(Both articles are illustrated)
Appeals court upholds citizens’ right to post
For the second time, William Sheehan and Aaron Rosenstein, the operators of JUSTICEFILES.ORG, have emerged victorious from a groundless though very well-funded attack mounted by the City of Kirkland. (Click here for the beginning of the story).
Infuriated by their inability to defeat Sheehan in court, the cops and their cohorts in Kirkland’s political establishment have turned to the legislature for revenge. Joined by police unions from all across Washington State, they have mounted a massive lobbying campaign to ram through an ugly piece of custom-tailored special-interest legislation.
The bill’s provisions would grant the police unconstitutional benefits and special privileges; confer wholesale immunity upon them; create exceptionally broad and previously non-existent rights exclusively for their benefit; and further expand their elite status relative to the common citizenry. None of these newly-proposed “rights” would be afforded to any other citizens. To the contrary-- each of these so-called “rights” would decimate vital, historically-consecrated, Constitutionally-protected rights of common citizens.
Passage of this unconstitutional bill would make a complete mockery of the oath taken by Washington State Legislators to uphold and defend the US Constitution. Already, a grass-roots movement has sprung up to ensure the defeat of Finkbeiner, Roach, Oke, and McAuliffe in the next elections.
Unsuccessfully attempting to defend his assault on the Constitution, Finkbeiner offered this wholly irrelevant statement, "You don't have a First Amendment right to harass and intimidate."
What Mr. Finkbeiner pretends not to realize is that Mr. Sheehan has revealed NO demonstrable intent to harass or intimidate, notwithstanding the subjective impression of the cops. Furthermore, (and this is the crux of the matter), it is indefensible and unconstitutional to create a civil offense which is grounded solely on the unpredictable, irrational, emotional response of vindictive officers to the completely benign and perfectly legal act of posting on the Internet publicly-available information regarding government employees.
Constitutionally prohibited from defining Sheehan’s activity as a criminal offense, Finkbeiner is attempting an end-run around the 1st Amendment by inventing a brand-new civil offense. His bill would allow any hypersensitive cop who claimed to feel “intimidated” by the innocuous content of Sheehan’s site to file suit against Sheehan.
Finkbeiner’s maneuver not only defeats the express intent of the 1st Amendment, it neatly strips the “suspect” of crucial Constitutional protections while at the same time permitting a “conviction” to take place upon a much lower standard of proof.
For example, the 5th Amendment is applicable only to criminal, not civil defendants. Compounding this disadvantage, the defendant in a civil trial is held liable if it merely seems “more likely than not” that the alleged offense was committed. On the other hand, guilt on the part of a criminal defendant must be established “beyond a reasonable doubt” (a very difficult standard to meet). Rather than the 98-100% certainty of guilt required for a criminal conviction, a civil judgment only requires 51% certainty.
Finkbeiner’s despicable subversion of the Constitution leaves potential defendants in an extremely weak position-- easy prey for the omnipotent State’s designated pinch-hitters.
As Americans, we should not be required to care if ANYONE, let alone a cop, feels “intimidated” or “harmed” when we engage in Constitutionally-protected activity. If the activity itself is legal, we cannot and should not be held responsible for anyone else’s subjective emotional response to our actions.
Without question, it is perfectly legal to post publicly-available information on the Internet. Whether or not someone is “alarmed” or “intimidated” by that information, in the absence of any threats, is not the responsibility or concern of the individual posting the information. To hold otherwise is to defy rationality and cede control of society to the emotional vagaries of specially selected individuals.
For all we know, Kirkland Police Officer Phil Goguen is a craven, sniveling coward who would break down in tears if he suspected that you wrote his name and phone number in a bathroom stall. If Finkbeiner’s bill passes, Goguen could sue you for “intimidating” him!
Another problem with this proposed law is the matter of “intent”. Absent a clear statement of intent from the “suspect” himself, it is COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE to ascertain the motive of anyone who is doing what Sheehan is doing. Note that Sheehan has never issued any threats, nor encouraged his readers to engage in illegal activities. To the contrary-- he has consistently maintained that the website represents an effort to humanize the cops and foster accountability among their ranks by illustrating some of the innumerable characteristics they share in common with the rest of society. Under these circumstances, how can anyone who is not privy to the webmaster’s innermost unexpressed thoughts determine whether the information is being posted in order to encourage police accountability, or in order to intimidate the cops?
