Archive for August, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC — In a blow to First Amendment rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has upheld as “reasonable” a 60-year old federal statute criminalizing expressive First Amendment activity on the Supreme Court plaza. The appeals court’s ruling reverses a lower court decision in Hodge v. Talkin, et al., that found the ban to be “repugnant” to the Constitution and “unreasonable, substantially overbroad, and irreconcilable with the First Amendment.”

The ruling arose in response to a lawsuit filed by attorneys for The Rutherford Institute on behalf of activist Harold Hodge, who was arrested while standing silently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on a snowy day wearing a sign voicing his concerns about the government’s disparate treatment of African-Americans and Hispanics.

The opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Hodge v. Talkin is available at www.rutherford.org.

“If citizens cannot stand out in the open and voice their disapproval of their government, its representatives and its policies without fearing prosecution, then the First Amendment is little more than window-dressing on a store window—pretty to look at but serving little real purpose,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Through a series of carefully crafted legislative steps and politically expedient court rulings, government officials have managed to disembowel this fundamental freedom, rendering it with little more meaning than the right to file a lawsuit against government officials. The First Amendment has, for all intents and purposes, become an exercise in futility.”

On January 28, 2011, Harold Hodge quietly and peacefully stood in the plaza area near the steps leading to the United States Supreme Court Building, wearing a 3’ X 2’ sign around his neck that proclaimed: “The U.S. Gov. Allows Police To Illegally Murder And Brutalize African Americans And Hispanic People.” The plaza is a place where the public is allowed to gather and converse, and is in all relevant respects like a public square or park where citizens have traditionally met to express their views on matters of public interest. However, Hodge was handcuffed, placed under arrest, and then transported to U.S. Capitol Police Headquarters for violating 40 U.S.C. § 6135, which broadly makes it unlawful to display any flag, banner, or device designed to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement while on the grounds of the U.S. Supreme Court, thereby banning expressive activity on the Supreme Court plaza. Institute attorneys subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging § 6135, and in June 2013 a district court judge struck down the law finding it “plainly unconstitutional on its face.”

In response, the government not only appealed that ruling, but the marshal for the Supreme Court—with the approval of Chief Justice John Roberts—issued even more strident regulations outlawing expressive activity on the grounds of the high court, including the plaza. Rutherford Institute attorneys have since filed a related lawsuit challenging the Supreme Court’s more strident regulations. As Whitehead points out, “Ironically, it will be the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court who will eventually be asked to decide the constitutionality of their own statute in this case, yet they have already made their views on the subject quite clear.” Affiliate attorney Jeffrey Light is assisting The Rutherford Institute with Hodge.

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The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Va., is deeply committed to protecting the constitutional freedoms of every American and the integral human rights of all people through its extensive legal and educational programs. The Institute provides its legal services at no charge to those whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.

Every dollar donated to support The Rutherford Institute’s legal and educational work helps to safeguard someone’s constitutional rights and religious freedoms. Whether you are a new donor, a Supporting Member wishing to renew your gift, or interested in becoming a Supporting Member, your generous support is crucial to continuing success in The Rutherford Institute’s fight for freedom.

The Rutherford Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, gifts to which are deductible as charitable contributions for Federal income tax purposes.

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The Rutherford Institute
P.O. Box 7482
Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
Phone: 1-800-225-1791
Fax: 1-434-978-1789
E-mail: finance@rutherford.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of decorated Marine Brandon Raub who was seized by a swarm of Secret Service, FBI and local police officials and involuntarily committed to a mental institution for a week after posting controversial song lyrics and political views critical of the government on his Facebook page. In asking the Supreme Court to reinstate Brandon Raub v. Michael Campbell, Rutherford Institute attorneys are challenging a ruling by a lower court judge who characterized the Institute’s concerns over government suppression of dissident speech as “far-fetched.” Moreover, Institute attorneys are urging the Court to establish standards to guide and constrain mental health professionals when they seek to commit individuals and to prevent commitment on the basis of a person’s exercise of his right to free speech.

The Rutherford Institute’s petition for writ of certiorari in Raub v. Campbell is available at http://www.rutherford.org.

“This case has thus far been the unfortunate victim of a growing trend toward granting government officials—be they police officers or health care workers—‘qualified immunity’ in lawsuits over alleged constitutional violations,” stated constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “However, as this case makes clear, social media and the Internet have become tools for the government to monitor, control and punish the populace for behavior and speech that may be controversial but are far from criminal. It’s our hope that the Supreme Court will weigh in on the side of free speech and preserve one of the last truly free forums remaining to us in this country.”

