From the June 2001 Idaho Observer:


Pack of vicious lies, not dogs, responsible for international incident in north Idaho

Fabrications, exaggerations and misrepresentations by “authorities” turn family tragedy into media feeding frenzy in Sandpoint area

SAGLE -- International attention is once again focused on north Idaho as fabrications and distortions turn the personal tragedy of an impoverished and embattled family into a major media feeding frenzy. The six McGuckin children, ages 8-16, who had just lost their father to multiple sclerosis, sicced their dogs on the public servants who came to take them away after tricking their mother into being arrested. Since the “standoff” began May 29, 2001, Bonner county officials have been making statements to the press that have been demonstrated to be either untrue or gross exaggerations of fact. Aside from the raft of inconsistencies that have surfaced while Bonner county struggles to extricate itself from this public relations nightmare, JoAnn McGuckin and her six children have been kept away from the public. Why?

Protestors line 
both sides of US 95 outside the Bonner County Courthouse.

Photo by Errol Owen

At least 70 people from all over the Northwest converged on the Bonner County Courthouse in Sandpoint June 11 to protest the county's persecution of the McGuckin family. Though many signs carried by protest participants indicated support of JoAnn McGuckin and family rights, most of the signs were critical of Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson. Many people suspect that Robinson's prosecutorial motives in this and many other cases are less than honorable.

***

Criminal complaint becomes international incident

Bereaved wife, mother held on $100,000 bond

Most of the allegations listed in the criminal complaint at right have been found to be false and the others are so subjective that it would be impossible to prove criminal intent. Furthermore, the allegations are so ambiguous that half the parents in America could be arrested on them.

Rather than withdraw the complaint and show compassion for JoAnn McGuckin, 46, who lost her husband to multiple sclerosis and her 40 Garfield Bay-area acres to back taxes, complainant and Bonner County Prosecuting Attorney Phil Robinson managed to secure her on $100,000 bond, higher than bonds placed on murderers in Idaho. He also chose to put the McGuckin family under a microscope in an attempt to find something that will rescue his case against them.

According to Bonner County Sheriff Phil Jarvis, by the time this incident becomes resolved it could cost the taxpayers of Idaho upwards of $500,000.

****

Hide the family, hide the truth?

In all of this, we have not once been able to hear the story of even the oldest daughter, Kathryn, 16. We have not been able to hear the story of Joann McGuckin without the wall of the sheriff's department. All we know about this family is what the government jailors want us to know. It is reasonable to assume that we are not getting the full story. It is our belief that the “authorities” are hiding the family to hide the truth because the truth is not going to make the authorities look very good. We should, as a nation, demand that all public servants be held accountable for their actions if they are not performed in our best interests.

***

Think about this:

While the county was moving on JoAnn McGuckin to remove her from her home and place her children in foster care, they were proceeding as if she was insane, mentally disturbed and incompetant. Prosecutor Phil Robinson even stated that the county has known for some time that she was mentally ill. While the county was moving against McGuckin to foreclose on her property, they sent out notices and other correspondence apparently expecting that she was competant and rational enough to understand what they meant and that she must respond to them in an intelligent and timely manner.

When the county wanted to take her children, it claimed that she was known to be mentally incompetant; when the county moved against her property, it did so as if she was competant.

Which is it? It simply cannot be both ways, can it?

The county commissioners were asked this question at a public meeting and were unable to answer though it was apparent that they understood the implications of the question with regard to the county's liability in this matter.

***

Public Servants v. “The Authorities”

“Style” is the term used to describe the universal rules applied to a certain style of writing. The rules dictate capitalization, abbreviations, and an entire littany of language usage rules for printed matter. The purpose of “style” is to promote uniformity in specific types of literature. Newspapers generally adhere to what is known as “AP Style.”

The dominant media, as exemplified in the international coverage of the McGuckin story, has developed a style that is as offensive as it is inaccurate. The dominant media generally refers to government officials as “the authorities.”

They are public servants. It is important that they understand they are public servants serving at the pleasure of citizens. If we continue to allow the dominant media to refer to public servants as the authorities, pretty soon too many people will believe the lie just like most Americans now believe we live in a “democracry” and not a republic.

***

Investigation underway

What is the value of the McGuckin's 40 acres of lakefront property near Garfield Bay? Depending upon who owns it, the assessed value of the property seems to range from $66,000 to almost $200,000 and the assessed value of the house ranges from $31,000 to $80,000.

We have reason to believe that the McGuckins were the victims of a protracted campaign to be driven from their property to make way for a high-end market housing development.

The investigation is still underway at this time. Regardless of what public servants are saying, we believe that we will prove beyond a doubt that certain people took advantage of McGuckin's poverty and isolation to obtain their property. Full disclosure will be made once we can prove our case with witness statements and other documentation.