10/24/2006

Illegal?

It's interesting, isn't it, that the Tribune elected to run a story about Steven Fagenstrom's "legal problems," when the Tribune ignored the legal issues inherent in Justice of the Peace Sam Harris's web follies.

(As an interesting side note, Fagenstrom denied certain portions of the Tribune's original version that appeared in the paper Sunday night. When I looked at it online last night, the story had been significantly modified. Now I can't find it all. Hmmm. Curiouser and curiouser. I wonder if the story was pulled because its accuracy could not be confirmed, or whether, perhaps, the Tribune decided its provision to them was potentially illegal?)

But I digress. The Fagenstrom story involved two old tickets against him that had been dismissed. Dismissed, whether by deferred sentence or otherwise, is the legal equivalent of going to trial and getting acquitted. So, Fagenstrom was ultimately found not guilty of two tickets, and the Tribune published that?

Yet, in the GORE chat room, Justice of the Peace Sam Harris made two statements that are easily construed as illegal and the Tribune ignored this fact in its reporting.

On August 29, 2006, just two months ago, Sam's friend Doghouse is trying to find out the name of a heavy metal song. He posts the lyrics and Sam immediately replies: "'Walk' by Pantera on 'Vulgar Display of Power.' I have it if u want it. If you like that shit I have a fair amount of it. Cuz I like that shit."

How can that be construed as anything but an offer to share a copy of the song with his friend? "I have it if you want it." That's illegal though. Why is a 2 month old offer to violate federal copyright laws less newsworthy than a year old dismissal of traffic tickets?

Or how about our Justice of the Peace's post from September 19, 2006, just one month ago, when Sam's online friend is discussing a situation where an acquaintance was stalking her. Our Justice of the Peace's solution? "Put him in a coulee, imo. (in my opinion)" The next day, Justice of the Peace Sam Harris expands on his suggestion: "A coulee is a small valley or ravine. He should be dead before u put him there, or else he may crawl away, thereby causing u troubles. Also, you should place some big rocks on him so coyotes do not drag his bones around for hunters to find (also causing u troubles)."

Now, these statements may not be criminal given the lack of imminency. But are we comfortable with a sitting judge providing directions for disposing of bodies? Why are year old, dismissed tickets involving a man who was at the time a private citizen relevant, but apparently criminal statements or thoughts of a sitting judge are not worthy of comment?

And, don't you wonder, why now? Why did the Tribune all of a sudden decide to look into Steven Fagenstrom's record? Inquiring minds want to know.

17 comments:

The Raving Norseman said...

In this particular case, I would not ascribe to malice that which is sufficiently explained by stupidity. I think we're seeing an overarching attempt at balance here, with the end result being that the Tribune looks stupid. Again.

GeeGuy said...

I agree. It would, I think, be stupid to suggest that the Tribune has pulled its punches on the Harris issue. I am curious, though, why they elected to omit the two posts from their coverage when those two posts are, arguably, the most damning to a sitting judge, and then turn around and post a non-story about dismissed charges.

WolfPack said...

I disagree that it is a non-story. I've been pulled over several times and never been arrested. This is done by keeping my mouth shut and doing as I'm told. This story isn't from the long ago past and possibly has some insight into Mr. Fagenstrom’s temper and/or ego when challenged. I still think he’s the better candidate but he does appear to come with a few warts.

GeeGuy said...

It's a non-story because the charges were dismissed. We all carry the presumption of innocence. Thus, a charge is meaningless.

If you were wrongfully accused of murder and then totally exonerated, would that be a story? Because, legally, Mr. Fagenstrom has been totally exonerated of any crime.

WolfPack said...

I was just going by his public admission. I’m not too hung up on whether he was technically guilty of a crime or not. If you are stopped by a police officer and are asked to stay in your car, you stay in your car unless you have a good reason not to. The only reason given was that Mr. Fagenstrom thought he knew better than the officer on how to properly complete the traffic stop. All traffic stops are considered potentially dangerous for an officer so why make their life harder by being difficult? Even if you are legally within your rights? This kind of arrogance makes us non-attorneys shake our heads.

Allen said...

GeeGuy, you are obfuscating: Its not the criminal charge or its result that is the issue; it is the conduct. The conduct is properly considered, because he has admitted to it.

What he did is uncontested - he refused a direct order from a law enforcement officer several times, because he substituted his judgment for the officer's. If he gets elected, he will be allowed to do that - on the bench. But he is never allowed to do that at the scene of a criminal investigation where he is a suspect, even for something as innocuous as a suspected traffic offense, and even if he had a legitimate reason for getting out of the car. He could have, and should have, obeyed the officer and got back in the car. The window problem would have become apparent shortly, and resolved appropriately.

So should this conduct indicate that he is not worthy to be a judge? How does it stack up against the allegedly improper conduct of his opponent? I can say that I would rather have a judge who made vulgar remarks in a context he mistakenly believed was private than a judge who disregarded the express orders of a law enforcement officer. Wolfpack can decide that all things considered, he still prefers Mr. Fagenstrom. Each voter will have to decide how to weigh these factors.

But this conduct is a factor worth weighing. Don't try to deny that.

GeeGuy said...

Alright, alright. Uncle. It's a valid point to consider.

But riddle me this, allen: Who gave the story to the Tribune?

