Time to Audit Private Rental Inspections
Rental inspections in Bellingham performed by private inspection services should be audited immediately.
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Ahead of the May 7, 2016 Trump rally in Lynden, the Whatcom 3, Neah Monteiro, Josefina Mora, and Thomas Kaplan, were arrested for forming an anti-Trump blockade on Meridian St that had blocked most of the road for about 20 min. This also resulted in an edited, partial video of the action getting national airplay on Democracy Now (also available on YouTube). The State Patrol had made their own video of the incident, and had then destroyed it months after it, and other evidence, was promptly requested by the 3’s defense attorney. The 911 recording alerting the police to the blockade had also been destroyed. State Senator Doug Ericksen, now relieved of his job working for the Trump EPA, had been in charge of the campaign that had brought Candidate Trump to Whatcom County more than a year ago, and is suspected to have influenced the police reaction to the anti-Trump protesters.
On April 6, 2017, the Whatcom County District Court had allowed the Ericksen subpoena (ordering him to release evidence of his communications with police or testify in person) to proceed with no objection from the prosecutor, Mr. Pratt. Ericksen ignored the subpoena, responding only with a letter (expressing his opinion that the subpoenaed info was not relevant), rather than a motion to quash (that is, ask the court to cancel it based on a legal reason). Defense Attorney Larry Hildes responded with a motion to hold Ericksen in contempt, which is how a court compels obedience to court orders and subpoenas.
Observers and media packing the courtroom on May 12, 2017 had to wait almost to the very end of a long motion calendar to hear discussion on what will be done about Ericksen having ignored the subpoena. District Court Judge David Grant stated he will not enforce the subpoena absent proof that the info Ericksen has will be relevant and admissible. Stereotypical to a system where judges and prosecutors diminish the effectiveness of civil disobedience by strictly limiting the issues protesters can bring up in their defense (thus herding the jury toward convicting), Grant later said he didn’t see the relevance/materiality of the arrest decision because the 3 persons were charged with Disorderly conduct, not Resisting arrest. The judge preceded his explanation by stating the issues in the case were limited to, Did the 3 obstruct traffic w/o lawful authority. Hildes, seeming offended by this, on top of previous judicial rationale, argued that the decision to arrest and how police had carried it out was relevant if the police were biased against the protesters and had made the arrest for an improper reason.
Continuing the dismissal hearing to this will take place on this Thursday, May 25, at 1:30 pm sharp, 4th floor of the courthouse, District Court room #1. Grant also refused to give the Ericksen subpoena additional weight by refusing to sign it. After proposing that Ericksen be held in contempt, Hildes proposed issuing a renewed subpoena ordering Ericksen to appear at the hearing. Grant replied that Hildes, as a practitioner of law, has authority to sign subpoenas. He, the judge, had already made a finding Ericksen is a resident. (a legal technicality Grant used to avoid subpeoning Ericksen) In a phone conversation the next day, Hildes said he will not renew his request to hold Ericksen in contempt, not because the law didn’t allow it, but because the judge is not open to the idea.
A followup to this report, covering the response to destruction of evidence, will be posted on Northwest Citizen later this week.