From the March 2000 Idaho Observer:
Stevens County Sheriff gives tacit approval to harassment of Stuter family
NINE MILE, Wash. -- Lynn Stuter and her family have been the victims of repeated harrassment by teenagers since 1995 when the education activist publicly released the findings of her investigation of Lakeside High School. Stuter described an environment of drug abuse, violence and sexual promiscuity that permeated the high school culture and obviously detracted from the educational experience.
Since that time, the Stuters have experienced repeated harassment from drunk and disorderly high school students, property damage and threats to the safety of their family.
The Stevens County Sheriff's Department (SCSD) refuses to put an end to the harassment and refuses to return the phone calls of reporters and concerned citizens who want the harrassment of the Stuters to stop. The SCSD apparently approves the damages being done to this family. The Stevens County Sheriff Department has made it very clear that they sanction the ongoing harassment of our family, Stuter said.
The Stuters, with the tacit approval of the SCSD, have been subjected to an annual harass the Stuters car rally each fall since 1995. Beer bottles, rotten fruit, eggs and other garbage is thrown at the Stuter house, a procession of cars and a certain red 4 wheel drive pickup go past the Stuter house yelling obscenities and honking horn. On two occasions, explosives have been thrown at the house. Of the explosives, one detonated blowing a large divit in the lawn. The other, which did not explode, was taken as evidence by Deputy Bowers of the SCSD.
The Spokesman-Review has also done its part to justify the five-year campaign to harrass and intimidate the Stuters because of one woman's research which proves that public education is a dismal failure. Stuter was identified as being connected with the Militia of Montana in an October 14, 1999 Spokesman-Review article by staff writer John Craig. The was also in keeping with the Spokesman-Review's policy to link anybody who questions authority to what it calls racist, anti-government hate group activity. Stuter demanded a public apology over what was an intentional and baseless defamation of her character -- an apology that has yet to be published even though Stuter has no connection to any militia group.
Stuter has been charged with disroderly conduct by the Stevens County Prosecutor for her attempts to defend her family and her property against teenagers September 29, 1999. The same statute under which they have charged me, said Stuter, states that a 'person is guilty of disorderly conduct if he uses abusive language and thereby intentionally creates a risk of assault.' Such very accurately describes the situation in front of our home on September 29, 1999, when that mob of out of control juveniles yelled obscenities specifically targeting us that constitute a threat of personal harm and acted in a manner threatening to our persons and property. Other statutes also apply, including RCW 9a.42, harassment. Yet the two officers present did nothing and denied the actions of the juveniles present. This has all the trappings of unequal protection under the law.
The following report of these events, excerpted from an outline posted to the Washington Grassroots Email Network, was written by Don Lynch from police reports and witness statements:
On September 29, 1999, at approximately 9:30 p.m. the annual car rally started from Lakeside High School parking lot. Vice-principal Jim Missel advised the sheriff's office of the rally saying the rally was not sanctioned by the school but was scheduled to start at 9:30 and would be led by a red 4x4 truck with a Confederate flag and a Budweiser flag being flown from the vehicle, an interesting admission from a school administrator.
Any times I give are very approximate since the two deputies differ by as much as an hour in their reports.
According to police reports the rally passed the Stuter a minimum of two times before the road was blocked. The reports agree that they got a call from central dispatch at 10:33 p.m. that Stuter had called to complain of the harassment.
Deputy Bowers was the first to arrive at the scene eight minutes later. Deputy Cochran does not say what time he arrived. Bowers reports that he found Stuter standing near her pickup which was blocking the road. According to Bowers, Stuter had a shotgun at an order arms position. (I was in the army, order arms is the gun at your side with the butt on the ground) Bowers stated in his report that there were no other subjects in the area. Cochran does not mention anyone else present when he arrived either.
This lack of any other people present is interesting. Page 2 of Bower's Uniform Incident Report (UIR) is missing. However, page 2 of Cochran's UIR mentions an unknown suspect No. 2. On October 7, Bowers prepared a supplemental report which mentions the presence of Stuter's husband.
A loud confrontation between Stuter and Deputy Bowers followed. Stuter placed the shotgun on the hood of the pickup and demanded that the SCSD stop the harassment. Bowers responded, as memorialized in his official report, that the harassment was legal and that it was okay for him to tell anyone to kiss my ass. While the shouting match was going on, first a Volkswagen Bug and then the rest of the rally (led by the 4x4 with the two flags clearly visible) came up to the scene and were stopped by Deputy Bowers. The bug belongs to people just down the street and they may have been heading home. The blocked road did not deny them access to their home since all they had to do was go to Primrose, one block over, to get to their house.
After Cochran turned the rally and the Volkswagen away the two deputies left and the pickup was moved off the road. There were no further incidents that night.
It was obvious from the start that criminal charges were going to be filed against Stuter. A newspaper article in the Spokane Spokesman-Review paved the way for the filing of such charges. Although Undersheriff Geer acknowledged that the students probably yelled obscenities at the Stuters, blocking the road is inappropriate.
Another interesting point in the Spokesman-Review article is the statements by Lakeside High School principal Mike Parker: It's not an activity that we want any part of, and we don't have any jurisdiction over kids outside of school events.
