The first Amendment is there to protect you – even if you choose to speak AGAINST an unfair or even tyrannical government. But that protection gave way in a landslide decision by federal agents to arrest a reporter simply for speaking up and objecting to the tyranny foisted by a zealous agency that will NOT tolerate dissenters.
Folks…we do NOT want this precedent!
Internet radio host Pete Santilli quickly became a familiar face for those following the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He became known for being an on-the-ground source for live video as well as his strong and at times even offensive statements.
“I dare you, you government fricking Nazi pukes, I dare you to continue to spread lies, fear and intimidation and the threats,” he said during a mid-January show broadcast from Harney County.
Since then, federal prosecutors in Oregon and Nevada have brought felony charges against Santilli, who says he’s a journalist. So far, much of the prosecution’s case centers around things he’s said — raising questions about the First Amendment and the power of speech.
While in Harney County, Santilli’s daily uniform included full military fatigues and a black cowboy hat. He was armed with a tripod, microphone and iPad that he used to broadcast hundreds of hours of live video onto his YouTube channel. At times, thousands of people from around the world watched.
Before It’s News was able to catch up with Deb Jordan, Santilli’s Co-Host, for a personal interview about what’s going on with Pete.
Here’s the video for that interview:
Santilli was a strong advocate for Ammon Bundy and other leaders of the occupation. But at times, he sounded like a traditional news reporter.
Santilli played a similar role during the 2014 standoff in Nevada between ranchers and the Bureau of Land Management.
“I want to call upon every single militia member,” Santilli said on his show in April 2014, days before the Nevada standoff peaked. “I want to call upon every single God fearing, America loving Patriot that can get out to Clark County and show support.”
While in Harney County in January, Santilli was often combative with members of the media or protesters who showed up to speak out against the occupation.
Kieran Suckling, the executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, protested the militants. But Santilli attempted to intervene, yelling into a megaphone while Suckling tried to speak to reporters.
“We’ll take media questions afterwards,” Suckling said over Santilli’s shouting.
Santilli was arrested on Jan. 26 near Burns. Since then he’s been charged with the same crimes as the leaders of the Malheur occupation and leaders of the 2014 Nevada standoff.
Between the two cases, Santilli faces nine criminal charges. The maximum penalties for each range from five to 20 years in prison, and some of the charges carry a maximum fine of $250,000. Prosecutors in Oregon say there are more counts on the way.
With one exception, it’s Santilli’s words prosecutors appear to be using against him.
Tom Coan, Santilli’s court-appointed lawyer in the Oregon case, said his client is not a traditional reporter, but rather an independent “new media journalist.”
“All of his speech was protected. He did nothing more down there than exercise all sorts of First Amendment rights,” Coan said. “His right to protest, his right to assemble people, his right to publish information. So he was hitting on all cylinders (on) the First Amendment.”
Federal prosecutors in Portland didn’t return calls for comment. But during Santilli’s detention hearings, prosecutors have argued his speech went too far – outside the protections afforded under the First Amendment.
“If it’s fundamental, to the crime itself, it’s not going to be protected,” Coan said. “And I think that’s where the government’s going to argue what Pete’s speech – why it’s not protected.”
Jane Kirtley, director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota, said for that the purposes of this case, it doesn’t matter whether Santilli is a journalist. She said the protections — as well as the limitations — of free speech are the same for everyone.
“The question is ultimately going to turn on whether his expressions could constitute a true threat or incitement to violence,” Kirtley said.
Those questions, she said, will likely have to be decided by a jury.
In the Nevada indictment, prosecutors say repeatedly that Santilli “encouraged and incited others” to travel to the standoff and engage in unlawful activities.
But for the speech to be incitement, Kirtley said, it requires immediate action.
“If he was making these statements with the expectation that people would come from far and wide, jumping in their trucks and loading up their families and coming, that’s not immediate,” she said. “That’s something that’s going to take some time, at least hours and maybe longer. So that too you see would be an impediment to arguing that this really is incitement.”
This realated story comes from the local news station:
The indictments against Santilli do include one case in which prosecutors have gone beyond just things Santilli may have said; while it’s unclear who did what, the indictment said Bundy and Santilli blocked a convoy of federal vehicles, attempted to throw a rock at law enforcement officers and had physical contact with an officer.
In February, the ACLU of Oregon issued a statement in support of Santilli’s speech.
Mat dos Santos, the group’s legal director, told OPB’s Think Out Loud the government appears to be “cherry picking” Santilli’s comments in determining his risk without providing context.
“We do really need to be careful when we are criminalizing words alone. When we’re taking statements by someone and throwing them in jail based only on those statements,” dos Santos said. “The First Amendment protects people to say things, even wild and outrageous things, no matter who they are and what they believe in.”
Santilli is currently being held at the Multnomah County Jail on pre-trial detention for the charges he faces in Nevada. He’s scheduled to argue for his release Monday.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Pete Santilli, the right-wing online talk show host who embedded with the militia at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, will remain in federal custody until his trial.
Santilli appealed an earlier, similar ruling.
U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman said Santilli’s history does not favor detention and that the weight of the evidence cuts in his favor.
However, Mosman said he believes Santilli’s confession to having many registered and unregistered guns will pose a risk to law enforcement.
Prosecutors used videos of Santilli’s online talk show to bolster their claims seeking detention until trial.
In one, an episode from June 2015, Santilli unleashes a rant against the FBI.
“I will die a free man, watch me,” Santilli said at one point in the video clip. Later he said, “They will not take me away.”
His defense attorney tried to counter the video clips with arguments but the judge was not persuaded.
Judge Mosman said he did not consider Santilli — who lives in Ohio — to be a flight risk, but the confession about his cache of guns was enough to sway the decision.
The decision about Santilli’s detention came on the same day the federal indictments were unsealed against him and 15 others.
The FBI arrested Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox, Ryan Payne, Joseph O’Shaughnessy, Peter Santilli, Duane Ehmer, Jason Patrick and Dylan Anderson on probable cause. Six were arrested during a traffic stop along Hwy 395, others arrested at or near the refuge.
Arizona resident Jon Ritzheimer was also arrested in connection to the occupation but remains in custody in Arizona.
Two — Cox and O’Shaughnessy — have been ordered released to their homes.
Each has been charged with one felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats.
On Wednesday, prosecutors presented the judge with a sealed indictment against the group. Defense attorneys asked to see the indictment but they were denied for 24 hours, when the indictments were unsealed.
If you’d like to help Deb and Pete out in this hour of trial…here’s a link: http://thepetesantillishow.com/donate/
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