Of Poker and Plunder: Commissarina Olson Strikes Againby William Norman Grigg
In spite of the fact that he has not committed a criminal act, Boise resident Skinner Anderson faces three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Wendy J. Olson, the Soviet-grade legal functionary who afflicts Idaho as U.S. Attorney, has wrung a guilty plea out of Anderson on a single charge of “misprision of felony” because a home he rented was used for what have been described as illegal poker games.
The federal statute under which Anderson was charged is obscure and seldom prosecuted. Private gambling is banned in Idaho by state statutes that are rarely enforced: Since 1975, fewer than 300 people have been arrested or cited in Idaho for gambling. No felony charges were filed following a raid carried out by a federally supervised task force last April. Fourteen people were charged with misdemeanors and issued citations by a state court.
Anderson’s only role in this affair was to receive rent payments from Kings Santy – the poker and billiards enthusiast who organized the games. Yet the landlord is the only defendant to face the prospect of time in a government cage.
Under the relevant provision of the Idaho State Code (18-3802), the worst that could be inflicted on him would be a misdemeanor fine for “knowingly” allowing people to play poker on his property.
Commissarina Olson, displaying the dishonesty and depraved ingenuity for which people in her profession have become notorious, contrived a way to charge him with a federal offense that involves guilty knowledge “of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States” – something he obviously didn’t do, because none of the people arrested last April has been charged with a felony.
Tellingly, Santy – who, once again, organized the “illegal” poker games -- was not charged with a crime. In fact, he wasn’t even arrested. Any time the police allow the “ringleader” to get off scot free, they are indisputably protecting an informant.
Apart from Olson and her band of state-licensed plunderers, Santy is the only individual in this matter who has committed a crime – specifically, an act of deception that injured the rights of another person. When he signed a lease on the home in 2008, Santy told Anderson that he intended to use the property to operate an auto repossession company. He has since admitted that this was a lie.
At some point – most likely immediately after he rented the home from Anderson – Santy became an informant. All of the “evidence” collected by Olson regarding Anderson’s supposed offenses is drawn from Santy’s self-serving conversations with FBI Agent Douglas Hart, who supervised the investigation.
According to Hart’s probable cause affidavit, “Anderson told Santy that he didn’t care what Santy was doing on his property as long as it didn’t cause Anderson trouble.” Presumably, “trouble” would have resulted – and an eviction most likely would have ensued -- if those games had become a neighborhood nuisance.
The raids in April were carried out by the valiant badasses of the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crimes Task Force, who claimed to be responding to unspecified “complaints” about the poker tournaments. Once again, the only source of those “complaints” would be Santy. The ringleader/informant reportedly told Agent Hart that one of his dealers said a woman whose “husband or boyfriend lost their rent money from a poker game called Anderson to complain,” according to the Idaho Statesman.
This hearsay “evidence” offered by an admitted liar (remember, Santy deceived Anderson about his intent in leasing the house) is the only substantive link connecting the landlord to the “illegal” poker games conducted on his property. If Santy had been compelled to testify, he would have been eviscerated on the stand by a reasonably competent attorney.
Federal juries tend to be terminally credulous, and Olson – once again, following the protocols of her despicable profession – would most likely have multiplied the charges against Anderson and threatened him with decades in prison as punishment for exercising his right to a trial by jury.
As I’ve noted before, federal attorneys prefer extortion to prosecution.
“How much does the State weigh?” Stalin once asked a Soviet procurator frustrated by an unusually recalcitrant defendant who refused to sign a confession. As a federal prosecutor in the Soviet mold, Olson is adept at using the weight of the State to break innocent men and women. And in this case, as in so many others, Olson’s objective was to steal Anderson’s property through forfeiture: Before filing criminal charges against the beleaguered businessman, Olson filed a “forfeiture” motion to seize the “gambling house” where Santy had held the poker games.
Anderson was most likely told by his defense attorney that if he fought the charge the Feds – employing a widely used tactic -- would freeze his financial assets, leaving him destitute and unable to pay his legal expenses. Thus he was left with no choice but to submit to the demands of Olson and her comrades.
For his part, Santy remains at large to entrap other potential victims. He has plenty of company in Olson’s feculent stable of informants and provocateurs.
Now that a guilty plea has been extracted from Anderson, confiscating his property will be much easier. Olson has been a tireless evangelist on behalf of the gospel of collaborative plunder, and she has built a large and eager congregation among Gem State law enforcement agencies.
Forfeiture is a tremendously lucrative racket for Olson’s office, which boasted in an October 28 press release that it has seized $1.7 million in “forfeiture” proceeds, while kicking back $1 million to state and local police agencies “via the equitable sharing program.” Olson’s office reported a total take of $34 million for FY 2013 – an impressive figure, but a dramatic decrease from 2012’s record $84 million haul. This might help explain why Olson’s plunderbund went after Anderson so zealously: Grabbing a $200,000 home would get the new fiscal year off to a good start.
On the same day that Anderson was arrested and charged with gambling-related felonies, the state’s largest gambling syndicate began its biggest buy-in to date. The state government of Idaho – which will benefit from the seizure of Anderson’s property – announced its Mega Millions lottery jackpot. Tickets cost a dollar each, and are sold at retail outlets state-wide, thereby directly implicating hundreds of business owners – as well as the entire tax victim population -- in an activity that would be regarded as criminal if conducted privately.
Mr. Anderson, who had no direct involvement in a penny-ante poker tournament, may be sent to prison with the connivance of the same state government that -- in addition to the routine crimes of violence and fraud it perpetrates – maintains a multi-billion-dollar gambling operation.
To paraphrase the despondent Danish prince: In our prison society, there is nothing either good or bad, unless the state says so. Thus private poker is a "crime," state-licensed lotteries are a civic blessing, and officially sanctioned theft of an innocent man's property is "justice."
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