Newland deadlocks jury for his right to petition.

In today's Rapid City Journal, Bill Harlan reports on the progress that the Pennington County State's Attorney made against stopping Bob Newland from gathering signatures for his ballot measure. As in "None":
A jury deadlocked Thursday on whether Libertarian political activist Bob Newland had a right to circulate petitions inside Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Newland was arrested Jan. 31 during the Black Hills Stock Show after he refused to leave the civic center. He was collecting signatures to put a medical marijuana measure on the November ballot.

and..

Testifying in his own defense, Newland told jurors that collecting signatures on city-owned property is a First Amendment right.

“I was engaging people in conversations about politics,” he said.

and..

The jury began deliberating about 2:45 p.m., and they reported a deadlock shortly after 6 p.m. Magistrate Judge William Severns declared a mistrial.

“I’m disappointed that it’s not over yet for Bob,” Hymans said after the trial.

She said Pennington County deputy state’s attorney Josh Hendrickson told her he would try Newland again.

The Journal was unable to reach Hendrickson after the trial, but earlier Thursday, he said it was the first time he had ever had a jury trial for a charge of “failure to vacate.”
Read it all here.

Are they serious? They're actually going to try him again? Pennington County States Attorney Glen Brenner seems to be showing why GOP delegates were smart in rejecting him for a run at Attorney General back in 2002. Because this is sillyness.

Brenner is not doing himself any favors by allowing one of his deputies to pursue the matter. In the big scheme of things, it appears to be unclear. So why are they telling everyone up front that they're going to further waste taxpayer money on it?

That, and I'm sure there are plenty of other minor crimes to prosecute that are clear criminal acts, and not a dispute over what does and does not constitute a person's first amendment rights.

I'll state my position on this again. I think they are wrong to try to limit Bob's right of petition, and I will defend him on this no matter how much I disagree with the issue. If they take away this right for him, and demonstrate that they can kick petitioners out of public places, it's not just Bob they're kicking out. It's all of us, and there may come a point in the future when we want to circulate a measure on abortion, or property taxes, or gambling, or on some other matter that we feel is important. They might even prevent candidates from obtaining signatures to run at other venues that the people have paid for with their taxes. And we won't like it any more than Bob does.

Because if they continue to pursue it and think they can justify limiting our right to petition, public officials will get away with telling us no. And do you think they will stop there?

In a time when people are complaining about the loss of liberty and loss of privacy, it's odd that no one is the complaining about someone trying to take away this freedom. A freedom of speech involving our state sanctioned right to petition on property that our tax dollars have paid for.

More than anything, this should be a call to remind us who authorizes government and who pays for it.

Comments

Bob Newland said…
"I thought the prosecutor was a bumbling idiot and I thought your attorney was nothing short of first rate." (communication, after the trial was over, from a juror, who said that the jury was evenly split on the verdict, but nearly unanimous in its assessment of the lawyers)


Brief Facts about the case:

On Jan. 31, 2006, after several days of working outside the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, circulating a petition that is now Initiated Measure 4 on the November South Dakota Ballot, I was getting cold and decided to challenge the Civic Center's interpretation of a policy concerning petition circulation activity.

I went inside the Civic Center, host venue to the Black Hills Stock Show, which, according to Stock Show management, brings traffic in the area of 250,000 visits from the public. There, I asked people, as I had been doing outside, "Would you like to help us put the issue of medical marijuana use on this fall's ballot?" If they said "No," I asked someone else.

A Stock Show official and A Civic Center official gave me their interpretation of Civic Center policy (see below), and said I had to work outside. I disagreed with their interpretation, and held ground. I was arrested, booked, and released. The Pennington Co. State's Attorney decided to prosecute; I opted for a jury trial after Judge Severns refused to dismiss the case on constitutional (1st Amendment) grounds.

I was tried in front of a 12-person jury on Aug. 31, 2006. following are some thoughts about the trial. At the end of this message is the Rapid City Journal story about the trial.

========================================


The Civic Center’s written (but not published to the public) policy on petition circulation at the time I was arrested (Jan. 2006) reads: “Petitions concerning issues may be circulated on Civic Center grounds, but must remain at least 15 feet away from main entrances to the building.” –RPCC Policy 202

Allowing for the somewhat amputated syntax, I operated fully within those limits. At the trial, after reading aloud the above policy, Civic Center Manager Brian Maliske then tried to say it was obvious that they meant that circulators were to stay outdoors. So did prosecutor Josh Hendrickson.