And, you have never responded, in email or otherwise, about the two posts I reference. Is it ok for a sitting judge to offer to violate federal copyright laws? Or to give advice on disposing of a body?

Anonymous33 said...

GeeGuy, Allen is just a shill for Sam Harris. Why you let him post here, let alone respond to him, I'll never know. Allen was probably involved in releasing the Fagenstrom information to the police (by the way, isn't that stuff confidential?), and will no doubt be drafting more letters to the editor accusing you of a "personal vendetta."

Allen, so it's you and Sam against everybody? Get off the vulgar comments. How about throwing people in jail for bad debts. How about throwing a guy in jail for a parking ticket? How about getting the initial appearances yanked by District Court? How about a PROSECUTOR who says he's unreasonable?

Come on and defend him on the issues, why don't you?

Allen said...

Please note that I am responding to anon33 and that my demeanor as I do so is an amused smile, not an angry frown.

1. I am no man's shill. (I'm sorry, this accusation is funny! I am going to be chuckling all night)

2. I had nothing to do with the Fagenstrom Trib story. I do not know who gave the Trib the information. I have nothing against Steve. I really don't know him.

3. I have drafted no letters to the editor on this issue; my only public comments have been here or on firefly's blog. I reserve the right to send in a letter like every other citizen with an opinion, though.

4. I did discuss the Freer case on firefly's blog.

5. Like any other commentator, I post what I choose about whatever part of the blog interests me. It's not my job to defend Harris on any issue, much less to offer some global defense of him. I am not his attorney or press secretary. GeeGuy did not ask me to represent Harris' point-of-view in some comprehensive debate on every aspect of the issues he has raised; in fact, he expressly discouraged me from doing so.

6. If you are interested in my point of view, I am happy to respond to any question, schedule permitting, but I am not trying to hijack the blog.

Post-Script: re "Sam and Allen against the world", perhaps this will offer some perspective: To the best of my recollection, the full extent of my communication with Harris in the last three weeks has consisted of following, repeated on three or four separate occasions, in passing, at the courthouse:

"Hey Allen"

"Hi Sam"

GeeGuy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
GeeGuy said...

Allen, I appreciate the amused smile. I guess I missed your comments on teh..oops...the Freer case, though.

What are your thoughts on it, or perhaps you could just email me the link to the discussion on Firefly's site.

Worried said...

Can some one please explain to me how the officer was somehow more safe by the driver remaining in the vehicle? If a driver is intent on harm he has the advantage of hiding weapons within easy reach. How is a driver, out in the open, with his hands clearly visible more dangerous than someone who is waiting to ambush the officer when he walks up to the car? Where is it written that we must follow every order yelled at us from the police. Have we all now given up our freedom and become sheep who will be ordered or bullied by anyone with the badge of authority, right or wrong? Shame on you Allen, you are an attorney? Do we not have certain inalienable rights which no government can or should curtail? Do you not support the Constitution? When you are standing on the street voicing your opinion, in your case perhaps the issue might be the validity of a marriage, should you still your voice because someone with a badge yells at you to "shut the **** up" Does it matter to you whether he has the right to make that demand or does it only matter that he says he has the authority to make you shut up? Would you challange that authority or meekly hang your head and walk quietly away thus avoiding the conflict and the arrest? Anyone who would maintain that the police are always justified in thier demands and actions are ignoring countless videos of beatings and abuse that have been shown. Couldn't happen here you say? Perhaps Mr. Fagenstrom would contend otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I found Allens comments on firefly's blog vulgar at best. Also reminded me of a "who is the Fox" story too long to go into here. (Some one accuses someone of something, to hide the something they don't want out)

I do not find that Allen has any good points, and frankly I don't even read them any longer. If he were to e-mail me (which he wouldn't because we don't know each other) his e-mail would go into my ignore folder. Not trying to offend you Allen, in this regard, we do not agree and I don't find that your posts add anything to the discussion at hand.

I'm still puzzled as to why the tribune took down the story about Steven Fagenstrom. It's not on the Sunday archive, nor Monday.
Anon32

Anonymous said...

http://www.greatfallstribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061022/NEWS01/610220302/1002

Anonymous said...

http://cc.msnscache.com/cache.aspx?q=4183790932992&lang=en-US&mkt=en-US&FORM=CVRE

Anonymous said...

This is a response to "worried." I happen to work in law enforcement and can guarantee you that peace officers DO NOT want citizens exiting their cars on traffic stops. The safest place for us, and the citizen for that matter, is sitting in the car. I agree with you in that the driver could be concealing a weapon, but I, like the majority of peace officers, would rather have the person pull a weapon while still in the vehicle instead of on their feet in close vicinity to us. Someone armed with a knife is a good example. Studies in this area have shown that the danger zone for knife attacks is 21 feet (some say 25 feet) or closer. And as far as arguing with the police, its only going to get you in more trouble or put in jail. If you don't agree with the officer, you can deal with that later. When an officer issues an order, including on traffic stops, it has to be followed. I could go on for hours, but will stop here. Not really anything to do with Harris or Fagenstrom, just wanted to say my piece.

Worried said...

"If you don't agree with the officer, you can deal with that later. When an officer issues an order, including on traffic stops, it has to be followed."

If this is true then god help us all. If the police view each of us as a potential threat then I am equally justified in viewing each police officer as the same type who beat victims on the news videos.