The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fishing for a reason

The Rapid City Journal has two stories today about the Landfill Inquisition, one about the destruction of the Fish family and one about the destruction of Randy Meidinger.

Nowhere in either story is there a hint that the Journal attempted to interview the folks responsible for destroying these folks' lives. I suppose there is a possibility that it intends to do so, in which case there will be an opportunity for Glenn Brenner to refuse comment or for his troops of crack investigators to explain why they indicted people and brought people to trial without evidence. I am not holding my breath waiting for that story.

I presented the Journal with evidence that Brenner's office routinely extorts money from people simply by charging them with crimes they didn't commit, knowing that it is cheaper to pay a $280 fine than it is to defend oneself. The Journal yawned.

The Rapid City Weekly News did carry the story about Brenner's extortion scheme, and was threatened by Brenner. The Weekly News refused to do a follow-up when the SoDak Bar reprimanded one of Brenner's deputies for her part in the extortion. Reprimanded! (Don't do it again, wink, wink.)

I am aware that Sam Kooiker's insistence led to the "investigation" that resulted in the senseless carnage at the landfill. I assume Sam had what he thought was "probable cause." But that does not excuse what appears to have been a vendetta that resulted in what should have been an extremely embarrassing series of fuck-ups on the parts of the various law enforcement agencies and Brenner's office that resulted in not-guilty verdicts and a trial stopped after Brenner realized he had no evidence.

The Journal reports crime daily based on reports from the copshop and Brenner's office. Andrea Cook and Emilie Rusch gush (unbiasedly, of course) over the hard work of the boys and girls in blue and their blue-suited compatriots in Glenn Brenner's office, never questioning their competence or their intent.

For me, it's been a simple equation. For over forty years I have understood that anyone who creates or enforces a law making it a criminal act to attempt to feel better should not be allowed to hang out in polite society. You can't take a person's opinion or work, in any aspect of life, seriously, if that person thinks people should be punished for attempting to feel better.

The ruination of Randy Meidinger and the Fish family is a logical progression from the whimsical behavior encouraged by our senseless laws prohibiting people from attempting to feel better unless they do it in a manner prescribed by the liquor companies. You give people the legal power to act whimsically to hurt people and they will act whimsically to hurt people.


Wayne Gilbert said...

"I am aware that Sam Kooiker's insistence led to the 'investigation' that resulted in the senseless carnage at the landfill. I assume Sam had what he thought was 'probable cause.'"

I have no idea why you would make that assumption. The allegation began as a cynical, smoke-blowing and politically ambitious defense to a censure which was based upon a stubborn refusal to let go of a fabrication about outdated brochures. That is how these people's lives were ruined and Sam didn't, and doesn't, care.

Bob Newland said...

Regardless of how much smoke Sam blew, he did not write the indictments. That rests on Glenn Brenner and I hope it chokes the sonofabitch.

No matter how much smoke and dust I raise over the fact that the HP troopers on I-90 are sociopaths, no one will indict those cocksuckers.

Wayne Gilbert said...

He did more than blow smoke--he lit the match. The fact that there are others (the dtective/investigator, the state's attorney, etc.) who also are blameworthy doesn't absolve Sam. I believe that there should be a complete invesigation led by someone like a special proscecutor as to just exactly how this mess got started and why it has kept going as long as it has.

Bob Newland said...

Wayne, tell me how Sam created the reasons that the detectives and prosecutors decided to prosecute.

Are you saying that a city councilman has the power to say, "I see fraud; those guys are stealing," and have that result in indictments, with the hope that evidence shows up sometime before trial?

Apparently Sam was wrong. However, it is not uncommon for people to tell cops that they see what they think is a crime, and for that to result in an investigation that turns up nothing, and no charges are filed.

Sam didn't interview the suspects. Sam didn't write the indictments. Sam didn't compile the basket of air that Brenner took to trial and tried to present as evidence.

I know Sam reads this blog from time to time. Sam, chime in, or face the consequences.

Michael Sanborn said...

Kooiker's not likely to chime in on this or any other blog.