Brandon Raub, a decorated Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses his Facebook page to post song lyrics and air his political opinions. On Aug.16, 2012, Chesterfield police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s home, asked to speak with him about his Facebook posts, and without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, handcuffed Raub and transported him to police headquarters, then to a medical facility, where he was held against his will for psychological evaluation and treatment. In coming to Raub’s aid, Rutherford Institute attorneys challenged the government’s actions as a violation of Raub’s First and Fourth Amendment rights. On Aug. 23, Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett ordered Raub’s immediate release, stating that the government’s case was “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.” Rutherford Institute attorneys filed a lawsuit in May 2013, challenging the government’s actions as procedurally improper and legally unjustified. In February 2014, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, rejecting concerns over government suppression of dissident speech as “far-fetched.” On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Institute attorneys claimed that the Chesterfield County mental health screener who recommended Raub’s seizure and commitment failed to exercise reasonable professional judgment in wrongly determining that Raub was mentally ill and dangerous, and that Raub’s seizure and detention were the result of a mental health screener’s dislike of Raub’s “unpatriotic” views on federal government misconduct, thereby violating the ex-Marine’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The appeals court subsequently affirmed the lower court judgment.

Attorneys William H. Hurd and Stephen C. Piepgrass of Troutman Sanders and Anthony Troy and Charles A. Zdebski of Eckert Seamens Cherin & Mellott are assisting The Rutherford Institute by representing Brandon Raub.

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated.

Support the Fight


The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Va., is deeply committed to protecting the constitutional freedoms of every American and the integral human rights of all people through its extensive legal and educational programs. The Institute provides its legal services at no charge to those whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.

Every dollar donated to support The Rutherford Institute’s legal and educational work helps to safeguard someone’s constitutional rights and religious freedoms. Whether you are a new donor, a Supporting Member wishing to renew your gift, or interested in becoming a Supporting Member, your generous support is crucial to continuing success in The Rutherford Institute’s fight for freedom.

The Rutherford Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, gifts to which are deductible as charitable contributions for Federal income tax purposes.

You can use your credit or debit card to make an online donation right now—it’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s totally secure.


For PayPal donations, click the button below:


 

To mail your donation or for more information on any of these programs, please contact us at:

The Rutherford Institute
P.O. Box 7482
Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
Phone: 1-800-225-1791
Fax: 1-434-978-1789
E-mail: finance@rutherford.org

 

VIDEO: They Live, We Sleep: A Dictatorship Disguised as a Democracy

NOW PLAYING: All is not as it seems. In this week’s vodcast, John W. Whitehead looks back on John Carpenter’s iconic film They Live and examines the striking parallels between Carpenter’s nightmarish vision of reality with the current, perilous state of America.

Click here to watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mog7sIipans

Support the Fight


The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Va., is deeply committed to protecting the constitutional freedoms of every American and the integral human rights of all people through its extensive legal and educational programs. The Institute provides its legal services at no charge to those whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.

Every dollar donated to support The Rutherford Institute’s legal and educational work helps to safeguard someone’s constitutional rights and religious freedoms. Whether you are a new donor, a Supporting Member wishing to renew your gift, or interested in becoming a Supporting Member, your generous support is crucial to continuing success in The Rutherford Institute’s fight for freedom.

The Rutherford Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, gifts to which are deductible as charitable contributions for Federal income tax purposes.

You can use your credit or debit card to make an online donation right now—it’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s totally secure.


For PayPal donations, click the button below:


 

To mail your donation or for more information on any of these programs, please contact us at:

The Rutherford Institute
P.O. Box 7482
Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
Phone: 1-800-225-1791
Fax: 1-434-978-1789
E-mail: finance@rutherford.org

 

 

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s an ill will blowing across the country. The economy is tanking. The people are directionless, and politics provides no answer. And like former regimes, the militarized police have stepped up to provide a façade of law and order manifested by an overt violence against the citizenry.

Despite the revelations of the past several years, nothing has changed to push back against the American police state. Our freedoms—especially the Fourth Amendment—continue to be choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

Despite the recent outrage and protests, nothing has changed to restore us to our rightful role as having dominion over our bodies, our lives and our property, especially when it comes to interactions with the government.

Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases—these are just a few ways in which Americans continue to be reminded that we have no control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials. Thus far, the courts have done little to preserve our Fourth Amendment rights, let alone what shreds of bodily integrity remain to us.

Indeed, on a daily basis, Americans are being forced to relinquish the most intimate details of who we are—our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)—in order to clear the nearly insurmountable hurdle that increasingly defines life in the United States.

In other words, we are all guilty until proven innocent.

Worst of all, it seems as if nothing will change as long as the American people remain distracted by politics, divided by their own prejudices, and brainwashed into believing that the Constitution still reigns supreme as the law of the land, when in fact, we have almost completed the shift into fascism.

In other words, despite our occasional bursts of outrage over abusive police practices, sporadic calls for government reform, and periodic bouts of awareness that all is not what it seems, the police state continues to march steadily onward.

Such is life in America today that individuals are being threatened with arrest and carted off to jail for the least hint of noncompliance, homes are being raided by police under the slightest pretext, and roadside police stops have devolved into government-sanctioned exercises in humiliation and degradation with a complete disregard for privacy and human dignity.

Consider, for example, what happened to Charnesia Corley after allegedly being pulled over by Texas police for “rolling” through a stop sign. Claiming they smelled marijuana, police handcuffed Corley, placed her in the back of the police cruiser, and then searched her car for almost an hour. They found nothing in the car.

As the Houston Chronicle reported:

Returning to his car where Corley was held, the deputy again said he smelled marijuana and called in a female deputy to conduct a cavity search. When the female deputy arrived, she told Corley to pull her pants down, but Corley protested because she was cuffed and had no underwear on. The deputy ordered Corley to bend over, pulled down her pants and began to search her. Then…Corley stood up and protested, so the deputy threw her to the ground and restrained her while another female was called in to assist. When backup arrived, each deputy held one of Corley’s legs apart to conduct the probe.

As shocking and disturbing as it seems, Corley’s roadside cavity search is becoming par for the course in an age in which police are taught to have no respect for the citizenry’s bodily integrity.

For instance, 38-year-old Angel Dobbs and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley, were pulled over by a Texas state trooper on July 13, 2012, allegedly for flicking cigarette butts out of the car window. Insisting that he smelled marijuana, he proceeded to interrogate them and search the car. Despite the fact that both women denied smoking or possessing any marijuana, the police officer then called in a female trooper, who carried out a roadside cavity search, sticking her fingers into the older woman’s anus and vagina, then performing the same procedure on the younger woman, wearing the same pair of gloves. No marijuana was found.

David Eckert was forced to undergo an anal cavity search, three enemas, and a colonoscopy after allegedly failing to yield to a stop sign at a Wal-Mart parking lot. Cops justified the searches on the grounds that they suspected Eckert was carrying drugs because his “posture [was] erect” and “he kept his legs together.” No drugs were found.

Leila Tarantino was subjected to two roadside strip searches in plain view of passing traffic during a routine traffic stop, while her two children—ages 1 and 4—waited inside her car. During the second strip search, presumably in an effort to ferret out drugs, a female officer “forcibly removed” a tampon from Tarantino. Nothing illegal was found. Nevertheless, such searches have been sanctioned by the courts, especially if accompanied by a search warrant (which is easily procured), as justified in the government’s pursuit of drugs and weapons.

Meanwhile, four Milwaukee police officers were charged with carrying out rectal searches of suspects on the street and in police district stations over the course of several years. One of the officers was accused of conducting searches of men’s anal and scrotal areas, often inserting his fingers into their rectums and leaving some of his victims with bleeding rectums. Halfway across the country, the city of Oakland, California, agreed to pay $4.6 million to 39 men who had their pants pulled down by police on city streets between 2002 and 2009.

It’s gotten so bad that you don’t even have to be suspected of possessing drugs to be subjected to a strip search.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Florence v. Burlington, any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a strip search by police or jail officials without reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband.

Examples of minor infractions which have resulted in strip searches include: individuals arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, driving with an inoperable headlight, failing to use a turn signal, riding a bicycle without an audible bell, making an improper left turn, engaging in an antiwar demonstration (the individual searched was a nun, a Sister of Divine Providence for 50 years). Police have also carried out strip searches for passing a bad check, dog leash violations, filing a false police report, failing to produce a driver’s license after making an illegal left turn, having outstanding parking tickets, and public intoxication. A failure to pay child support can also result in a strip search.

