Gary Raney: Rogue Sheriff, Federal Supremacistby William Norman Grigg
David Updyke, the first Sheriff of Idaho’s Ada County, used his office to operate a criminal syndicate that robbed and terrorized people under the color of “law.” Today, a very similar criminal practice is carried out with federal assistance in the name of “civil asset forfeiture,” a procedure in which police confiscate money and property from people who haven’t been charged with criminal offenses.
In his zeal to protect his federal license to plunder, Gary Raney, Updyke’s most recent successor as Ada County Sheriff, employed illegal means to stifle a proposed bill that would protect Idaho residents against a prospective federal gun grab – and has engaged in criminal retaliation against the sponsor of that bill, state representative Mark Patterson.
Last January, when Barack Obama announced several anti-gun executive orders, county sheriffs across the country publicly pledged not to enforce any new federal anti-gun measures. Among them were nearly all of Idaho’s 44 county sheriffs. The rank-and-file of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association (ISA) supported HB 219, a measure sponsored by Rep. Patterson that would make it a misdemeanor for an Idaho law enforcement officer to enforce new federal firearms restrictions.
Sheriff Raney, who is the president of the ISA, conspicuously disagreed with most of his colleagues.
“I have been asked many times in the past couple of weeks whether I will uphold my oath to defend the Constitution and proclaim an intolerance of federal action against the Second Amendment,” wrote Sheriff Raney in a January 25 op-ed column in the Idaho Statesman. Acknowledging that the Constitution “includes the right to keep and bear arms,” Raney pointed out that “it also includes the `supremacy clause’ that says that every state shall abide by the laws passed by our Congress.”
What this means, from Raney’s perspective, is that if Congress – or, presumably, the president – imposed a gun confiscation measure, he would be duty-bound to enforce it, in the same way mid-19th Century sheriffs and federal marshals were required to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.
Affecting a pose of dutiful melancholy, Raney insisted that although he “personally” opposes “some of the gun control measures currently under consideration, my oath requires me to uphold the laws that are passed by our federal and state representatives.”
“Every Idaho sheriff opposes the proposed gun control laws, but … we would simply have no enforcement role if they were to pass,” Raney added in an separate interview. “Only federal law enforcement agencies would be involved in such efforts.”
HB 219 would not have required sheriffs or other Idaho law enforcement officers to defy federal gun confiscation initiatives; instead, they would merely have been forbidden to participate in them. That bill was vetted by the Idaho Attorney General’s office, which found it to be compatible with both the state and federal constitutions – including the much-heralded “supremacy clause.”
State Representative Judy Boyle, who was the point person on all Second Amendment-related legislative initiatives, told Pro Libertate that HB 219 “was designed with input from sheriffs and the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] for two purposes. First, it would protect Idaho peace officers from demands by the Feds that they carry out unconstitutional gun measures; police officers and deputies would be able to point out that they couldn’t enforce federal statutes because if they did they’d face misdemeanor charges. Secondly, and perhaps more to the point, it would protect gun-owning citizens from those same federal laws, and reassure the public that law enforcement agencies in this state would not be collaborating with the Feds. So there were many active members of the FOP and the Sheriffs Association in this state who supported the measure.”
Since HB 219 would simply codify the arrangement described by Sheriff Raney, it is difficult to explain why he organized a lobbying effort that succeeded in pigeonholing the bill in the state Senate – assuming that he was sincere in his public statements. According to Boyle, the focus of Raney’s concern was the possibility that resistance to federal firearms measures would threaten the all-important civil asset forfeiture program, which permits sheriffs to confiscate money and property from people targeted in narcotics-related investigations.
“He told me, `Well, when there are drugs involved we get to go after everything, and we get to keep the money,’ which isn’t exactly how forfeiture works, according to the [drug enforcement] contract with the Feds,” Boyle told Pro Libertate. “They do get to keep a share, but they don’t simply get to keep everything. Besides, whatever you think of the forfeiture program, there is nothing in HB219 that would threaten it.”
Raney repeatedly insisted on “amendments that would gut the bill” in order to protect forfeiture programs, Boyle relates. When she refused to cooperate, “Raney went ballistic and got [Canyon County Sheriff Kieran] Donahue to help him lobby against HB 219.” Donahue, it should be noted, was among the Idaho sheriffs who pledged to oppose new federal gun restrictions – while publicly boasting about his efforts to cooperate with the ATF and other federal agencies to “keep illegal guns … off the streets.” What this means, of course, is that if the Feds designate ownership of certain firearms to be “illegal,” Donahue would readily cooperate in efforts to confiscate them.
Raney and Donahue weren’t just pressuring legislators to oppose HB 219 as bad policy, Rep. Boyle recalls: “They were also spreading outright falsehoods about the bill.” In addition to claiming that it would “have a huge negative financial impact on sheriff’s offices because of the loss of forfeiture proceeds and funding for task forces,” Raney and his allies tailored their campaign to fit the specific concerns of an individual legislator – State Senator Patti Anne Lodge, whose husband is Federal District Judge Edward Lodge.