Here's the sequence:

1. A constituent came to Sam with evidence of wrong-doing at the landfill.

2. He informed the people in charge of the landfill, including the former mayor.

3. An "investigation" took place wherein a current council person asked the subjects if they were crooks. Jerry Wright had previously seen with his own eyes similar problems and sent a memo to everyone asking the subjects to stop, and declaring that he alone would approve the dumping of "alternative cover."

4. Evidence continued to surface and Sam, as well as another councilperson persisted and demanded a more extensive investigation.

5. The subsequent investigation by law enforcement and the city attorney's office apparently revealed more and a shake-up in the department took place with Meidinger losing his job. Extensive new security measures at the landfill were put in place and the city attorney, with the blessing of then mayor Alan Hanks held a press conference to show the fancy new security measures.

6. After an executive session, the council voted to cancel Fish Garbage Service's license to do business in Rapid City.

7. Promising to take the lead, Hanks sought the help of the state's Attorney General's office, to make sure no stone was left unturned.

8. The AG's office aided the Pennington County State's Attorney's office in securing the indictments.

9. The AG's office also aided Brenner's office in the prosecution.

The public, including the Journal, the city council, Hanks and Kooiker and the public at large believed SOMETHING untoward was happening at the landfill. This was aided by Jerry Wright and his memo stating that he personally saw illegal activity and demanding that the practice "stops now," rather than demanding an investigation himself.

The fact that the AG's and States Attorney's office erred in either prematurely securing indictments or securing indictments against the wrong subjects, is not Sam's problem.

Clearly, by Wright's own admission, there was illegal activity at the landfill. Kooiker and former alderman Ron Weifenbach insisted on an investigation.

Kooiker and Weifenbach did not conduct the investigation that resulted in indictments. They merely insisted that an investigation take place.

Yes, Kooiker used the issue in his campaign. With clear evidence of wrong-doing, the Hanks administration at first glossed over the problem, and when pressed by Kooiker and Weifenbach, he led the charge to censure Kooiker for asking about waste in another department.

When the city took measures to prevent wrongdoing at the landfill, it was clear that the city believed wrongdoing was taking place, and of course Kooiker took credit for stopping it.

It is a stretch to blame Kooiker for the missteps of the AG's and States Attorney's offices.

Kooiker could have made as much political hay out of the new security measures as he did out of the indictments (and he probably should have.) But he had nothing to do with the indictments themselves. Responsible and competent prosecutors should never have brought charges they could not prove.

Les said...

I'd say keep your night job Wayne. :-)

BF said...

"Clearly, by Wright's own admission, there was illegal activity at the landfill. Kooiker and former alderman Ron Weifenbach insisted on an investigation."

No, it's not clear at all, Mike and obviously never has been. It's that attitude right there that is the cause of this whole stinking pile of crap.

And yet you persist.

BF said...

p.s. If Kooikier is so squeaky clean in all of this, why has he taken all record of it off of his "Stand With Sam" website? It used to be front page news. It was the substance of his whole campaign.

Not to worry though, readers, it was all duly copied and preserved on other hard drives. The long and short of this story is, Sam got to have his dance, now it's time he pays the fiddler.

Wayne Gilbert said...

Les--not sure what you mean, but I think it's probably good advice anyway, or at least good-spirited advice, so---thanks. Only problem is the night job doesn't pay very well.

BF said...

Well, well, well. Looks like Sam decided to check in afterall. Just not here. Oh well...

Les said...

Great job last fall, fun evening Wayne.

Joe Friday said...

What Sam did was right. What Sam did was wrong. Sam correctly relayed the constituent's tip to law enforcement. What Sam wrongly did was go public with a bare accusation, by doing so he contributed to yelling fire in a crowded theater.

The prosecution has no defense. Probably the only way to reign in the overzealous prosecution is through formal, specific complaints to the bar made by those directly effected. For some reason lawyers just hate it when the jackals turn on them. Enough valid complaints and sanctions force a jackal to pay higher insurance, out of business, or lose their license. "You want to get the mob; get their lawyers." Tom Cruise as Mitch Mcdeere.