TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE; STACKING THE DECK
By Paul Walter
October 30, 2001
GRANTS PASS, OR. - On October 25, 2001 a court trial was held in Grants Pass, Oregon. The presiding judge was Allen Coon. To fully understand the travesty and nature of this trial, we need to go back to May, 26, 2000. On that date the Josephine County Commissioners held a public meeting at the Anne Basker Auditorium. By law, the public was invited to give input on the request for two separate levies that were proposed by the commissioners, at the requests of Sheriff Dave Daniel and D.A. Clay Johnson. The sheriff was asking for $1,200,000 and the D.A. requested $300,000.
Approximately 125 people attended this meeting. Approximately 100 people (mostly law enforcement personnel, their friends and relatives) were in favor of the levy, the rest were in opposition. The entire meeting was video taped by the former president of the Josephine County Taxpayer's Association, John Taft. The meeting was Chaired by Commissioner Frank Iverson. Representing the press were Howard Huntington from the Grants Pass Daily Courier and two local TV station reporters. Commissioner Iverson decided that all of the pro-levy supporters were to speak first, followed by the opposition.
Pam Hackett, (a private citizen) opposing the levies on the grounds that they put an additional lean on her property, objected to Commissioner Iverson's unfair decision. Speaking out, Mrs. Hackett said the pro-levy supporters could take all day and since the TV crews leave early, it would give those viewing the six o'clock news the appearance that everyone was in favor of the levies. Mrs. Hackett requested that the speakers be alternated. Her plea fell on deaf ears as Commissioner Iverson continued with his agenda.
At that point Mrs. Hackett brought in two signs, stating that since she couldn't speak the signs would speak for her. One sign said "No more taxes", the other stated, "Tax is a lean on my home". This angered Commissioner Iverson. He demanded she take the signs outside. Mrs. Hackett refused and held her ground, stating, "I have the First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech". Seeing that Mrs. Hackett was not intimidated by his threats, he ordered her to move the signs into the corner at the back of the room. Mrs. Hackett complied.
This enraged Ms. Dusty Fields, president of the I.V. (Illinois Valley) Fire District. Angry, Ms. Fields decided to take the law into her own hands, in spite of a room full of police, including the sheriff. Ms. Fields grabbed Mrs. Hackett's hand in front of numerous witnesses, peeled back her fingers and forcibly ripped one of the signs out of her hand and threw it outside where I was standing. She then went back and attempted to dislodge the second sign out of Mrs. Hackett's hand. At that point the sheriff walked over, put his arm around Ms. Fields and told her "it's not worth it" and walked outside with her. He failed to tell Dusty that she was breaking the law by physically assaulting a citizen.
Mrs. Hackett, complaining of excruciating pain, filed a police report with the Grants Pass Public Safety Police Dept. As usual, the Daily Courier failed to report the incident accurately. They briefly mentioned the scuffle but failed to mention Dusty Fields' name, protecting her identity even though a police report had been filed. A few friends and I decided to picket the Daily Courier for their lack of truthful reporting, hoping to force them to report the story accurately. Within a few days the Courier reported the incident in more detail, but biased as usual. With the incident now made public, D.A. Johnson was forced to start legal proceedings against Ms. Fields for assaulting a citizen. Johnson, fearing the good 0l boys, turned the prosecution over to Paul Frazier, Deputy D.A. from Coos County, Oregon. D.A. Frazier charged Ms. Fields on three counts: (1) Criminal Harassment, (2) Criminal Theft in the 3rd. Degree, and (3) Criminal Mischief in the 3rd. Degree.
It took over a year to bring Ms. Fields to trial. On the day of the trial, October 25, 2001, six jurors were selected out of a pool of approximately twenty. Prosecution and defense screened the jurors for possible prejudices. The defense attorney, Rebecca Peterson, addressing the jury, prior to trial, asked, "Do you have any problem with this tight knit group with strong beliefs?", pointing at county critics sitting as observers in the courtroom. By her choice of words, was she conditioning the jury?
One of the jurors admitted he hated the weekly courthouse 'picketers' (they prefer to be called news boarders). His admission removed him from the jury. Upon exiting the courtroom, he turned around and gave the group Ms. Peterson had pointed at an obscene hand gesture. As he was replaced I noticed the jury's smugness as they looked at the courtroom observers. The first thing that came to mind was - they're going to find Ms. Fields innocent, no matter what the evidence.
Judge Allen Coon's instructions to the jury were, "You must follow the law, whether you're in agreement with it or not", and the trial proceeded. Approximately seven witnesses testified against Ms. Fields and four in favor. Dressed in uniform, Sheriff Dave Daniel was one who testified in favor of Ms. Fields, but he forgot what the meeting was about, where this incident occurred, and said that Mrs. Hackett's signs were disruptive. The truth is that Ms. Fields 'reaction' to the signs caused the disruption, not the signs themselves. Commissioner Iverson, also testifying in Ms. Fields' favor, couldn't see his own contradiction when it was explained to him by Prosecutor Frazier, even though it was evident to everyone else in the courtroom.
The trial took all day. As it concluded the jury went into deliberation. It took approximately 1-1/2 hours for the jury to render a verdict. During that period a courtroom employee made the remark, "I'll predict she'll be convicted, at least two out of three". When the jury returned the judge read the verdict - Ms. Fields was found innocent of all three charges! The courtroom employee's face dropped in disbelief.
If Mrs. Hackett, who opposed the levy, had grabbed and assaulted Ms. Fields, Mrs. Hackett would have been convicted on all three counts and would have received either a stiff fine, jail time, or a long probation period and forced to take Anger Management classes. How can this travesty of justice happen? Without a doubt, if this trial had been held in any other county, Ms. Fields would have been found guilty on all three charges.
God help anyone that the county doesn't like, critic or not, that winds up in a Josephine County court. This is the same county where Brian and Ruth Christine had their parental rights terminated - without a conviction.
Paul Walter was born in socialist Yugoslavia in 1945. He and his family emigrated to America in 1959. He served 3 years in the U.S. Armed Forces and became a U.S. citizen in 1963. Owner of Walter Publishing & Research, he republished a 100 year old book titled The Coming Battle, the true history of our national debt. The book is currently in its 5th printing. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org