Finicum's Wake

William Norman Grigg
Mar. 10, 2016

Somewhere there are still peoples and herds, but not with us, my brethren; here there are states….
A state is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: `I the state, am the people.’…
Destroyers are they who lay snares for many, and call it the state….
- Nietzsche, "The New Idol," from Thus Spake Zarathustra

The late rancher LaVoy Finicum sought to elude the state's armed enforcers, but he wasn't attempting to evade the law. His intent, as he explained clearly and repeatedly to OSP troopers before the lethal ambush at a roadblock on Oregon Highway 395, was to travel to John Day to meet with Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer, who could have taken him into custody, if just cause existed for that action.

Finicum, who nurtured a winsome if misguided faith in the Constitution, entertained the hope that Palmer might be a peace officer who was willing to act in the name of the people, rather than enforcing the will of the state.

If the objective of the FBI and the OSP on January 26 had been to arrange the peaceful arrest of Finicum and his associates, they would have reached out to Palmer. The destination of the convoy was known, as was its purpose – to convene a town hall meeting, not to commit a violent offense.

Rather than coordinating with Palmer, the FBI and the local lickspittles in uniform deliberately ignored him, and withheld any information about the plan to interdict the convoy. This is because Sheriff Palmer is seen as a "security leak" owing to his sympathies with the ranchers and other residents of his rural county who have been driven into destitution by the federal government.



Staging a combat-grade operation – spearheaded by the FBI's official death squad, which bears the trans-Orwellian title of "Hostage Rescue Team (HRT)" – was the riskiest way to carry out an arrest. It was, however, the most effective way to exert the supposed authority of the federal government. This is also why the HRT, at some risk to the passengers in Finicum's vehicle and the OSP officers on the ground, tried to assassinate Finicum after he attempted to run the roadblock.

Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris (about whom I'll have much more to say below) points out that three shots were fired by OSP officers as Finicum approached the roadblock at an estimated speed of 70 miles per hour. Three more shots were fired into the victim's back after he exited the truck, killing him.

"In the early stages of the investigation we could not explain the fourth shot into the roof of the truck or its trajectory, given the placement of the Oregon State Police troopers at the time," explained Norris in the March 8 press conference. "During the course of our investigation, we discovered evidence that FBI HRT operators fired two shots as Mr. Finicum exited the truck, and one shot hit the truck…. Neither of these two shots fired by HRT operators struck Mr. Finicum."

That unlawful action, which combined murderous intent with government-grade marksmanship, was compounded by the FBI's reflexive institutional mendacity: The HRT Stormtroopers who fired the shots concealed that fact from the investigation, and their comrades joined in that conspiracy of obstruction. Norris carefully, and repeatedly, emphasized that while he found the six shots fired by the OSP to be "justified," he was leaving the matter of the shots fired by the HRT operators in the hands of the Justice Department's Inspector General and the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office.

Finicum had been shot at three times while approaching the roadblock-- a fact demonstrating that combat protocols, rather than "civilian" deadly force standards, were in place. As he exited the vehicle, Finicum was nearly killed before he was given an opportunity to submit to arrest.

Much is said about the "reasonable officer" standard of deadly force, and correspondingly little attention is paid to the perceptions of those who are targeted by such force. When the HRT attempted to kill him as he exited the vehicle, Finicum – like any reasonable person – most likely assumed that his captors intended to execute him. Although this may not have been what the OSP had in mind, it was clearly what the HRT intended.

Just as the OSP and Deschutes County Sheriff's Office didn't share their plans with Sheriff Palmer in Grant County, the HRT operators weren't on the same page as the OSP troopers at the roadblock. Whether this reflects premeditation or pathological improvisation is impossible to tell at this point. The fact that the HRT operators conspired to conceal their actions argues strongly for the first possibility.

Obstructing an investigation is a felony. It will not be treated as such by the IG's office, of course, owing to the inexhaustible privilege enjoyed by the Regime's hired killers. If Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson is burdened with dangling anatomy, he will press charges against the HRT operators who sought to conceal evidence of a clearly unlawful attempt to kill LaVoy Finicum.

Nelson, who presides over a department riven with turmoil, is up for reelection and facing two challengers. This means that he may be susceptible to local pressure to hold the HRT accountable. Like nearly every other "local" sheriff, however, Nelson is severely compromised by his office's deep entanglement with the Feds.

Last October, Nelson placed Captain Scott Beard on "administrative leave" (that is, paid vacation) after he was accused of embezzling from the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team, a federally subsidized asset forfeiture soviet. Beard, the Detective Division Captain, was in charge of all transactions of the so-called CODE team, which plundered the county on the order of $100,000 or more each year.