Now go back and contrast that with Deputy Bowers' report. On 9/29/99 at approximately 2020 hrs the vice-principle (sic) (Jim Missel) at LakeSide (sic) High School advised that the 'car rally' was scheduled for 2130 to 2200 hrs and was not a sanctioned event by the school. Mr. Missell also advised that the lead vehicle was a large red 4x4 truck with a confederate flag a Budweiser flag being flown from the vehicle.
The Spokesman-Review article omitted all reference to the 4x4 and its proudly flying the Confederate flag -- a symbol the dominant media likes to link to racism when its convenient.
Bowers then related how he contacted the owner of the pickup in the Lakeside parking lot. Charges of Disorderly Conduct in violation of RCW 9A.84.030 were filed on October 14, 1999. It is interesting that the signature is dated 10/19/99.
Arraignment was set for 11/01/99 but changed to 11/05/99 when Stuter filed an affidavit of prejudice against the judge.
On November 5, 1999, the arraignment hearing was held. Stuter appeared pro se which means without an attorney. Judge Lynda Eaton of Ferry County and prosecutor attempted to gang up on Stuter to make her sign a waiver of right to an attorney. When Stuter refused to waive any rights the judge called a recess and went to smoke a cigarette. While the judge was down in the courtyard smoking (or fuming), the prosecutor was ranting in the hall about how much time the case was going to take.
When the judge got back she wanted Stuter to enter a plea but she brought up a question of jurisdiction. The judge stated she would reserve the issue of jurisdiction for a motions hearing. She again asked Stuter to enter a plea.
Stuter declined and told the judge she did not understand the charge. All she was charged with was violation of RCW 9A.84.030 obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic. She wanted to know what she was charged with doing and noted that she needed a bill of particulars.
The judge then said she was entering a plea of not guilty. Stuter asked the judge if she was acting as her attorney. The judge did a lot of hemming and hawing and finally stated she was striking the entry of the plea.
A 2 ½ hour motions hearing was set for December 3, 1999.
Stuter filed her demands for discovery and motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, lack of probable cause, Knapstad and discovery violations. The prosecutor filed no motions but filed briefs engaging in the lowest sort of name calling and other derogatory comments. The judge chastized the prosecutor for his lack of professionalism.
When Stuter arrived at the courtroom December 3, there were several documents on the defendant's table. There was some more police reports, two court cases and demand for discovery.
When the judge arrived she stated she had read all the briefs and motions but it was obvious she was not prepared. She went immediately to the Knapstad motion. A Knapstad motion contends the prosecutor does not have a legal and factual basis to proceed. The judge tried to get Stuter to stipulate to all the alleged facts as stated in the article in the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Stuter asked if the hearing was the trial. The judge finally ruled, after a lot of stupid questions, taking a recess for Stuter to read the newly presented evidence and reading State v. Groom. The Knapstad motion was denied.
The judge then dealt with jurisdiction. Stuter had challenged jurisdiction because the court had not issued a summons. The judge ruled the notice of case setting was as good as a summons. She also noted that Stuter had not challenged jurisdiction on the basis of the notice being mailed instead of presented by personal service. Now why would she bring that up. Stuter never mentioned anything about it which It makes one wonder with whom the judge had been discussing this case.
Probable cause came up next. Although Bowers and Cochran had been subpoenaed and were present, the judge ruled no testimony would be taken and probable cause existed.
Then the judge came to Stuter's motion for a bill of particulars. The prosecutor had argued it was not a legitimate motion but was a discovery request. The judge swept this away and ordered the prosecutor to provide a bill of particulars within 10 days. A bill of particulars is found in state law and requires that a prosecutor state the facts upon which he intends to proceed with a prosecution.
It was about in this point that the prosecutor started criticizing Stuter's style. Stuter objected. The judge ruled the objection was not proper but said she found the briefs of both parties were inappropriate.
The last item to be dealt with was Stuter's motion regarding the prosecutor's discovery violations. As Stuter told the judge, the prosecutor was trying to deceive the court and Stuter by concealing evidence. It is very clear that the reports have not all been produced. When Stuter saw the reports at the sheriff's office (saw, but not allowed to read) they were 3/8 inch thick. Stuter was given six pages, plus four pages of supplemental reports made up nine days after the incident.
The judge started going through Stuter's discovery demand. She skipped over the first one, copies of all statements made to investigating officers or third parties. Then she came to discovery demand number two: Names of witnesses and their written or recorded statements. These were supposed to have been provided within 21 days. They were not.
All of the sudden, the judge announced they would go over the discovery motion at a hearing on January 7th. Trial was to be January 28th (the day after the speedy trial limit).
It is very odd that the judge did not want to discuss who the witnesses might be. It was already clear to her that discoverable police reports were being withheld from Stuter. It couldn't have been lack of time, the hearing had been scheduled to last until 5:00 and it was only 4:00.
Richard Shepard of the Northwest Legal Foundation of Tacoma is currently representing Stuter in this matter. A status hearing is scheduled for March 3, 1999.
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