Friday, September 5, 2008

RNC Week In Review: Infiltration, Searches & Seizures, Crowd Control & Bill Starr

Sometime, probably a few months or so, after it was announced that St. Paul Minnesota won the bidding to host the 2008 Republican National Convention, the money and federal agency representatives started flowing into town.

One of the first things that was recommended was for local law enforcement not to be complacent or reactive. "You must be proactive..." I can just hear the feds saying to the local "Uh-huh and Yup Yup" boys and tailwaggers who make up the higher echelon of local law enforcement these days. It seems like everybody has been jealous since former thumper and king of racist language*, Hennepin County Sheriff Rick Stanek had his week in the sun following the MN Dot Tragedy (aka bridge collapse). (*Gov. Pawlenty had to withdraw his name as candidate to head the Minnesota Department of Public Safety after aspects of his personnel history came to light including questionable aggressive conduct and racial epitaphs used, some of which was documented at a deposition).

No by God, this event had to go off without a hitch. If that means trampling a few lines of writing on an old piece of paper, so be it. Never mind that those lines of writing are also known as the Amendments to the Constitution or "Bill or Rights", our guarantees of individual freedoms which are the hallmarks of our form of government and what makes us uniquely American.

As a criminal defense lawyer for over twenty years, I have become almost numb and almost come to expect the litany of lies and distortions found in too many applications for search warrants and investigation reports. The key word is almost because the day it stops bothering me is the day I have become a "law and order", (I don't mean Fred "indigestion-buurrpp"-Thompson, Republican).

So it comes to me as no surprise that local deputies of various local county sheriff departments infiltrated many political organizations, some justified, most not. The key issue is not whether some organization considers itself merely a political organization but rather does the organization have a history of illegal activity and is there credible, non-manufactured or non-government agent advocacy of illegal activity currently which would justify a local judge or magistrate to issue search warrants. The answer based on all the evidence I have seen so far is possibly yes, it may have been justified in the case of the anarchist organization the "RNC Welcome Committee" so long as it does not come out that it was the undercover government agents causing the agitation and encouragement to collect the urine, make the smoke bombs and twist the nails to flatten car and bus tires.

However, it appears at this time, based upon all available information, that police and sheriff department raids of independent filmmakers, journalists and documentarians such as the Eyewitness Video group from New York was completely and totally unjustified. The fact that the fingerprints of head of the the local "Uh-huh and Yup Yup" boys and tailwaggers, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, are all over illegal law enforcement conduct comes as no surprise to me. I remember then St. Paul City Council member and young Lieutenant Bob Fletcher of the St. Paul Police Department. It was the early 1980's and I was working a stint at the St. Paul Mayor's Complaint Office. Bob Fletcher was an apologist for police misbehavior and misconduct back then and therefore it is no surprise that he would be engaged in this kind of behavior now.

The person I am really disappointed in however, is Mayor Chris Coleman, who I greatly admire and like. Unfortunately, in this one instance I think Ramsey County and it's Sheriff got around the better judgment of the City of St. Paul, it's mayor and usually competent Chief Harrington.

The anecdotal evidence that brought it all home to me was when I read that my friend and mentor, St. Louis Park Attorney William "Bill" Starr got caught up in the collateral arrests along with reports of an elderly nun arrested.

Shame on local law enforcement for not rising above the extremely low bar it set for itself.

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