In February, Beard was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of stealing more than $200,000 from the forfeiture fund. If Nelson doesn't do anything to upset the Feds, this ugly business might stop with Beard.

When he finally condescended to do a media interview on the matter,Nelson told Bend NBC affiliate KTVZ that "federal authorities, who are also investigating, have asked him to keep many of the details in the missing-money case private."

This gives Nelson a ready excuse to withhold public disclosure of details that could reveal corruption and incompetence in his office's management of money and property that often were seized from people who had never been accused of a crime. It also gives the Feds leverage to use against him in the event that Nelson entertains ideas about prosecuting the HRT operators who tried to kill LaVoy Finicum as he exited his truck – and then obstructed the investigation into the subsequent fatal shooting.

Nelson is not the only key figure in this matter who has been severely compromised by forfeiture-related corruption.

Malheur County DA Dan Norris, chosen as special prosecutor to investigate the Finicum killing, unlawfully diverted tens of thousands of dollars in cash that had been seized by the Malheur County Sheriff's Office from William Esbensen, the former owner of a medical marijuana co-op called the 45th Parallel in Ontario, Oregon. In 2014, Esbensen was prosecuted, and convicted, under an expired state anti-marijuana statute that was dead letter law even then.

During an April 10, 2013 County Commission meeting, according to the County Court minutes, "Mr. Norris suggested that a portion of the forfeiture funds in the task force budget could be used to assist" in paying for the services of an outside prosecutor – from Deschutes County, as it happens – named Mike Dugan.

When the Commission balked at the prospective costs of the prosecution – which seemed to increase every month – Norris invited Dugan to address the body.

Seeking to palliate their concerns, Dugan boasted that the High Desert Drug Enforcement Task Force had "recovered a number of globs of money so to speak," including "some $53,000 in cash [that] was seized; that was subject to federal forfeiture…. I believe Sheriff [Brian] Wolfe received about 40 grand of that." In addition, he explained, ten other people involved in the 45th Parallel had accepted settlements involving huge fines that "went into the Sheriff's forfeiture account to help cover the costs of prosecution and investigation. I do not know the total figure of money that we've already recovered but I think it is in excess of … 78,000 dollars and there is still some additional opportunity to recover more."

After the case was over, Dugan continued, it might be possible to "have more in-depth discussions about additional collections and addition use of that money to see things through and do forfeitures next year. Which I think, from a business standpoint would make sense." (Emphasis supplied.)

Norris and Dugan were using the prospect of an immense forfeiture haul to sell a skeptical Malheur County Commission on an unnecessary and legally invalid marijuana prosecution. No adequate accounting as ever been made for the forfeiture-derived funds used to prosecute that case, and with good reason: Under the federal "equitable sharing" program, it is illegal to divert forfeiture proceeds in that fashion.

When this matter came up during the post-conviction restitution hearing, Norris sprang out of his chair as if he had suddenly discovered a cobra nesting in it and blurted out an objection. Trial Judge Gregory Baxter, offended by defense attorney Susan Gerber's effort to examine the prosecution's dodgy bookkeeping, gaveled the hearing to a close. Within an hour Dugan filed a motion in limine to forbid any examination "regarding the use of County General Funds," which included the forfeiture proceeds. A week later, Judge Baxter, using a contrived rationale to justify an official cover-up, granted that motion.

In addition to the illegal transfer of forfeiture funds, Norris is implicated in the matter of a rather substantial amount of confiscated marijuana for which the county has never given an adequate accounting. The 45th Parallel case began on September 11, 2012, with raids on at least eight large marijuana grow areas. At the subsequent press conference, the confiscated marijuana was triumphantly displayed in front of the Malheur County Courthouse in Vale: The trophies filled the entire parking lot.



Is that it?!

Rather than burning the seized weed, former MCSO Detective Brad Williams, the lead investigator, arranged for its burial at a local landfill. Photographs obtained from the sheriff's office documented the disposal of a paltry amount of marijuana that was barely sufficient to cover a card table, let alone a parking lot. Nobody has ever explained what happened to the balance of that very profitable commodity.

Behind every great fortune there is a crime, insisted Balzac. That cynical aphorism isn't true of private industry. It is reliably true of people who prosper in the field of law enforcement. It is in the interest of our Federal overseers to ensure that "local" sheriffs, police, and prosecutors are deeply compromised.

The state "lies in all languages of good and evil," observed Nietzsche, "and whatever it says is a lie, and whatever it has it has stolen. Everything in it is false; it bites with stolen teeth, and bites often. It is false down to its bowels."

When the state bites with its stolen teeth as it did at the roadblock on Highway 395, it falls on those mired in the bowels of the beast – people like Sheriff Nelson and Dan Norris – to do the filthy work necessary to preserve the pretense of legitimacy.













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