Jailed For 5 Months For Cleaning Out a Ditch!


by Ron Ewart, ©2013

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(May 5, 2013) — It is true that we can’t pick our relatives and most times we can’t pick our neighbors, but many times either can bring us grief beyond belief.  And such was the case for John (not his real name as he requested anonymity) who owned a few acres of land in a rural area of America, about a half hour’s drive from a big city.  Unfortunately, the government has passed so many laws that neighbors never settle their differences face-to-face or in the courts any more.  One neighbor just calls the government and files a complaint on his neighbor, which the government is honor-bound to investigate, whether the complaint is valid or just neighbor revenge. 

Government laws have turned many Americans into sniveling snitches.  In one county we know, the local land use authorities were holding seminars for landowners, teaching them how to rat on their neighbors if they suspect their neighbor was doing something without benefit of a permit.  That is what we have come to from passing millions of laws that nobody knows, which leads to the government pitting neighbor against neighbor.

From what we understand, John’s neighbor had a minor grievance with John over some work along a common boundary, and instead of working it out man-to-man, the neighbor called the county land use authorities (CLUA) and filed a complaint.  The CLUA comes out, looks at what John is doing and says they didn’t see any problem; John didn’t need a permit and went away.  That wasn’t good enough for John’s neighbor and he kept bugging CLUA until they came out to the property and told John that he needed to cease and desist.  But John had already ceased and desisted with whatever he had been doing.  That wasn’t good enough for CLUA, thanks to continued bugging by John’s neighbor, and CLUA finally filed misdemeanor charges against John for continuing to do alleged illegal work that John had already stopped.  Essentially John’s activities consisted of cleaning out some areas around a ditch and burning the slash, for which John had gotten a burning permit.

John ignored their warnings for several months and thought the whole issue had gone away.  But behind the scenes John’s neighbor kept pressuring CLUA and the county prosecutor to “get” John.

CLUA and the county prosecutor dragged John into District Court on misdemeanor charges for filling a wetland and John elected to represent himself for what he thought was just a minor land use violation that he could make go away.  No such luck.  The prosecutor and the District Court judge decided to make an environmental example out of John by thwarting every legal attempt John made to defend himself, to the point that the judge found John in contempt of court and sentenced him to 150 days in jail on a full cash bond of $20,000 each, for five separate contempt of court charges.  Not having $100,000 to pay the court, John was forced to sit in jail with thieves and murderers for over 60 days before a third party filed a writ of Habeas Corpus in Superior Court and had to fork over $20,000 in cash to get John out of jail on appeal. 

Oh, did we tell you that the wetland charge was made by creating the wetland AFTER John had done his clearing and burning?  There was no wetland designation in the area anytime before John did his work.  In other words, the prosecutor drummed up the charges by creating a wetland violation after the fact.  That’s how they “got” John.

While out on appeal John used every legal trick he knew to get the case dismissed but the court clerk would fail to file and record his motions.   Some motions were lost, others ignored.   The District Court judge literally thumbed his nose at all of John’s efforts.  When John filed a motion to get his case elevated to Superior Court because according to the state Constitution, the lower court has no jurisdiction in real estate cases, the District Court judge de-railed that, too.

John filed motions in Superior Court to get the lower court decision rescinded.  The Superior Court would hear none of it either.  We not only read the transcripts of the lower court record but also attended the District Court and Superior Court hearings.  The transcript screamed of the District Court judge’s environmental bias against John and he was going to “get” John any way he could.  We even filed written complaints with the District Court and the Superior Court, signed by several landowners.   We wrote articles about John’s case that appeared in local venues.  The District Court judge wouldn’t let go.

Finding no help in the two lower courts, John filed motions with the state appellate court.  No help there, either.  John went to the State Supreme Court.  They refused to hear the case. 

Finally, just days before the District Court’s order to send John back to jail for another 90 days and pay a fine of another $1,000, John filed for clemency with the Governor of the state.  The Governor ignored John’s plea.  John tried to get the District Court to give him credit for time served and for good behavior while in jail for the first 63 days.  The District Court judge said emphatically, NO! and John went back to jail to sit with thieves and murderers again, essentially for doing maintenance on HIS property. 

Some of us tried to help John but our efforts fell on deaf ears.  John was forced back to jail for another 90 days for a charge of clearing out a wetland that didn’t exist before the act of clearing.   John became a sacrificial lamb in the name of radical environmentalism.  You have to steal a car seven times before you go to jail, but woe be to the landowner who dares to violate a sacred environmental ordinance, for he shall be sacrificed on the alter of Gaia, the God of Earth.

Perhaps, in hindsight, John should have hired a land use attorney and made the charges against him go away.  But he chose to defend himself as a proud American.  Perhaps that was an error in judgment on John’s part, but he and we will never know.  Whether defending yourself, or with a lawyer, going into court is a gamble at best and any good lawyer will admit it.   Court rules are voluminous and can easily trip up the unwary who dares to defend him- or herself in court.  It is a closed, elite club of judges, lawyers, clerks and the state bar association and they rule the “Club.”  They don’t like people defending themselves because it messes up their neat little kingdom.  Judges legislating from the bench are as common as houseflies.  Oversight of courts is tantamount to the Fox guarding the Hen House.  But all that is moot now for John.