It must be remembered that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to prevent government agents from searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause (evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot). While the literal purpose of the amendment is to protect our property and our bodies from unwarranted government intrusion, the moral intention behind it is to protect our human dignity.

Unfortunately, the indignities being heaped upon us by the architects and agents of the American police state—whether or not we’ve done anything wrong—don’t end with roadside strip searches. They’re just a foretaste of what is to come.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government doesn’t need to strip you naked by the side of the road in order to render you helpless. It has other methods, less subtle perhaps but equally humiliating, devastating and mind-altering, of stripping you of your independence, robbing you of your dignity, and undermining your rights.

With every court ruling that allows the government to operate above the rule of law, every piece of legislation that limits our freedoms, and every act of government wrongdoing that goes unpunished, we’re slowly being conditioned to a society in which we have little real control over our lives. As Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone and an insightful commentator on human nature, once observed, “We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

Indeed, not only are we developing a new citizenry incapable of thinking for themselves, we’re also instilling in them a complete and utter reliance on the government and its corporate partners to do everything for them—tell them what to eat, what to wear, how to think, what to believe, how long to sleep, who to vote for, whom to associate with, and on and on.

In this way, we have created a welfare state, a nanny state, a police state, a surveillance state, an electronic concentration camp—call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have no true freedom.

Government surveillance, police abuse, SWAT team raids, economic instability, asset forfeiture schemes, pork barrel legislation, militarized police, drones, endless wars, private prisons, involuntary detentions, biometrics databases, free speech zones, etc.: these are mile markers on the road to a fascist state where citizens are treated like cattle, to be branded and eventually led to the slaughterhouse.

If there is any hope to be found it will be found in local, grassroots activism. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., it’s time for “militant nonviolent resistance.”

First, however, Americans must break free of the apathy-inducing turpor of politics, entertainment spectacles and manufactured news. Only once we are free of the chains that bind us—or to be more exact, the chains that “blind” us—can we become actively aware of the injustices taking place around us and demand freedom of our oppressors.

“The people have the power, all we have to do is awaken that power in the people. The people are unaware. They’re not educated to realize that they have power. The system is so geared that everyone believes the government will fix everything. We are the government.”—John Lennon

Saddled with a corporate media that marches in lockstep with the government, elected officials who dance to the tune of their corporate benefactors, and a court system that serves to maintain order rather than mete out justice, Americans often feel as if they have no voice, no authority and no recourse when it comes to holding government officials accountable and combatting rampant corruption and injustice.

We’re impotent in the face of SWAT teams that break down doors and leave toddlers scarred for life. We’re helpless to prevent police shootings that leave unarmed citizens dead for no other reason than the police officer involved felt “threatened.” We shrug dismissively over the plight of fellow citizens who have their heads cracked, their bodies broken and their rights violated for failing to jump to attention when a police officer issues an order. And we fail to care about the thousands of individuals who have been punished with extreme sentences for nonviolent offenses and are forced to spend their lives as modern-day slaves in bondage to private prisons and the profit-driven corporations they serve.

Make no mistake about it: virtually anything and everything is a crime nowadays (feeding the birds, growing vegetables in your front yard, etc.) to such an extent that if a prosecutor, police officer and judge were so inclined, you could be locked up for any inane reason.

This is tyranny dressed up in the official garb of the police state. It is the self-righteous, heavy-handed arm of the law being used as a decoy to divert your attention to the so-called criminals in your midst (the fisherman who threw back small fish into the ocean, the mother who let her child walk to the playground alone, the pastor holding Bible studies in his backyard) so that you don’t focus on the criminal behavior being perpetrated by the government (bribery, cronyism, electoral fraud, slush funds, graft, pork, theft, and on and on).

In the face of such abject injustice, outright corruption and overt inequality, it’s hard to feel empowered to believe the average citizen can make a difference. It’s hard to persuade anyone to stand against tyranny when all you can promise them as a reward is persecution, prosecution and a one-way trip to the morgue. And when the outcome seems to be a foregone conclusion—the government always wins—it can seem pointless, even foolhardy, to dare to challenge the system. As such, it’s far easier to buy into the political process, even though elections amount to nothing of consequence.