What’s more, it’s exceedingly obvious that ANY serious attempt to foster accountability with the ranks of police officers will INEVITABLY be interpreted by the cops as intimidation. That being the case, are we required to refrain from all activities which might possibly annoy any police officer, no matter how hypersensitive, hypochondriacal, or paranoid? If Finkbeiner’s bill becomes law, no one will dare take the risk. Law-abiding citizens will be dissuaded from exercising their 1st Amendment freedoms out of fear that vindictive police officers, slavering with eagerness to wield their newly-granted private censorial powers, will slap them with state-sanctioned lawsuits.
Passage of Finkbeiner’s bill will bring us under the nightmarish jurisdiction of Orwell’s “1984”, in which common citizens live in constant, mortal fear of being accused of virtually-undefined “thoughtcrimes”. As in the novel, it will be nearly impossible to mount any defense, because no means are available to disprove the charges. What evidence can be used to disprove the allegation that an impermissible thought was contemplated; or an undesired emotion was engendered in another; or an otherwise acceptable action was undertaken for an unacceptable reason? The presumptions are all in favor of the accuser, while the defendant faces the futile task of proving a negative. Finkbeiner has overthrown the quintessential American doctrine, and replaced it with a perversion: “Guilty until proven innocent.”
Neither Finkbeiner nor his designated stand-ins should be permitted to punish us for the entirely speculative possibility that we may be harboring “impermissible” thoughts or acting upon “unacceptable” motives.
The citizens of Washington should respond to this outrage with a phrase that the cops themselves have long used as an unofficial motto: “This is America, you assholes. If you don’t like it, move to China.”
Yet another problem with this bill is that it was written specifically to target Sheehan, while deliberately ignoring numerous other entities that engage in activity that is indistinguishable from Sheehan’s. As mentioned in the first article in this series, Sheehan obtained all the information on his website from a wide variety of public sources, including court files, telephone books, and government records. Additional information was obtained from commercial information-brokerage firms.
However, under Finkbeiner’s proposed law, NONE of the sources utilized by Sheehan in compiling his data would be exposed to any liability whatsoever. Sheehan alone would be hung out to dry, despite the fact that his activities are indistinguishable from the activities of the “officially acceptable” parties. This outcome conclusively reveals the inherently despicable, arbitrary, and unfair nature of Finkbeiner’s special-interest legislation.
Fortunately, Sheehan and his attorney, (premier civil-rights lawyer Elena Garella), vow that they will not acquiesce to the imposition of this indefensible law. Says Garella, “We’ll challenge that bill in federal court before the ink on the governor’s signature dries.”
Presumably enraged by Sheehan’s victories, Goguen has resorted to offering testimony in favor of Finkbeiner's unconstitutional bill.
Quoted in the second-to-last article linked above, Mr. Goguen made this emotional plea to the Judiciary Committee:
"But when I take the uniform off and go home, I should be afforded the same privileges and freedoms as everyone else, and have the right to feel safe."
Unfortunately, Goguen’s statement is typical of the specious drivel spouted by most police officers. They consistently attempt to portray themselves as selfless, put-upon martyrs in the service of some noble cause. It’s a transparent ploy that fools none but the most gullible, willfully uninformed members of society. Phil’s testimony serves as an object lesson regarding the veracity of police testimony in general: nine times out of ten, cops will swear to tell the truth, then lie with well-practiced professionalism when they take the witness stand.
In reality, of course, this bill would not grant police “the same privileges and freedoms as everyone else”. As American citizens, the police ALREADY possess “the same privileges and freedoms as everyone else”. In fact, the cops already possess many ADDITIONAL privileges and freedoms which are unavailable to anyone else, and which they do not deserve. (See our Crucial Reforms section for details). The bill Goguen is lobbying for would grant the cops yet another set of unique, undeserved special rights.
If Phil were being truthful when he claims to want the same rights and privileges as the rest of us, then of necessity he must either be in favor of granting us additional rights, or of giving up some of his own heightened rights as a police officer. But as everyone knows, he is not in favor of either option- his statement is merely a carefully calculated, dishonest sound-bite. Clearly, Goguen’s TRUE objective is the creation of a whole new package of special privileges formulated exclusively for the cops.
Beyond the obvious falsity of his primary claim, what are we to make of Goguen’s pathetic plea that he should have “the right to feel safe”?
Contrary to Goguen’s allegation, there is no such thing as “the right to feel safe”.
For example, none of us “feel safe” when flying on a commercial passenger plane. And for good reason-- planes frequently crash, killing all their occupants. As concerned citizens, what can we do? Our alleged “right to feel safe” is being violated! Surely the airlines are breaking the law? Let’s throw them in jail-- or sue them, at least!
In reality, the airlines are neither culpable nor liable, because they have not caused any actual harm. You have no right to punish them simply because you don’t “feel safe”. Only if they actually cause you harm you can you expect them to be punished.