(We have had our own sad experiences with the court system.  One of those experiences cost us $35,000 in attorney’s fees for what was blatantly a frivolous lawsuit.)

John has been out of jail now for several years but the experience has left him emotionally, if not financially drained.  We haven’t talked to him in those intervening years and we don’t even know if he still resides on his land.

If you don’t think that what happened to John can happen to you, think again.  It is happening all over America.  Every week we get one or more e-mails or phone calls from landowners who are in trouble with government.  Most of them are desperate because they have let their situation go too far where the government has the landowner by the throat and the fines and penalties are mounting up.  Some are facing jail time.

So, ladies and gentlemen, do you have a neighbor who has it in for you?   Will he work it out with you personally, or will he call the government?  Odds are he will call the government because he is a coward and it is easier than facing you.  When he does call the government, you are going to find yourself in a world of hurt because the code enforcement officer they send out WILL find something wrong on your property and they WILL fine you or tell you that you have to restore your property to its original condition, which will cost you a bundle.   They may even haul you off to jail as they did John.

We can help some landowners with some of the tools on our website.  Unfortunately, there are many we can’t help because the government has the law on their side and they have the money (our money) and their own attorneys to thwart any efforts you may attempt to defend yourself.  It’s a stacked deck at best.

Ron Ewart, a nationally known author and speaker on freedom and property issues and author of his weekly column, “In Defense of Rural America,” is the President of the National Association of Rural Landowners, (NARLO) (www.narlo.org) a non-profit corporation headquartered in Washington State and dedicated to restoring, maintaining and defending property rights for urban and rural landowners.  Mr. Ewart can be reached for comment at ron@narlo.org, or 1 800 682-7848

3 Responses to "Jailed For 5 Months For Cleaning Out a Ditch!"

  1. geodan   Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    There are answers.

    For the personal injury, as was John’s, I highly recommend any and all of us check out Kelby Smith’s free ministry website called HISAdvocates.org out of Costa Mesa, California, which is a spin off of Fred and Nina Gutierrez’s comparable website, WeStudyLaw.org (formerly SetOffDebt.com) of Las Vegas.

    These people, as with many others, know the law and the courts well enough to oftentimes succeed against the corruption long before it even gets to court. Their missions are to teach all members how to handle the different phases of the particular case that in the past has, now does, or soon will cost these victims dearly, and help them by leaving no stone unturned to gain the advantage over the bank, police, neighbor or other adversary.

    Since last December, HISAdvocates.org has grown to over 3000 members, and are taking on foreclosures, evictions, false arrests, IRS abuse and other injuries, as well as opening our eyes to our need to formally Accept the Deed and Land Patent that we currently have on our property as means to truly toughen up our homes and other lands against the abusers by turning these into our castles.

    It takes courage to defend oneself in court, which I have not yet had to face. Unfortunately, according to these teachers, it also takes knowing everything they can and will throw at you in court and how to turn that abuse against them, which can only be learned from the veterans who, like John, had to learn this under fire, oftentimes to have often lost the battle. One advisor says never to quit the court fight. There is always a higher court where you are more apt to prevail, and that lower courts are for gathering evidence and knowledge with which to win.

    For the larger abuses, especially prevalent in rural lands, as with Ron Eaert’s field, also check out Kirk MacKenzie’s website, DefendRuralAmerica.com. Kirk has been an asset to the eight counties, their sheriffs and local folks surrounding Siskiyou County, California to fight Federal plans to destroy four dams in the Klamath River (for the good of the environment, of course) and too, the 100-year-old Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm, north of San Francisco, recently shut down by the Feds (again to save the environment) but which has since re-opened by grass roots effort.

    Help can be found throughout the Internet, but we have a long way to go to cover all the bases. These people mentioned, as with Sharon Rondeau, our editor, roll up their shirtsleeves every day, and in meaningful ways prove their dedication to help us help ourselves in this insane challenge. God bless them.

  2. OPOVV   Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Look, “John”, or whatever his name is, is NOT a Vietnam Vet, for if he were a Vietnam Vet, that “neighbor” would already know of it and would not have pushed the issue.
    See, the Vietnam Experience wasn’t so bad after all.

  3. Fran   Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    I have said for many years that the ones that abuse the court system should pay the same price that they cause the innocent victim to pay. This includes the judges, attorneys and person that brought the complaint.

    If a prosecutor withholds evidence which will show that the defendant didn’t do the crime, and the defendant is convicted and sentenced to 20 years; and ultimately they are shown to be innocent, then the prosecutor should receive a 20-year sentence. Doing this will solve the problem. The Nazis that run the justice system are totally out of control. One just needs to look at what happened in this case and how the justice system has sentenced every American to persecution by the fraud in the White House.

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