There are also those who subscribe to the notion that an armed revolution is the only thing that will save America. These armed resistors are making themselves easy targets and will be the first to be taken down by militarized police who are trained to kill and armed to the teeth with every kind of weapon imaginable, from grenade launchers and sniper rifles to armored vehicles and Black Hawk helicopters.

So how do you not only push back against the police state’s bureaucracy, corruption and cruelty but also launch a counterrevolution aimed at reclaiming control over the government using nonviolent means?

You start by changing the rules and engaging in some (nonviolent) guerilla tactics.

Employ militant nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience, which Martin Luther King Jr. used to great effect through the use of sit-ins, boycotts and marches.

Take part in grassroots activism, which takes a trickle-up approach to governmental reform by implementing change at the local level (in other words, think nationally, but act locally).

And then, while you’re at it, nullify everything the government does that is illegitimate, egregious or blatantly unconstitutional.

Various cities and states have been using this historic doctrine with mixed results on issues as wide ranging as gun control and healthcare to “claim freedom from federal laws they find onerous or wrongheaded.”

Where nullification can be particularly powerful, however, is in the hands of the juror.

As law professor Ilya Somin explains, jury nullification is the practice by which a jury refuses to convict someone accused of a crime if they believe the “law in question is unjust or the punishment is excessive.”

According to former federal prosecutor Paul Butler, the doctrine of jury nullification is “premised on the idea that ordinary citizens, not government officials, should have the final say as to whether a person should be punished.”

Imagine that: a world where the citizenry—not the government or its corporate controllers—actually calls the shots and determines what is just.

In a world of “rampant overcriminalization,” where the average citizen unknowingly breaks three laws a day, jury nullification acts as “a check on runaway authoritarian criminalization and the increasing network of confusing laws that are passed with neither the approval nor oftentimes even the knowledge of the citizenry.”

Indeed, Butler believes so strongly in the power of nullification to balance the scales between the power of the prosecutor and the power of the people that he advises:

If you are ever on a jury in a marijuana case, I recommend that you vote “not guilty” — even if you think the defendant actually smoked pot, or sold it to another consenting adult. As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights; if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer.

In other words, it’s “we the people” who can and should be determining what laws are just, what activities are criminal and who can be jailed for what crimes.

Not only should the punishment fit the crime, but the laws of the land should also reflect the concerns of the citizenry as opposed to the profit-driven priorities of Corporate America.

Unfortunately, for thousands of Americans who are serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes as a result of harsh mandatory sentencing laws passed by “tough on crime” politicians, the punishment rarely fits the crime.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, with every ill inflicted upon us by the American police state, from overcriminalization and surveillance to militarized police and private prisons, it’s money that drives the police state. And there is a lot of money to be made from criminalizing nonviolent activities and jailing Americans for nonviolent offenses.

This is where the power of jury nullification is so critical: to reject inane laws and extreme sentences and counteract the edicts of a profit-driven governmental elite that sees nothing wrong with jailing someone for a lifetime for a relatively insignificant crime.

Of course, the powers-that-be don’t want the citizenry to know that it has any power at all.

Battlefield_Cover_300They would prefer that we remain clueless about the government’s many illicit activities, ignorant about our constitutional rights, and powerless to bring about any real change. Indeed, so determined are they to keep us in the dark about the powers vested in “we the people” that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1895 that jurors had no right during trials to be told about nullification.

Moreover, anyone daring to educate a jury about nullification runs the risk of prosecution. Just recently, for example, 56-year-old Mark Iannicelli was charged with seven counts of jury tampering for handing out jury nullification fliers outside a Denver courtroom. Now Iannicelli is not being accused of advocating for or against any case in progress, nor is he charged with targeting any particular members of the jury. Nevertheless, Iannicelli could be sentenced to one to three years in prison because he dared to educate the jurors about an option that no judge or prosecutor ever mentions in court: the right to acquit someone who may be guilty if they also believe that the law is unjust.

Such intimidation tactics proved less successful when used against Julian Heicklen, who was accused of jury tampering for handing out nullifications pamphlets in Manhattan. A federal district court judge found Heicklen not only innocent of the charge of jury tampering, but went so far as to warn that the law—18 U.S.C. § 1504—raises significant First Amendment concerns (“the First Amendment squarely protects speech concerning judicial proceedings and public debate regarding the functioning of the judicial system, so long as that speech does not interfere with the fair and impartial administration of justice”).

