Domestic violence, Tribune? What about police abuse?

Thomas Hennigan

Lost somewhere in the hype of Tom Holm’s June 15 Lewiston Tribune article on the Idaho Supreme Court’s finding regarding misdemeanor arrests is that fact that the case that brought the decision was clearly one of police abuse. Abuse of a well-intentioned law but abuse nonetheless.

Said fact was also lost in Marty Trillhaase’s equally overwrought and obfuscatory June 19 commentary on the case.

We used to have “masher” laws to check handsy guys who couldn’t be restrained by normal social pressure (or become vice president at which point such character flaws apparently no longer matter).

Lacking such laws, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office chose to stretch a point when a woman accused one Peter Clarke of touching the back of her front. They used a law largely intended to let police defuse domestic violence to arrest Clarke.

It’s not right to touch someone else without permission, especially on her or his tuchus. Legally it’s likely simple battery, but it is not domestic violence.

In Clarke’s case, the police response resulted in a warrantless arrest leading to a search that found drugs and, subsequently, Clarke’s arrest and conviction for possession. (Idaho Statesman, June 12)

Idaho’s Supreme Court found the drug charges, mention of which is suspiciously absent from both Holm’s commentary and Trillhaase’s article, tainted because Clarke’s arrest was warrantless, thus violating state statute and the Idaho Constitution. (I’m sorry, that should have been Holm’s article and Trillhaase’s commentary. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference here at Neighbor Alford’s little old country newspaper.)

The drug charges likely also violate the U. S. Constitution’s protections from unreasonable search and seizure.

That point isn’t in our state justices’ purview to decide. Still, one would think Trillhaase or one of “the usual suspects” Holm lined up might have elaborated on it. (Of course, one of the latter might have and it just didn’t make it into print — somehow).

Clarke’s drug arrest also raises the possibility of police having a stooge file a phony fanny fondling complaint just to get evidence on a suspect as a complete end run of the warrant procedure.

Did that happen with Clarke? To others in Idaho? No one seems to be in a rush to find out.

Does Trillhaase only care about those on death row due to police error or misconduct? Doesn’t a violation of state and federally protected rights deserve at least a paragraph?

Abuse of police power is as serious as domestic abuse. You can’t allow one in order to circumvent the other. Now that the abuse is known, Idaho has to do a better job of balancing its protections so as to provide them in both instances.

Unfortunately, the kind of abuse Clarke and this story have suffered at the hands of the Tribune is legally protected by the First Amendment.

On the other hand, more exercise of freedom of the press can, at least, shed light on said abuse.

This story broke around June 12. The Tribune doesn’t just report the event as it breaks, as did the Statesman. No, it chooses an editorial “take” on the story: playing up the impact on domestic violence.

Holm is dispatched to get “local color” comments in support of the editorial take. Never mind that the color happens to be as yellow as William Randolph Hearst’s coverage of the sinking of the Maine.

Several days later, out comes the Trillhaase column on the decision — amazingly also focused on the domestic abuse angle.

Did Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman touch on preventing abuse of due process when interviewed by Holm only to have that portion of the interview spiked?

One hopes so because having a prosecutor who’s soft on such abuse would be as scary as one who tolerates domestic violence.

Holm’s article does say Clarke “was arrested without a warrant and it violated his right to warrantless search and seizure” but the reality of Clarke’s drug charge and his rights’ very real trampling by police and prosecutors appear nowhere in the Tribune’s article or column.

Is it paranoia to see a conspiracy creating a harmonic convergence of coverage and commentary on the Tribune’s part?

Was it all just coincidence and not calculated?

Perhaps.

One thing is certain, though:

The Tribune lied to readers by leaving out Clarke’s drug arrest.

The Tribune lied to readers by leaving out Clarke’s drug arrest.

The Tribune lied to readers by leaving out Clarke’s drug arrest.

Hennigan, of Lewiston, is an instructional technology administrator at Lewis-Clark State College. His email address is t0by_belch@yahoo.com.

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