Libertarian U.S. Senate Candidate’s Conviction For Threatening Judges Upheld
Richard Eugene Stanley is a gun owner, self-professed militia member, self-described “Constitutional Activist
Warrior for God and America” and the Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate in 2002. He learned something about the price of his conduct in the process.
Carrying a gun in violation of Thornton ordinances: 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Threatening to arrest the judge for treason for upholding the ordinance violation, on behalf of an illegal militia: 6 years in prison, 3 years mandatory parole, $10,000 fine and $8,249.64 in restitution.
Loss of credibility for his cause: Priceless.Richard Stanley’s case started out in a relatively ordinary way and was basically intended to provoke a court challenge. He was arrested for carrying a loaded .357 handgun in violation of Denver suburb Thornton’s municipal ordinances, allegedly while making a campaign appearance, according to the conservative North Country Gazette.
At his trial on the ordinance violation he didn’t argue that he didn’t do it or came within an exception. He argued, without a lawyer, that the law was unconstitutional on its face under the Second Amendment. The municipal judge didn’t agree and sentenced him to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine for violating the ordinance.
Stanley appealed the conviction within the Colorado court system, again arguing that the municipal ordinance was unconstitutional. A copy of his appeal is posted on his website. He lost on appeal. He could have appealed from there to the Colorado Supreme Court, and from there, if he was not successful, to the U.S. Supreme Court. But, he didn’t.
Instead of showing up to jail on the appointed day, he drew up a document entitled “Notice and Order” delivered to the trial judge. It said in the key portion:
Richard Stanley demands that [the Judge] overturn his conviction of Stanley on constitutional grounds. Failure to do so will result in a treason charge against [the Judge] to uphold the Constitutions . . . . This treason charge, will result in Mutual Defense Pact Militia warrant for [the Judge’s] arrest [if the judge doesn’t vacate the charge and give him his bond and gun back].
This Court is notified, once more, as Stanley gave Notice from the beginning of the proceedings against him, Thornton Municipal Court has “NO” jurisdiction over him in this matter.
Accordingly, this ORDER is affirmed.
On the same day he mailed a similiar notice to the judge who upheld his conviction on appeal.
Rick Stanley apparently didn’t go to law school. Even if he did, he clearly didn’t learn that this is not the accepted manner of appealing a criminal conviction, or that judges have absolute civil and criminal immunity with regard to their judicial determinations. Judges don’t like it when they get these kinds of notices.
Stanley will have plenty of time to learn this after the fact.
After sending the Notices, Rick Stanely was charged with two counts of attempting to influence a public official, a felony, and the judges were placed under SWAT team protection. He was arrested, tried and convicted on both counts. According to Stanley’s blog:
Rick Stanley was arrested today 10/18/03, at gunpoint, by at least 30 Denver police, SWAT, and FBI agents.
Stanley argued at trial that he had a First Amendment right to threaten judges with arrest by a militia for treason.
At the felony trial, Stanley testified that he sent the notices to the judges with an intent to influence them to “change their mind.” Stanley also testfied at trial that in connection with and before he sent the notices, that he sent a “preliminary militia alert” to members of his militia, a copy of which was admitted at trial, which contained choice quotes like:
As long as I am alive and have ammo, and yes, I have lots of ammo, I will hold them at bay . . . . Once you take up with force of arms and deploy as an individual or a unit, you are in the game. . . . I will be well armed. . . . I hope all of you come prepared with force of arms.
Stanley describes his militia on his website.
The judge in the felony case wasn’t impressed with this argument. The First Amendment does allow you to freely express your opinion, but it does not allow you to threaten to engage in violent illegal acts.
The jury convicted Stanley on both counts. The judge then sentenced Stanley to 6 years in prison, 3 years mandatory parole, $10,000 fine and $8,249.64 in restitution.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Stanley’s conviction led to the collapse of his militia movement.
One of the most significant failures was the collapse of the “Mutual Defense Pact Militia,” started by Colorado militia activist Rick Stanley. Member groups and individuals pledged to go to the aid of any members assailed by the government. However, Stanley was arrested in late 2003 on charges of threatening judges and failure to appear in court (he was later convicted). Alabama militia leader Floyd Shackleford took over the reins, but resigned in November 2003 after the MDPM was actually asked to intervene in a standoff situation in Maine and the MDPM collapsed.
The Portland Press Herald, in a November 13, 2003 story by Jen Fish (no link available), reported that Shackleford claimed that the militia had 700 members nationwdie when he threatened to have the militia intervene on behalf of a member in Maine who was being evicted after losing her home to a foreclosure.
The Constitutionalist newspaper the Idaho Observer describes other elements of Stanley’s legal saga from the movement’s perspective in connection with a Denver offense taking place at about the same time as the Thornton conviction. Stanely’s cause has also been taken up by the online white supremist Christian publication called The Federal Observer. Members of the “Patriot Community” asked Governor Owens to pardon Stanley, without success.
Today’s Colorado Court of Appeal’s ruling in the case, affirming the conviction, can be found here.