Jury nullification has played a significant role in our nation’s history. It was championed early on by John Hancock and John Adams and relied on at various points since then to push back against laws deemed egregious, unjust or simply out of step with the times. Most recently, jury nullification has become a popular tactic to thwart laws that mandate harsh punishments for those convicted of possessing even minimal amounts of marijuana.

For instance, in one case I worked on years ago, a jury refused to convict a 54-year-old man who had been charged with possession of marijuana. Prosecutors claimed that a SWAT team, doing an area-wide land and air sweep, had spotted two marijuana plants growing in the hollow of a dead tree on the man’s 39-acre property. Had the man been found guilty, he would have been sentenced to jail and his 90-year-old mother, blind, deaf and dependent on him for care, would have had to be institutionalized.

In delivering his closing arguments, the prosecutor warned the jury that disagreement with the laws against pot possession and disapproval of police tactics are not valid reasons to nullify a case. Of course, those are exactly the reasons why more Americans should opt for nullification.

In an age in which government officials accused of wrongdoing—police officers, elected officials, etc.—are treated with general leniency, while the average citizen is prosecuted to the full extent of the law, jury nullification is a powerful reminder that, as the Constitution tells us, “we the people” are the government.

For too long we’ve allowed our so-called “representatives” to call the shots. Now it’s time to restore the citizenry to their rightful place in the republic: as the masters, not the servants.

Jury nullification is one way of doing so.

The reality with which we must contend is that justice in America is reserved for those who can afford to buy their way out of jail.

For the rest of us who are dependent on the “fairness” of the system, there exists a multitude of ways in which justice can and does go wrong every day. Police misconduct. Prosecutorial misconduct. Judicial bias. Inadequate defense. Prosecutors who care more about winning a case than seeking justice. Judges who care more about what is legal than what is just. Jurors who know nothing of the law and are left to deliberate in the dark about life-and-death decisions. And an overwhelming body of laws, statutes and ordinances that render the average American a criminal, no matter how law-abiding they might think themselves.

As I’ve said before, when you go into a courtroom, you’re going up against three adversaries who more often than not are operating off the same playbook: the police, the prosecutor and the judge.

If you’re to have any hope of remaining free—and I use that word loosely—your best bet remains in your fellow citizens.

They may not know what the Constitution says (studies have shown Americans to be abysmally ignorant about their rights), they may not know what the laws are (there are so many on the books that the average American breaks three laws a day without knowing it), and they may not even believe in your innocence, but if you’re lucky, they will have a conscience that speaks louder than the legalistic tones of the prosecutors and the judges and reminds them that justice and fairness go hand in hand.

That’s ultimately what jury nullification is all about: restoring a sense of fairness to our system of justice. It’s the best protection for “we the people” against the oppression and tyranny of the government, and God knows, we can use all the protection we can get.

Most of all, jury nullification is a powerful way to remind the government—all of those bureaucrats who have appointed themselves judge, jury and jailer over all that we are, have and do—that we’re the ones who set the rules.

If they don’t like it, they can get another job.

NORFOLK, Va. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the City of Hampton and three of its police officers for violating the free speech rights of two street preachers. In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of Don Karns and Nathan Magnusen, Rutherford Institute attorneys are challenging a Hampton, Va., law restricting voice amplifiers that was used to cite, convict and arrest the street preachers for sharing their message amidst crowds gathered for the City’s Hampton Bay Days. The complaint alleges that the noise ordinance that was the basis for the citations and subsequent prosecution of Karns and Magnusen is an unreasonable, vague and overbroad regulation of constitutionally-protected speech and requests that the court strike down the law.

The Rutherford Institute’s complaint in Karns v. City of Hampton is available at www.rutherford.org.

“The United States has historically stood for unfettered free speech, which is vital to a functioning democracy. Unfortunately, the tendency on the part of government and law enforcement officials to purge dissent has largely undermined the First Amendment’s safeguards for political free speech,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Whether you’re talking about a noise ordinance or a so-called free speech zone, the message from government officials is the same—there is no longer any such thing as unfettered free speech in America today.”

