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Time to act! – AG request re Bozeman raid

Dear MSSA Friends,

Montana Attorney General has let pass my deadline of Noon today (it’s now after 2PM) to at least acknowledge my request that he look into the details of the recent federal raid on the Bozeman brass recycling business.  Pasted next below, for your information, is the strongly-worded followup message I sent to Fox on Tuesday, becoming more insistent that he conduct some sort of inquiry into the federal raid in Bozeman, and giving him until Noon today to respond.  Of course, he doesn’t like being told what to do (as he may see this), even though he’s a public servant.  Apparently, he thinks it’s just not important to stick up for Montana people.

Now, I need your help to change his mind about that.  I ask you to do several things:

1)  Email Fox and demand that he conduct an inquiry into the Bozeman raid, as requested.  Feel free to use strong language, if you like, but don’t be rude, don’t call him names, and don’t use profanity.  Send your emails to all of these email addresses:  [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]  Heck, email every day until this logjam breaks.

2)  Call for Fox at the Montana Department of Justice at 406-444-2026 – same message; same rules as above.

3)  Redistribute this email to any and all interested Montanans.

4)  Send this email to your local legislators and insist that they contact Fox with a demand for performance.

5)  Write letters to the editor of local daily and weekly papers calling for Fox to investigate as requested.

6)  Call in to radio talk shows with the same.

7)  Engage in any other First Amendment activism you can think of to cause Fox to feel the heat and see the light.

Attorney General Fox is in a position to require federal enforcers to mind their manners in Montana.  The questions are, does he care, and will he?

Thanks loads for your help.

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

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

April 15, 2014

Tim Fox
Attorney General of Montana
Montana Department of Justice
Helena, Montana

Dear Attorney General Fox,

I have received no response from you to my request (pasted below, for your reference) that you investigate an armed federal raid on a Bozeman business a couple of weeks ago.  You have not even acknowledged receipt of my request.

Your earned reputation is that you avoid controversy.  I imagine you don’t like the idea of disapproval by federal officials for investigating their actions.  You may think that, if you just wait a while, interest in this will die down and the whole business will blow over, leaving you in a comfort zone of doing nothing.

If you think that, you are mistaken.

If you don’t show any sign of action in this matter, possibly because you prefer to avoid controversy, you will leave me no alternative but to make it extremely controversial that you seem quite willing to sit on the sidelines and abandon Montanans, requiring them to fend for themselves in the face of armed federal aggression.

Did the federal enforcers break any laws while conducting their Bozeman raid?  We won’t know until you look into it.  We already know that the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and the Bozeman Police Department were actively involved in the raid, so we could hardly expect either of those entities to do any sort of honest investigation.  They’d more likely make excuses or actively cover up any wrongdoing than conduct any sort of honest investigation, especially since the known facts point to their complicity in the operation.  The U.S. Attorney for Montana has no interest.  As with the GCSO and BPD, he has more motive to whitewash or actively cover up any wrongdoing than to conduct an honest investigation.  So, that leaves you.

In case you have been off on vacation somewhere and away from the news, let me inform you that lots of people are seething with resentment at the high-handed and aggressive tactics of federal employees, witness what has been happening recently in Nevada.  In that situation, federal authorities sent scores of federal employees armed with machine guns and sniper rifles, and possibly some military personnel, to take a rancher’s cattle.  They threatened to kill people who protested.  They attempted to confine protesters to a small “free speech zone” miles from their operation.  We simply will not tolerate similar treatment of people in Montana.  We elected you to stick up for us.

So, you can either cowboy up and do your job by looking out for the people of Montana, or force me to make your lack of action more distressful for you than any discomfort associated with a quick, assertive and honest review of the Bozeman raid.

I now specifically suggest that you appoint an ad hoc commission of at least two elected legislators and one experienced investigator, and others if you like, and give them ten (10) calendar days to give you a report that addresses the issues raised in my request to you, and any other issues that you may think of or that may arise in the course of the investigation.  In case you are short on ideas about suitable legislators, I offer in suggestion Senator Terry Murphy, Senator Art Wittich, Rep. Krayton Kerns, and Rep. Austin Knudsen.  If it is possible for you to give this group subpoena powers or other empowering support, I suggest you do so.

You may think the tone of this message intemperate.  I guarantee you it is much more restrained than my first draft.  You may operate in such genteel and protected circles that you simply don’t understand that people are at the end of their rope with armed federal aggression.  Public tension is real and visceral.  People are locked and loaded, if you know what that means.  The subject of armed federal aggression is no longer a law school or editorial debate.  Your ongoing and energetic defense of Montana people, beginning with decisive action about the Bozeman raid, might just avoid real bloodshed over the next such incident in Montana.  I believe bloodshed is very much worth avoiding, worth much more than the price of your disinterest or any discomfort you might experience from seeking answers to questions about federal and local officials’ conduct.

I expect you to acknowledge receipt of my request for your involvement, I expect you to say for certain if you will or won’t act, I expect you to offer at least some general explanation of your intended involvement if you will pursue this, and I expect that response electronically by no later than Noon on this Thursday, April 17th.

“The test for whether one is living in a police state is that those who are charged with enforcing the law are allowed to break the laws with impunity.”  — Jon Rolan

Very sincerely yours,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

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

April 10, 2014

Tim Fox
Attorney General of Montana
Montana Department of Justice
Helena, Montana

Dear Tim,

You will have seen my request addressed to Mr. Cotter (below).  Mr. Cotter has not responded, at least not in a timely manner.  I interpret this lack of response as a reluctance or unwillingness to conduct the investigation I requested of him.

Therefore, I now make the same request of you.