My lawyer, Rena Hymans (Sturgis SD, pretty fair country lawyer gal) and I stayed on message; “Newland does not believe he was given a proper order to vacate the premises, since the order to leave conflicted with the constitution of the United States and of South Dakota, with the statutes of South Dakota and Rapid City, and with the Civic Center’s own policy."

After the jury was out 2 hours, they sent a note (this is paraphrased); “Does the Civic Center have a right to eject a person arbitrarily, regardless of any Civic Center claim of a violation of policy by that person?”

Judge Severns said to me, Rena and Josh, “I guess we’ll have to wait until the Civic Center throws someone out for nothing and see.” To the jury, he wrote, “You have instructions; I can offer no further comment.”

An hour later the jury reported that it was hopelessly deadlocked. Severns declared a mistrial. Hendrickson said he would re-try me in October.

After the jury had been released to deliberate, Hendrickson said that he had had 6 hung juries in a row in the last two weeks. And now, one more. What do you make of that? Is Hendrickson merely inept? Or is he insistent on trying chickenshit cases? Both?

Does he think that something will happen during the next month that will change the wording on Civic Center Policy 202?
Anonymous said…
So the jury couldn't agree on a verdict. That seems to be what is going on throughout South Dakota whenever individual rights are at issue. Lack of a jury verdict for Bob is one more example of how divided this state has become.
Anonymous said…
if Bob was circulating where the general public had a right to be, I completely agree, this is horse-s***, and Bob's rights being trampled are all of ours being trampled.

how could anyone have 6 mistrials in a row? wouldn't you get the hint after the first two that something you're doing isn't right?
Anonymous said…
You all are missing the boat on this one. Sooooo if the policy is re-worded to say outside petitioning only, then its not a free speech issue ?

I am not sure that policies need to be worded to the accuracy level of State laws, but I am sure that can be arranged.

Governments can build facilities then lease them, long or short term. The lessors can then control many of the use issues. Bob, in the end, will hurt all of us on this because the "new policy" will no doubt be more restrictive and air tight.

Where are you going to try and make your next point Bob. The Library, swimming pools, ice rink ? how about the little league fields ? Just bust in on the next wedding being held in the lincoln room and tell all the guests that the civic center is a public building and you have a right to be there ?

Bobs actions are how we loose rights, not gain them. The end result might be Rapid city will have to stop renting its facilities to be used by the public, maybe thats what Bob wants ?
Bob Newland said…
If you were here and not using a hide-behind pseudonym, I'd make my next point on your head, you moron.

Apparently it would be okay with you if we just did away with the citizen initiative process.
Anonymous said…
Bob; I certainly support the initiative/referendum process. I also support the rights of the folks and organizations that rent public facilities. If I read the story right, the Stock show folks asked you to leave (stop soliciting signatures) or rent a booth, before the civic center management did. You can get signatures inside the civic center when it is not being occpied by a renter, or get a booth like everyone else did. All the political issues, parties and candidates that were at the Central States fair in Rapid City, RENTED BOOTHS, The pro life, pro choice, Democrats, Republicans, Amendment D etc,etc, all had booths. They did not show up, enter and do their thing and dare someone to arrest them. In Fact I understand the Fair folks are very zealous in enforcing their "policies" I think it would be a hoot to see you try the same crap at the fair next year, haha
All you are going to accomplish with your latest stunt, is make it harder, not easier for folks to carry petitions in public places in South Dakota, and thats a shame.
Anonymous said…
This is the 9-11 effect. every time some joker pulls some silly move in an airport, they create more and more, harder to follow, and more inconvenient rules. This act by Newland will have the same effect. Instead of keeping the initiative process smooth and simple to carry on in public places, it will in fact get harder and harder.
Anonymous said…
Was at a wedding recently and if this issue keeps heading in this direction when the minister asks if there are any objections speak now or forever... We may hear No, but would yo sign my petition on....

Rented space is not public space for the times that are contracted for.
Anonymous said…
of course, the real culprit in this is Rapid City Mayor Jim Shaw, who refuses to show any leadership on this issue (or any issue for that matter)

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