Similarly, your alleged “right to feel safe”, is violated every time you drive a car. Driving a car is many times more dangerous than flying, and incalculably more dangerous than being a police officer. (See our Propaganda section for details). But there’s no one you can sue, and no one is prosecuted, because no harm has been done.
Simply put, there is no law that grants any American the “right to feel safe”.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend for a moment that Goguen’s invocation of a “right to feel safe” wasn’t completely specious. If such a right truly existed, what could we do to secure its fulfillment for Mr. Goguen?
Perhaps an armed police officer should be assigned to provide him with around-the-clock protection?
(Of course he deserves such protection, even though it’s unavailable to any other citizens, because he is so special).
How would you feel about that, Mr. Goguen? Would an armed police officer help to make you “feel safe”?
Oops…. wait a minute..… you ARE an armed police officer!
And yet even with your guns, and your allegedly extensive training, and your supposedly well-honed instincts, and your virtually instantaneous access to zealous and overwhelming backup, and your ability to dial 911 in case of emergencies, you still feel unsafe?
Then please tell us, Mr. Goguen, how the rest of us should feel, who frequently have no access to any of your defensive assets. What about OUR “right to feel safe”?
How are we to feel when we see hypocritical cops such as yourself lobbying for increased restrictions on handgun ownership? How are we to feel when we must walk through a bad part of town bereft of the ability to effectively defend ourselves against deadly force? How are we to feel when we dial 911 for assistance and the cops do not show up until 45 minutes after the violent crime has taken place? How are we to feel when we regularly see cops convicted of all manner of felonies and violent crimes?
How are we to feel when we see hypocritical cops such as yourself lobbying for increased restrictions on handgun ownership? How are we to feel when we must walk through a bad part of town bereft of the ability to effectively defend ourselves against deadly force? How are we to feel when we dial 911 for assistance and the cops do not show up until 45 minutes after the violent crime has taken place? How are we to feel when we regularly see cops convicted of all manner of felonies and violent crimes?How are we to feel when we realize that such criminal cops are armed to the teeth, and that we would be completely at their mercy if you and the police unions have your way? How are we to feel when a cop like you, secure in the knowledge that he is virtually immune from any accountability, unjustifiably treats us like dirt? How are we to feel when we realize that we have no effective recourse for such official mistreatment, not even-- should you and your ilk have your way-- the ability to exercise our Constitutional rights under the 1st Amendment?
How are we to feel when we realize that YOU, Mr. Goguen, are one of the evil bastards responsible for this unacceptable state of affairs?
I’ll tell you how we feel, Phil. We feel worried, scared, and exceedingly angry. So leave us the fuck alone. If you are too scared to be a cop, find yourself another job. Do not persist in these attempts to subvert the Constitution of the United States.
Finkbeiner, Goguen, and their ilk must realize that Free Speech is the least harmful means of expressing displeasure and dissent. If these despots succeed in prohibiting Free Speech, then those who oppose their policies and actions may resort to other, less desirable means of expressing their discontent. When every avenue of dissent is effectively criminalized, the outraged members of society for whom abject submission to tyranny is not an option will feel little incentive to refrain from violence. Such patriots are not magically transformed by arbitrary, unconstitutional legislative fiat into spineless marionettes content to swallow their anger and follow the dictates of the State. Far from it-- repression of Free Speech will only lead to greater, if temporarily better hidden, opposition to these authoritarian, Anti-American fascists. Dissidents, realizing that they will be exposed to punishment no matter how slight and inoffensive their rebellion, will perhaps feel justified in giving violent vent to their rage, while damning the possible consequences.
Local Seattle media had a field day reporting the dire warnings, veiled threats, and doomsday pronouncements of the cops. To judge from the reporting, Sheehan’s website was a font of pure evil that would quickly lead to the complete destruction of Western Civilization.
True to their reputation as pathetic lap-dogs, NONE of the local media outlets would publish the URL of Justicefiles.org, even after the legality of the site was upheld on appeal. Rather than allowing their readers to examine the controversy on their own by providing the URL, the editors manipulated the entire debate by presenting thinly-veiled one-sided diatribes against Sheehan and Justicefiles.org.
The media bias became even more obvious when Kirkland’s appeal was defeated. The meager coverage devoted to Sheehan’s victory failed to even vaguely approximate the exhaustive coverage accorded to the initial announcement of the suit. Only a single local paper covered the news of Sheehan’s defeat of Kirkland, and they buried the one-paragraph story near the bottom of a multi-item “Local Digest” column.
Any freedom-loving individuals located overseas who are willing to mirror Justicefiles.org should contact the Justicefiles webmaster. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.