In addition to the questions suggested to Mr. Cotter, I hope you will also look at what role the Gallatin County Sheriffs Office may have played, or not played, in the federal raid at USA Brass.  More specifically, was the GCSO looking out for the welfare of the people of Gallatin County, or was the GCSO simply aiding and facilitating the operation of federal entities and federal personnel?

Tim, given the heavy-handed application of federal force by BLM currently unfolding in Nevada, I believe it is imperative that Montana assert some accountability for the application of federal police, or police-like, force in Montana.  If Mr. Cotter won’t do that, then it becomes even more important for you to be interested and involved.

On behalf of all Montanans, I think you in advance for your willingness to look into this incident.

Sincerely,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

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

April 4, 2014

Michael W. Cotter
U.S. Attorney for Montana
2601 2nd Ave N.
Box 3200
Billings, MT 59101

Dear Mr. Cotter,

Greetings from Missoula.

The purpose of this email is to request that you conduct a careful investigation into the circumstances surrounding a raid executed upon cartridge brass recycler in Bozeman, USA Brass, last Thursday, March 27, 2014, by employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, possibly other federal agencies, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, local law enforcement agencies, and possibly others.

Although the federally-employed personnel involved prefer to characterize this incident as an “audit,” the media portrayal of the incident as a “raid” appears to be more accurate.

The information I have about this incident so far comes from a variety of sources.  I seek more information, and so should you.  Some of the troubling ingredients of this incident, as I believe them correctly to have been, ingredients not consistent with a simple “audit,” include:

1.  Although USA Brass had been subject to some civil enforcement action for workplace safety by OSHA, the company had completely remedied any such problems and had been given a clean bill of health by OSHA.  Thus, the recent incident appears to be disconnected from any ongoing issues with OSHA.  You may be able to discover the letter issued to USA Brass by OSHA acknowledging USA Brass’s full compliance with OSHA requirements.

2.  Because a warrant was served on USA Brass, anyone would wonder if there were some particularly egregious activity going on there, and what the federal foreknowledge of that activity might be.  Because of the overwhelming armed force used by federal officials to mount this raid, that suggests expected resistance or some sort of ongoing, violent criminal conduct at USA Brass.  Your investigation should disclose whether or not these suppositions, spawned by the tactics of the raid, are correct or incorrect.  This, in turn, should offer some perspective about whether or not the level of force and intimidation used was warranted.

3.  Upon arrival at USA Brass, federal employees rounded up and sequestered all employees of USA Brass, confiscated their cell phones, disabled company phones, and held employees incommunicado for several hours.  Since these employees of USA Brass were not free to leave, I believe this detention qualifies as an arrest under current case law.  It would be helpful for you to examine whether sufficient justification for this mass arrest was present.

4.  The confiscation of cell phones and disabling of security video apparatus for the incident smacks of advance action by federal employees to prevent any recording of what they did.  If everything they did was by the book, proper and legal, it’s difficult to imagine what motive they would have had to insure that there was no video record of their activities.  That is very suggestive that the reason they prevented a video record is because some or all of what they did was extra-legal, and that they knew going in that some of their actions would be extra-legal.  Perhaps you can get clarification about why public servants doing public work would desire their public actions to be beyond public view and scrutiny.

5.  From media video and reports and reports from those at the scene, it appears as if most or all of the raid personnel were obviously armed or displaying arms.  This seems excessive for what some officials present would like to characterize as an “audit.”  For an “audit,” this has all the appearances of deliberate intimidation, not something exactly calculated to inspire citizen trust and confidence in their government.  Maybe you will be able to learn and make public why EPA personnel are armed, and why the many federal personnel present were so obvious about being armed.

6.  One unverified report says that the initial entry into USA Brass by federal personnel was made with tactical weapons (machine guns) held pointed at the non-resisting office workers and other USA Brass employees present.  Perhaps you will able to confirm or dispel this report.  If the report is correct, this would also seem to be excessive for an “audit.”  Actually, as someone accepted in state and federal courts as an expert concerning use of force, I can tell you that if a person points a firearm directly at another person, regardless of who the firearm pointer’s employer may be, the person pointing the firearm HAS used lethal force because the firearm pointer has put the life of the other at risk from an all-too-common accidental discharge.

7.  During the hours that federal personnel held USA Brass employees captive and sequestered, the federal personnel confiscated laptop computers, confiscated external hard drives, and copied internal hard drives from USA Brass computers.  Perhaps you can obtain an explanation for how such seizures are consistent with an “audit.”

8.  If this federal action was authorized as an “audit,” perhaps you can learn and explain how it escalated into a full-blown, armed raid.

9.  One knowledgeable person has told me that employees of the EPA do not have law enforcement powers in Montana – that the EPA lacks legal authority for the type of operation conducted at USA Brass.  If that is so, perhaps you can determine and explain how such an operation fits within legal parameters.

10.  The media reports that the senior federal official present at this incident was Bert Marsden, purportedly an employee of the EPA’s “Criminal Division.”  A search of the Online staff directory for the EPA fails to disclose anyone named “Marsden” working for the EPA.  It will be helpful if you can confirm that the “Bert Marsden” reported by the media actually exists, that he is an employee of the EPA, that the EPA actually has a “Criminal Division,” and that Bert Marsden actually is employed as some sort of official in this EPA Criminal Division.

Mr. Cotter, I urge you to investigate this incident very seriously.  If you should find that there were any violations of law or policy by the personnel (federal, state or local) involved in executing this operation, I also urge you to take strong remedial action, including prosecution of any personnel involved who violated any laws.

Thank you for your consideration.  I hope you will respond to this request and announce your intentions in this matter.  I also hope you will investigate this incident and make public all relevant findings.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com