“They told Senator Lodge that she would no longer have protection by the US Marshals Service if HB 219 was enacted,” Boyle relates. In an effort to undermine support for the measure within the FOP, Raney’s clique claimed that passage of the measure might threaten federal cooperation with a recently created task force on internet crimes against children. This frantic lobbying campaign provided an unwitting illustration of the extent to which “local” law enforcement has been assimilated by the Feds through grants and other subsidies.
Although HB 219 passed the House easily, it perished in the Senate without being brought up for a vote.
In May, Rep. Patterson filed a complaint against ISA lobbyist Mike Kane and the group’s executive director, Vaughn Killeen, who had failed to disclose their lobbying efforts against HB 219. Following an inquiry by Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Kane grudgingly provided an amended lobbying report on May 15 – but in that document he didn’t mention his work on HB 219. After Patterson submitted a second complaint, Kane was compelled to fill out a second amended report and register as a lobbyist.
Six days later, Rep. Patterson sent a letter to Sheriff Raney’s office requesting “the accounting records for the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association” dealing with expenses incurred by the organization’s lobbying effort.
“Sheriff Raney and his lobbyist were working to defeat a bill that had the support of most of their organization’s membership, and had been found to be constitutional by the Attorney General’s office,” Patterson explained to me in an interview. “It would be inappropriate, and perhaps illegal, for taxpayer funds to be used to carry out lobbying activities of this kind – especially in light of the fact that Kane and Killeen had been caught violating the lobbying disclosure law.”
On the day after he sent that letter to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Rep. Patterson received a letter from Raney announcing that “we have initiated administrative proceedings” to revoke Patterson’s Concealed Weapons License (CWL).
“We received information that you were charged with the crime of forcible rape on May 15, 1974, in Hillsborough County, Florida,” stated Raney’s letter to Rep. Patterson. “A search of court records in that county confirmed this, as well as the fact that this charge resulted in your entering a guilty plea to the crime of Assault with Intent to Commit Rape, on July 11, 1974. The court records also show that you received a withheld judgment in that case.”
Patterson – who maintains his innocence -- was never convicted of rape, assault, or any other crime. On advice of his lawyer, he accepted a withheld judgment and a five-year term of probation after spending several weeks in jail, where he was brutally attacked at least twice and constantly threatened with rape. Circuit Judge Harry Lee Coe, who issued the withheld judgment, was (depending on one’s perspective) either notorious or celebrated for his lack of leniency in dealing with offenders.
Coe’s penchant for imposing maximum sentences earned him the sobriquet “Hangin’ Harry.” Nothing in his record or reputation suggests that the late Judge Coe would go easy on a man accused of raping a troubled 46-year-old woman – if he believed that the case had any merit.
“I was a twenty-one-year-old who was afraid of being raped and killed behind bars,” Patterson told me. “I took the plea on the understanding that a withheld judgment would give me the chance eventually to clear my name.” A private investigator hired by Patterson’s father exhumed evidence indicating that the accuser – who had demanded money from Patterson – had lied to the police. This led Judge Coe to discharge Patterson from probation “for his own best interest” on July 21, 1976 – three years early.
Florida law specifies that a withheld judgment means that “the court declines to convict (adjudicate guilty) the defendant…. If the defendant successfully completes his probation, he is not a convicted person.” Likewise, under Idaho law, according to the State Attorney General’s office, a withheld judgment “is not a conviction under Idaho law… If a person receives a withheld judgment for a felony, he may still obtain a license because no Idaho or federal law disqualifies him from owning a firearm.”
When Patterson entered his guilty plea in 1974, his attorney explained to him that once he completed his probation, there would be no record of the charge: As a “legal nullity” that charge would never have existed as a matter of law, and he would not have any legal duty to disclose it. (An individual who “had the benefit of a withhold of conviction could traditionally deny having a conviction, even when subject to deposition or while testifying in court,” explains the Florida Bar Association.)
Patterson received a CWL in 2007, and renewed it in 2012. On both occasions he passed a background check by the Idaho State Police using the FBI’s National Criminal Information Center database, which – unlike every database accessible through a public records request – would contain information about the withheld judgment in 1974. Patterson didn’t disclose the now-expunged withheld judgment, because he wasn’t legally required to do so. In keeping with the law, neither the Idaho State Police not the Ada County Sheriff’s Office made an issue of that omission – until May 22, when it could be forged into a weapon used to retaliate against Patterson for exposing Sheriff Raney’s abuse of office.
An administrative hearing about Patterson’s CWL was held on August 26. By law, the proceedings of that hearing, and all of the information disclosed therein, is confidential. Patterson was assured that a decision would be made within a week. However, that decision was delayed until October 29 – and during that two-month interval, the legally protected information was provided to Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey.
Immediately after Patterson was informed by Raney’s office that his CWL was being revoked, the representative received an email from Popkey demanding an interview to discuss “a criminal matter in your past.” During that meeting Popkey recounted conversations with Sheriff Raney regarding the dismissed charges from nearly 40 years ago. Although Popkey refuses to divulge his source for that material, it could only have come from either Sheriff Raney’s office or the Idaho State Police – and, in either case, making it public was against the law.
