The things one finds on Usenet newsgroups! Those dinosaurs of the information age sometimes reveal nuggets of useful and interesting information, sticking up like bones in the LaBrea Tar Pits.
My most recent discovery came on alt.politics.libertarian, where there were two postings about the news that theft charges against a Dane County libertarian activist were dropped.
This may not seem newsworthy to most. The amount of the alleged theft was only $50. But the person arrested was, at the time, spearheading a recall campaign against Wisconsin's Democratic governor. Dane County is well-known as a Democratic stronghold. (It includes the state capital, Madison, and the University of Wisconsin's principal campus.) The arrest was a transparent effort to silence a political dissident. This should come as no surprise. Despite its Progressive traditions, Wisconsin is the home of Senator Russ Feingold, whose name appears on legislation he sponsored (though he probably did not read it), which is designed to suppress political speech.
Here's what was reported in The Capital Times, a Madison daily:
A theft charge against Libertarian Party leader Rolf Lindgren of Middleton were dropped today, but Lindgren remains unhappy about the prosecution of the case.
Lindgren was charged with stealing an apron, apparently with tips from a waiter in it, from the Irish Waters bar and restaurant in November 2003.
The case was scheduled for jury selection today and trial on Wednesday, but Assistant District Attorney Jay Mimier moved to dismiss the case at the last moment, a move that did not placate Lindgren.
After Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan ordered the case dismissed, Lindgren spoke up and said: "The prosecutor in this case has known since the beginning of this case that I didn't commit this crime. I'd like you to ask the prosecutor when he realized that I didn't commit this crime."
Lindgren also insisted that the government pay his legal fees, which had added up to thousands of dollars over the past year and a half.
A news release issued on Lindgren's behalf through the Libertarian Party of Dane County reveals why this was a political prosecution:
Loan Officer Rolf Lindgren won his criminal case today in Dane County court. This morning, just before jury selection was to begin, Prosecutor Jay Mimier asked to dismiss the charge against Lindgren. Lindgren had been charged with stealing $50 from the Irish Waters Restaurant/Tavern in November, 2003.
The Lindgren team and the state have a video of a different person stealing the $50.* * *
The case began on November 26, 2003, with the false-arrest of Rolf Lindgren, who was subjected to a brutal, two-hour interrogation. Just two days earlier, on November 24, 2003, Lindgren had filed papers with the State Elections Board regarding the Recall of Governor Jim Doyle. Because of the arrest, the Doyle Recall did not move forward.
The arrest occurred the night before Rolf Lindgren's scheduled on-camera interview for the documentary movie 'A Remarkable Man', a movie about the life of Ed Thompson. Because of the arrest, the movie interview was postponed.
The arresting officer, Craig Knutson, had approached Rolf Lindgren earlier in the year, in February, 2003, at the Harbor Athletic Club in Middleton. Knutson asked Lindgren dozens of questions about what the Libertarian Party believed in. The person who claimed to be a victim in the case, former Irish Waters waitress Vanessa Wheaton, waited on customer Lindgren in October, 2003. Lindgren was wearing a RecallDoyle.com T-shirt that evening. Lindgren testified under oath regarding the case in October, 2004. No state witness has testified under oath.
At the hearing this morning, Rolf Lindgren asked Judge Flanagan for the state to pay Lindgren's legal fees which are now several thousand dollars. The state has known since day-one that Lindgren did not commit this crime. The state intentionally ran up Lindgren's legal fees during the past 17 months.
Judge Flanagan denied Lindgren's request without giving a reason. Judge Flanagan said it was "unusual" for a defendant to speak to him directly in court. A potential false-arrest lawsuit is under consideration.
We like to believe the myth that this sort of thing only happens in banana republics. This isn't Kyrgyzstan, after all, it's the United States -- it's Wisconsin, home of Fighting Bob LaFollette!
If Wisconsin political activists are not safe from government harassment and threats against their lives and liberties, neither are political activists in Virginia, Wyoming, or Arkansas. Stories like this are simple reminders of how we must remain vigilant against abuses of government power everywhere and always.