Don Karns and Nathan Magnusen are street preachers who regularly engage in free speech activities on sidewalks and streets as an expression of their sincerely held religious beliefs. On or about September 6, 2013, the two men engaged attended Hampton Bay Days, a festival that used to be held in downtown Hampton which attracted large crowds and numerous exhibitors. Because the ambient noise makes communication difficult, Karns and Magnusen used small amplifiers to moderately increase the volume of their voices so that their message could be heard. Although the pair conducted themselves lawfully, the complaint alleges that they were approached by two Hampton police officers who threatened to arrest them and issue criminal summonses to them if they did not stop using the amplifiers. When Karns and Magnusen failed to comply, Karns was issued a summons for “loud noise” in violation of the City’s noise ordinance. Magnusen was arrested for not producing a license or identifying himself to the satisfaction of the police officers, transported to Hampton City Jail, and subsequently issued a summons for operating a sound device without a permit in violation of the City code. Although the preachers were initially convicted on the charges, the charges were eventually dropped after they appealed. Magnusen returned to the Hampton Bay Days in September 2014 and was again cited for using an amplifier, but the charge was again dropped. In filing suit against the City and its police officers on behalf of the street preachers, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that the restriction on amplifiers applied by the City in this case unreasonably interferes with the First Amendment rights of citizens to communicate with others in a public forum.

Attorney Steve C. Taylor of Chesapeake, Va., is assisting The Rutherford Institute in its defense of Don Karns’ and Nathan Magnusen’s First Amendment rights.

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated.

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“The shaping of the will of Congress and the choosing of the American president has become a privilege reserved to the country’s equestrian classes, a.k.a. the 20% of the population that holds 93% of the wealth, the happy few who run the corporations and the banks, own and operate the news and entertainment media, compose the laws and govern the universities, control the philanthropic foundations, the policy institutes, the casinos, and the sports arenas.”—Journalist Lewis Lapham

Being a citizen in the American corporate state is much like playing against a stacked deck: you’re always going to lose.

The game is rigged, and “we the people” keep getting dealt the same losing hand. Even so, most stay in the game, against all odds, trusting that their luck will change.

Battlefield_Cover_300The problem, of course, is that luck will not save us. As I make clear in my book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the people dealing the cards—the politicians, the corporations, the judges, the prosecutors, the police, the bureaucrats, the military, the media, etc.—have only one prevailing concern, and that is to maintain their power and control over the citizenry, while milking us of our money and possessions.

It really doesn’t matter what you call them—Republicans, Democrats, the 1%, the elite, the controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex—so long as you understand that while they are dealing the cards, the deck will always be stacked in their favor.

Incredibly, no matter how many times we see this played out, Americans continue to naively buy into the idea that politics matter, as if there really were a difference between the Republicans and Democrats (there’s not).

As if Barack Obama proved to be any different from George W. Bush (he has not). As if Hillary Clinton’s values are any different from Donald Trump’s (with both of them, money talks). As if when we elect a president, we’re getting someone who truly represents “we the people” rather than the corporate state (in fact, in the oligarchy that is the American police state, an elite group of wealthy donors is calling the shots).

Politics is a game, a joke, a hustle, a con, a distraction, a spectacle, a sport, and for many devout Americans, a religion.

In other words, it’s a sophisticated ruse aimed at keeping us divided and fighting over two parties whose priorities are exactly the same. It’s no secret that both parties support endless war, engage in out-of-control spending, ignore the citizenry’s basic rights, have no respect for the rule of law, are bought and paid for by Big Business, care most about their own power, and have a long record of expanding government and shrinking liberty.

Most of all, both parties enjoy an intimate, incestuous history with each other and with the moneyed elite that rule this country. Don’t be fooled by the smear campaigns and name-calling. They’re just useful tactics of the psychology of hate that has been proven to engage voters and increase voter turnout while keeping us at each other’s throats.

Despite the jabs the candidates volley at each other for the benefit of the cameras, they’re a relatively chummy bunch away from the spotlight, presenting each other with awards (remember when Jeb Bush presented Hillary Clinton with a Liberty Medal for her service to the country), attending each other’s weddings (Bill and Hillary had front-row seats for Trump’s 2005 wedding), and embracing with genuine affection.

Trump’s various donations to the Clintons (he donated to Hillary’s Senate campaigns, as well as the Clinton Foundation) are not unusual. Remember, FOX News mogul Rupert Murdoch actually hosted a fundraiser for Hillary’s Senate reelection campaign back in 2006 and contributed to her presidential campaign two years later. In fact, FOX News has reportedly been one of Hillary’s biggest donors for the better part of two decades.

Are you starting to get the picture? It doesn’t matter who wins the White House, because they all work for the same boss: Corporate America. In fact, many corporations actually hedge their bets on who will win the White House by splitting their donations between Democratic and Republican candidates.

