” said Robert Cary, a well-known Washington, D.C.-based defense lawyer for indicted agent W. Joseph Astarita. “It’s presented as science and it’s way dangerous.”

Prosecutors countered that they relied on multiple experts who used independent state-of-the-art forensic methods and all placed Astarita as the only one who could have fired the shot that struck the roof of Finicum’s truck on Jan. 26, 2016.

 The closing arguments came after four days of testimony in a pretrial hearing to determine which experts’ work can be presented at Astarita’s July 24 trial. U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones said he’d issue a written ruling in two weeks.

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How the federal government won a 40-year battle with a Nevada ranching family

Recently the Wall Street Journal carried a front-page feature by Jim Carlton highlighting my family, the Hages. It attempted to cover the plight of western ranchers and our 40-year David-and-Goliath struggle to prevent the federal government from taking our ranch without just compensation through government threats, intimidation, prosecution, and abuse of discretion.

Pine Creek Ranch is now in foreclosure. We have won enormous landmark victories for western ranchers in multiple bench trials, including a $14 million judgment against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and – in a separate court – a ruling that the government had engaged in a conspiracy beginning in the 1970s to take our vested water rights and grazing preferences. However, on appeal, the federal courts twisted themselves into a legal pretzel to rule in favor of the government, finally taking our ranch judicially.

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Lee targeting powers of BLM, Forest Service

Larry Wooten wrote that misconduct by now-fired Special Agent in Charge Dan Love and other supervisors caused “considerable disruption in our workplace, was discriminatory, harassing and showed clear prejudice against the defendants, their supporters and Mormons.”

Wooten’s memo went on to describe how he heard repeatedly that Love had a “Kill Book,” as a trophy and “in essence bragged about getting three individuals in Utah to commit suicide (see Operation Cerberus Action out of Blanding, Utah and the death of Dr. (James) Redd).”

Lee points to the 2009 Blanding raid involving Redd — who killed himself — as an example of BLM law enforcement gone amok, with multiple pre-dawn raids served at gunpoint.

“What happened in Blanding is a symptom of the underlying problem,” he said.

The so-called “Kill Book,” he added, is “abhorrent. This is the kind of thing that could have or would have been addressed more quickly with a state or local law enforcement agency.”

Lee said local law enforcement can carry out the same functions of BLM and the Forest Service and are more accountable to local residents.

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Sovereign “Judge” Bruce Doucette Sentenced to 38 Years in Prison

One of the most notable figures in America proselytizing and exercising “sovereign” ideology, Bruce Doucette, was sentenced to 38 years in Colorado state prison on Tuesday, May 22.

Doucette, who owned a computer-repair shop in Littleton, had declared himself a judge despite not being recognized by any U.S. judicial system, and was one of the leading actors in an extra-legal organization calling itself the “people’s grand jury of Colorado.” On March 9, a jury in Denver had found Doucette guilty of 34 felony charges stemming from actions that Doucette described as an attempt to root out corruption in American government at its various levels: federal, state and local.

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Free speech does require one to provide someone else a soapbox [THOMAS MITCHELL]

The First Amendment prohibits the federal government abridging one’s free speech, but it does not, as a federal judge has ruled, require anyone to provide the soapbox for that speech.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of New York ruled today President Donald Trump may not block Twitter users who criticize him because that violates their right to free speech.

“While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the president’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him,” the judge said.

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Death Valley National Park hopes to be burro-free within the next five years.

At a glance: Unlike the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service is not directed by the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1972 to maintain a population of burros.

Death Valley National Park’s 2002 General Management Plan, which went through extensive public review, calls for removing all burros from the park to protect water quality, riparian ecosystems, native plants, and native animals.

Burro populations have increased greatly in recent years. The last burro roundup in Death Valley National Park was in 2005.

Source: Death Valley National Park

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