In the subsequent hit piece published by the Statesman, Raney claimed that his office reviewed Patterson’s background because of a “tip” received from a third party about the long-buried – and legally non-existent – charges against him. He also maintained that the record of the case (as well as a second case in 1977 that ended in an acquittal) was obtained through “a simple public records request – the same type of request anyone in the community can file.”
This claim is almost certainly a lie.
“During my campaign back in 2012, the Statesman and the Associated Press both did extensive public records requests on me, and they didn’t find those records,” Patterson pointed out to me. “This information was only available through the NCIC, and the only way Popkey could have gotten it was through Sheriff Raney’s office.”
Popkey’s story also quotes Raney -- who has been in office since 2005 -- as claiming that the decision to revoke Patterson’s CWL came as a result of “due diligence” following the anonymous “tip.” However, Raney also admitted that he was “aware of this charge in his history and therefore knew that in order to obtain [a CWL] he must have falsified his application.” That would mean that Raney hadn’t done “due diligence” when he approved Patterson’s applications in 20107 and 2012 – unless, as Patterson maintains, he was not legally required to disclose a decades-old withheld judgment in that application. That omission only became an issue after Patterson began to investigate the possibility that Raney and his underlings at the ISA had violated the law by lobbying against HB 219. Res ipsa loquitir.
Representative Patterson is not the only state legislator facing retaliation from Sheriff Raney. On November 12, Raney filed a spurious ethics complaint against both Patterson and Representative Judy Boyle, the latter of whom discomfited Raney by refusing amendments that would have eviscerated HB 219. Raney’s letter claims that Boyle and Patterson improperly used “taxpayer-funded legal advice” to contest his vindictive – and unwarranted – revocation of Patterson’s CWL.
“I sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office last August 1 asking for clarification regarding a number of legal issues relative to the concealed weapons law,” Rep. Boyle told Pro Libertate. “These are questions that many of my constituents have asked, and as a legislator I’m certainly entitled to ask the Attorney General about legal issues of this kind any time I think it’s necessary.”
Raney insists that Boyle was acting solely on Patterson’s behalf – without explaining his privileged insight into Boyle’s motives. If that were the case, Boyle’s actions would be neither criminal nor unethical. Raney rather inventively claims that this would be a criminal violation of the “Ethics in Government Act.” He also insists that if Boyle “used deception” in obtaining legal advice to which the entire public is entitled, she could face a charge of “theft through diversion” – presumably, because the officials in the Attorney General’s office are paid through tax funds.
Needless to say, Raney continues to deflect the question that provoked his retaliatory onslaught: Did he and his colleagues illegally use taxpayer funds to lobby against a gun rights law he opposed?
Unlike Gary Raney, Mark Patterson is not a full-time tax-feeder. Patterson, a 61-year-old businessman with two young daughters, operates a successful business and entered electoral politics out of constitutionalist convictions. He is a product of that portion of the Tea Party constituency that seeks to arrest the centralization of power and the militarization of law enforcement – and to defend the individual right to armed self-defense against those who seek to disarm the public.
Raney, by way of contrast, is a career law enforcement officer who is an unabashed federal supremacist. His opposition to Patterson’s bill was dictated by the necessity of placating the Federal officials who hold his leash – and allow him to devour the property and money of people who have not been convicted of a crime, as long as the Feds get their cut.
As Sheriff of Ada County, Gary Raney is living down to the example of David Updyke, the criminal who was the first to hold that office. Updyke used that position to operate a stage coach robbery ring in exchange for a cut of the plunder, an arrangement that differs not one whit – in a moral sense – from the variant of highway robbery called “civil asset forfeiture.” He was removed from office by the Ada County Commission following an 1865 stagecoach robbery carried out by some of his “road agents” in Portneuf Canyon during which five passengers were murdered and $86,000 in gold was stolen.
The following year, Updyke organized a state-licensed “militia” to take part in a punitive campaign against a local Indian tribe. After the crisis ended, Updyke cached the tax-purchased weapons and supplies to outfit another “road agent” syndicate. One of Updyke’s former associates, testifying in a civil trial against the former sheriff, revealed the rogue lawman’s plans to reconstitute his criminal band. A loyal member of the cabal killed the defector, prompting Updyke to flee the jurisdiction. He was tracked to a cabin near Syrup Creek on the western slope of the Sawtooth Mountains by the Payette Vigilantes, a private security organization led by future Idaho Governor William J. McConnell.
Following a brief trial, Updyke and his associate Jake Dixon were found guilty of numerous murders and forced to pay their debt to nature.
McConnell and his colleagues were not violent or lawless men; they were private citizens driven to armed defense of their property against a state-licensed plunderbund led by the Ada County Sheriff. While not wishing that any similar ill would befall Sheriff Raney, I would suggest that he could profit from sober reflection upon the fate of his notorious predecessor.
(Please be aware that this is an evolving story -- and check here for future updates.)
William Norman Grigg publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.
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