We’re in trouble, folks, and picking a new president won’t save us.

We are living in a fantasy world carefully crafted to resemble a representative democracy. It used to be that the cogs, wheels and gear shifts in our government machinery worked to keep our republic running smoothly. However, without our fully realizing it, the mechanism has changed. Its purpose is no longer to keep our republic running smoothly. To the contrary, this particular contraption’s purpose is to keep the corporate police state in power. Its various parts are already a corrupt part of the whole.

Just consider how insidious, incestuous and beholden to the corporate elite the various “parts” of the mechanism have become.

Congress. Perhaps the most notorious offenders and most obvious culprits in the creation of the corporate-state, Congress has proven itself to be both inept and avaricious, oblivious champions of an authoritarian system that is systematically dismantling their constituents’ fundamental rights. Long before they’re elected, Congressmen are trained to dance to the tune of their wealthy benefactors, so much so that they spend two-thirds of their time in office raising money. As Reuters reports, “For many lawmakers, the daily routine in Washington involves fundraising as much as legislating. The culture of nonstop political campaigning shapes the rhythms of daily life in Congress, as well as the landscape around the Capitol. It also means that lawmakers often spend more time listening to the concerns of the wealthy than anyone else.”

The President. With the 2016 presidential election shaping up to be the most expensive one in our nation’s history, with estimates as high as $10 billion, “the way is open for an orgy of spending by well-heeled interest groups and super rich individuals on both political sides.” Yet even after the votes have been counted and favors tallied, the work of buying and selling access to the White House is far from over. President Obama spends significant amounts of time hosting and attending fundraisers, having held more than 400 fundraising events over the course of his two terms in office. Such access comes with a steep price tag. It used to be that $100,000 got you an overnight stay at the White House. Now it will cost you $500,000 for four meetings a year with President Obama. Yet as Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig asks, “[H]ow does a man, as a person, run the nation when he’s attending 228 fundraisers? And the answer is not very well. It’s pretty terrible for your ability to do your job. It’s pretty terrible for your ability to be responsive to the American people, because—let me tell you—the American people are not attending 228 fundraisers. Those people are different.”

The Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court—once the last refuge of justice, the one governmental body really capable of rolling back the slowly emerging tyranny enveloping America—has instead become the champion of the American police state, absolving government and corporate officials of their crimes while relentlessly punishing the average American for exercising his or her rights. Like the rest of the government, the Court has routinely prioritized profit, security, and convenience over the basic rights of the citizenry. Indeed, law professor Erwin Chemerinsky makes a compelling case that the Supreme Court, whose “justices have overwhelmingly come from positions of privilege,” almost unerringly throughout its history, sides with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful. For example, contrast the Court’s affirmation of the “free speech” rights of corporations and wealthy donors in McCutcheon v. FEC, which does away with established limits on the number of candidates an entity can support with campaign contributions, and Citizens United v. FEC with its tendency to deny those same rights to average Americans when government interests abound, and you’ll find a noticeable disparity.

The Media. Of course, this triumvirate of total control would be completely ineffective without a propaganda machine provided by the world’s largest corporations. Besides shoving drivel down our throats at every possible moment, the so-called news agencies which are supposed to act as bulwarks against government propaganda have instead become the mouthpieces of the state. The pundits which pollute our airwaves are at best court jesters and at worst propagandists for the false reality created by the American government.

The American People. “We the people” now belong to a permanent underclass in America. It doesn’t matter what you call us—chattel, slaves, worker bees, drones, it’s all the same—what matters is that we are expected to march in lockstep with and submit to the will of the state in all matters, public and private. Through our complicity in matters large and small, we have allowed an out-of-control corporate-state apparatus to take over every element of American society.

Our failure to remain informed about what is taking place in our government, to know and exercise our rights, to vocally protest, to demand accountability on the part of our government representatives, and at a minimum to care about the plight of our fellow Americans has been our downfall.

Now we find ourselves once again caught up in the spectacle of another presidential election, and once again the majority of Americans are acting as if this election will make a difference and bring about change—as if the new boss will be different from the old boss.

When in doubt, just remember what comedian and astute commentator George Carlin had to say about the matter:

The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests.

They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork…. It’s a big club and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the big club. …The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice…. Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on…. It’s called the American Dream, ’cause you have to be asleep to believe it.