Friday, October 13, 2006

Colorado Man Jailed Following Public Criticism of Bush Administration's Iraq Policy; Files Federal Suit

Is it still possible to criticize Executive Branch policies directly to members of the Executive Branch without facing arrest and possible jail time? With the Military Commissions Act of 2006, will such people as this Colorado man begin simply to disappear down a government-military black hole?

I say Executive Branch instead of Bush Administration because no one really thinks this problem will go away when Bush leaves office. If the problems are not addressed within the next couple of years does anyone realize what a quantum leap in dictatorship we might be looking at if by some chance Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected president in 2008?????

This has been sent to me by several individuals.

Man files suit over Cheney encounter

Golden resident was cuffed, jailed after comment to VP in Beaver Creek encounter
by Charlie Brennan, Rocky Mountain News


October 4, 2006

Steven Howards saw a news story one morning this summer reporting the latest casualty totals from Iraq, and a few hours later had the rare opportunity to voice his feelings to a man he considers directly responsible.

Doing so, Howards said, sent him to jail for allegedly harassing the vice president of the United States. And now he is responding with a federal lawsuit against the Secret Service agent who put him in handcuffs.

The suit filed Tuesday alleges that Howards was arrested in retaliation for having exercised his First Amendment right of free speech, and that his arrest also violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful arrest.

Howards' lawyer, David Lane, said at a Tuesday press conference that he believes it's possible the case could land Vice President Dick Cheney on the stand as a witness in the case, or even be added as a defendant.

The lawsuit stems from a chance meeting on an outdoors mall in Beaver Creek on June 16, when Howards and his wife were walking their two sons to a piano camp.

They were surprised to see Cheney there, posing for pictures and shaking hands with members of the public.

"Many of us fantasize what would we do if we had the opportunity to really tell Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney how we feel," said Howards, 54, of Golden.

"And to be honest, when I passed him, my initial thought was to keep walking. And then I said, I couldn't with a clear conscience let this opportunity pass."

So Howards approached the vice president and told him, " 'Your policies in Iraq are reprehensible.' And I moved on. I didn't want to give anybody any excuses to come after me."

But a few minutes later, according to Howards, he was walking back across the mall with his younger son, Jonah, then 8, when he was approached by an agent identified in the lawsuit as Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle Jr.

The agent, Howards said, "came out of the shadows and literally said, 'Did you assault the vice president?'

"If this had happened, I would think if they were doing their job, I would have been face-down in the concrete five or 10 minutes earlier," said Howards. "To me, this was just absolute, transparent harassment."

Howards denied touching Cheney, repeated for the agent what he had said to the vice president, and promptly found himself being handcuffed and taken to the Eagle County Jail, where he said he remained cuffed for three hours prior to being bailed out by his wife.

Howards' lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver and requesting unspecified damages and a jury trial, states that he was told by Reichle he would be charged federally with assaulting the vice president.

In fact, Howards was charged in state court with misdemeanor harassment, punishable by up to one year in jail. The harassment charge was then dismissed July 10 at the request of Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.

Initially, Hurlbert said Tuesday, "We had information that . . . he had pushed the vice president. That was our original information."

"Later on, it appeared it was just essentially his disagreeing with the vice president's policies. That's not harassment."

Hurlbert said he has seen no information indicating that Howards' arrest came at Cheney's request or direction.

Lane said it's possible the agent's superiors, and those who trained him, could eventually join Reichle as defendants.

A Secret Service spokesman in Washington, D.C., declined comment on the suit. U.S. attorney's spokesman in Denver Jeff Dorschner said Reichle could elect to be defended either by the U.S. attorney's office or by a private attorney.

Reichle did not return a call left for him at his Denver office.

Howards is formerly the executive director of the Denver Metropolitan Air Quality Council. He currently works as a consultant to public and private sector organizations on environmental issues.

"This (lawsuit) is really about whether we in fact live in a free nation, whether we in fact still have the ability to speak freely in our opposition to government policies," Howards said.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_5040783,00.html

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