From the November 2004 Idaho Observer:
Goforth takes a turn trying to expose Bonner county corruption, goes to jail
SANDPOINTóJerry Goforth, the most recent in a long line of individuals attempting to expose the corruption hanging over Bonner county , was found to be in violation of his probation and sent to jail for 30 days by District Judge Debra Heise November 8, 2004.
To date, most person of whom we are aware that have attempted to expose Bonner county corruption are in prison, have left the area or are dead.
Goforth, 52, has been picketing the Bonner County Courthouse since last May. As evidenced by Judge Heiseís decision to revoke his probation on hearsay, the county has lost patience with Goforth.
On July 25, Goforth filed three tort claims against the county totalling $40.1 million. Goforth claims the sheriff, the public defenderís office and probation department have conspired to coverup a full spectrum of illegal activities among county officials.
He also claims that because of the evidence he has accumulated, the county is trying to "get him."
Four days after filing his notice of intent to sue, Goforth was convicted on two counts of harassment that stem from ill-advised phone messages he left for Bonner County Sheriffís Deputy Mark Van Hyning in December, 2003.
Judge Heise sentenced Goforth to serve 180 days in jail with 176 days suspended and probation. One of the conditions of probation was that he not assault, "harass, intimidate" or "bother" anyone. He was also ordered to seek psychological counseling.
After his release Goforth resumed his part-time job of picketing the Bonner County Courthouse with signs critical of the Bonner county justice system. During this time he was accused of harassing Public Defender Daniel Nesbitt and his secretary Feist. Though no evidence of the harassment appears to exist and neither Nesbitt nor Feist appeared in court as witnesses against Goforth, Judge Heise believed the second hand testimony of Probation Officer Porath and Deputy Prosecutor Roger Hanlon.
At one point, Judge Heise began questioning him as to the status of his psychological counseling. It appeared the judge was trying to justify an order that Goforth be involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation.
Goforth was represented by Jeremy Featherston. Featherston objected only once and appeared phenomenally tired, disinterested and ineffective throughout the proceeding.
Though Goforth is obviously disenchanted with local officials and has taken it upon himself to investigate corruption, he appears to be fully competent.
Goforth, who has a history of harassment convictions in Washington state, also has a history of investigating local corruption. While he was on the witness stand, Hanlon tried to find out what evidence Goforth had implicating Bonner county officials in criminal acts. Goforth handled himself well under oath and declined to comment on his evidence except to say that it has been handed over to two law enforcement agencies which have opened an investigations.
Soon after divulging that information, Judge Heise ordered Goforth be taken into custody immediately to begin serving the 30 days in Bonner County Jail.
Off the record, Goforth claims to have evidence that Bonner County officials are involved in drug use, drug dealing, favor peddling, knowingly participating in a hopelessly corrupt criminal justice system and a host of other egregious abuses of the public trust
We hope that Goforth has not placed all of his evidence eggs in the law enforcement baskets. We are aware of several instances where solid evidence of Bonner county corruption has been delivered state and federal law enforcement agencies in the area only for that evidence to be buried or ignored.
When The Idaho Observerís Ingri Cassel saw Goforth for the first time last July, she advised him to contact other local activists. She cautioned him that if he continues his solo protest he would eventually be taken out.
Unfortunately Goforth did not heed Casselís advice. Perhaps sensing that he was on the verge of being railroaded, he bought five radio spots on KPND urging Sandpoint residents to witness the Nov. 8 probation violation hearing. Only six people bothered to show up and only one of them came because of the radio spot.
Real evidence of criminal behavior
Last August 8, while picketing the courthouse, Goforth caught Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson getting into his Nissan Sentra. This is the car Robinson, the long-time prosecutor of crime in Bonner county, drives to and from work every day. The car had registration tags that had been expired since April. Though the law requires studded snow tires be removed in mid March, Robinson was still driving on four well-studded tires in August.
With a look that was a mixture of irritation and embarrassment, Robinson told Goforth that he was going to drive his car to get the "problem" fixed.
To make his package of evidence conclusive, Goforth taped Robinson, his studs, license plate numbers and his license tags driving on county and state property. A short time later that same day, he caught up with Robinsonís car in the parking lot of his office. As recorded, the studs were still there and the tags were still expired.
Goforth then compelled the Sandpoint Police Department (SPD) to fill out a uniform citation for the infraction of studded snow tires. The citation shows that the license plate number attached to the Sentra is now attached to a blue Chevy truck.
(Note: In Idaho, a person owns his license plates and can attach them to any vehicle he owns, he just has to inform the Department of Motor Vehicle Licensing of a license plate change. Robinson apparently did not bother to lawfully identify the vehicle he drives every day with the correct license plate, which is illegal).
An additional citation for the expired tags was requested but never issued by SPD. This is pretty unusual since Sandpoint police are always on the prowl and happy to issue citations to the general public for even the most minor of infractions.
We have seen Goforthís tape and it has been sent to news agencies all over the area. There is no doubt that Robinson was driving with expired tags and studded snow tires. So far there is no evidence to indicate that Robinson has been forced to appear in court to address any citations or pay any fines.
Robinson was contacted by phone and asked to comment on the evidence of misdemeanor traffic violations Goforth had amassed against him. Robinson reportedly justified his expired tags and studded tires by explaining that the vehicle had been in the shop.
Robinsonís excuse is likely untrue as licensed auto repair shops would not let him drive away on studded snow tires in August. Plus, his excuse does not change the fact that he was driving illegally and, had he been an ordinary person stopped in traffic, the traffic cop would have issued the citation and, not listening to the excuse, might have said, "Tell it to the judge."
Though it may seem petty to demand that Robinson be cited for these misdemeanor traffic violations, ordinary people who drive on expired tags and studded snow tires in the summer receive citations, so why is a public official not required to obey those laws?
It should also be noted that for decades county residents have been aware of rumors regarding Robinsonís connection to large scale drug trafficking and other forms of organized criminal behavior. People who attempt to go public with evidence of such activity are sent to prison, die mysteriously or leave the area. It appears that a corrupt and ruthless cabal does run Bonner county and enjoys the protection of federal law enforcement agencies and local media.
We applaud Goforth for his attempts to expose this corruption, but chastise him for not reaching out to others who share his desire to rid the county of institutionalized corruption.
The American Civil Liberties Union in Boise has been contacted and has expressed a real interest in the case.
Goforth may have even accomplished something here that no one has before. By recording Robinsonís petty traffic crimes, he has exposed the prosecutorís soft, white underbelly: Maybe, by showing that Robinson flagrantly violates the same petty misdemeanors he so militantly prosecutes every day, Bonner county residents will come to resent their prosecutorís boorish behavior. Without question, Robinsonís actions show that he believes that the law does not apply to himself.
It will be interesting to see where this story goes. Will Goforth be released from jail before his 30 days are up because of legal arguments pointing out violations of due process, or will he do the full sentence? While Goforth is in custody, will the "authorities" order a psychological evaluation, declare him mentally ill and involuntarily commit the protestor to the state mental hospital?
And what will become of Robinson? Will the prosecutor be held accountable for his violations?
Copies of Goforthís video have been sent to local media; it was posted to the website at www.idahobeat.com and www.indymedia.org.
An update will be published in the Dec. edition of The IO.
Caption: County officials tired of Jerry Goforth (right) perpetually picketing of the Bonner County Courthouse so they found a reason to throw him in jail.
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