The Consistent, the Moral and the Intrinsic
During early November of 2009, some libertarian websites and blogs lit up in hysteria over an incident involving Nevada Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Jim Duensing. He was stopped by a Las Vegas police officer for a traffic violation for driving straight through a right hand only lane. A check of Jim Duensing’s driving record revealed a warrant for failure to appear in traffic court. Consequently, the officer ordered Duensing (who was standing outside of his vehicle at the time) to turn around and put his hands on the car or behind his back in order for the police officer to conduct an arrest. Duensing refused to comply and attempted to talk the officer out of taking him to jail. Feeling his safety was in jeopardy and after repeatedly ordering Duensing to comply with his command, the Las Vegas police officer used tasers on Jim Duensing who quickly pulled the tasers out of his body and fled.
While in flight, Duensing was shot 3 to 4 times. According to the police report, the cop saw Jim Duensing reaching for his pants while he was running which the officer interpreted that Duensing was reaching for a weapon. Duensing disclosed it was to keep his pants up since they were falling while he ran. According to Duensing, he did have a firearm and pocket knife on his person but did not reach for them. He stated he pulled the tasers out of his body because he suffers from a heart condition and ran because he felt his life was in danger.
I have read the comments by Jim Duesing posted on political websites and the Las Vegas Review Journal articles that reported about this incident. I am no fan of tasers or police misconduct. Any police officer that conducts themselves in a manner contrary to his or her job of protecting a person’s individual rights or even uses their position as a means of intimidation or outright fraud should not only be fired but thrown in jail.
However, based on my assessment of the incident, it seems Jim Duesing did, in fact, flee from an arrest and the arresting police officer used the correct judgement. If this was politically motivated, as many libertarians allege, then the police officer’s conduct can be subject to review by the Las Vegas PD or scrutinized by a grand jury. However, the possibility of that was not the case and Jim Duensing committed an egregious error.
If a police officer establishes that someone he or she stops has an outstanding warrant and decides to initiate an arrest, the suspect must comply with the officer’s instructions. Once a police officer gives an order to a suspect stopped for violating a law (in this case a traffic violation) to turn around and put their hands behind their back and the suspect refuses then the he or she is legally resisting arrest.
Regardless of Duensing’s reasons for refusing to comply and fleeing the scene, the officer opted for the less deadly option by using his taser rather than his pistol. In the process of arresting someone, if a police officer feels their life or safety is in danger (which seemed to be the case) he or she is going to act to preserve their life and will not care what a suspect’s intent is or if the suspect has any medical conditions. When a suspect refuses to obey a police officer’s instructions, the officer has options as to what force to administer to bring a suspect into custody and will use them. As near as I can tell Duensing did not spend time in jail probably due to the bad publicity surrounding this case, in which he is lucky.
When Jim Duensing removed the tasers and then fled the scene he dug himself deeper in a legal hole. Now, worst part about it, the statements he made to the press and the fact that Duensing tried to talk his way out of being arrested could have been used against him by prosecutors. Just because Duensing did not want to be arrested is no excuse for not complying with the officer’s instructions. As an attorney, Duensing was aware of the crucial fact that he had a prior traffic violation, and that he put himself in bigger legal jeopardy by not obeying the police officer’s instructions.
That same year there was the case of Liberty Dollar founder Bernard von NotHaus. In 2006 the United States Mint sent von NotHaus cease and desist letters since he was in violation of federal currency statutes. The United States code imposes a fine or imprisonment for anyone who, except as authorized by law, makes or utters or passes, or attempts to utter or pass, any coins of gold or silver or other metal, or alloys of metals, intended for use as current money, whether in the resemblance of coins of the United States or of foreign countries, or of original design . . . As a result of this section of the law, von NatHaus was clearly in the wrong since only money created by the U.S. government is considered legal tender. Additionally, the term dollar can only be used by the U.S. government when it issues currency.
As a result of von NotHaus’s refusal to comply, his business was raided, his property confiscated, and (despite his assurances of a spectacular trial) he was convicted after an eight day trial in which it took jurors less than 2 hours to come to their verdict.
Most recently, another incident took place where former U.S. Marine Brandon J. Raub was taken into custody by FBI and Secret Service agents. The hype surrounding his incarceration made him a victim of government oppression. One radio interview with someone he knew stated that Raub was not read his rights and was arrested for no reason.
However, if you read his Facebook page you can get clues as to what lead to Raub’s arrest. Not only did he subscribed to conspiracy theories but made questionable statements that could be viewed as threats. For example, Raub says things like:
Sharpen up my axe; I’m here to sever heads.
The people responsible for [poisoning] the America people from the sky will be held accountable. And there is going to be justice.
I’m starting the Revolution. I’m done waiting.
This is the part where I tell the Federal Government to go fuck itself. This is the part where I tell Generals, training our young men to fight Americans, I am coming for you. The Veterans will be with me.
If you are unaware of the great amount of evil perpetrated by the American Government I suggest you take you take your head out of the sand. The day of reckoning is almost at hand.
Fuck the New World Order. I’m bringing it down.
In light of the recent federal court decision that Facebook posts are admissible as evidence for Brandon Raub to make the above statements was really a bad move on his part too. It looks like he may have gotten wrapped up in his little world of conspiracies and paranoia and his Facebook posts indicate he may have had violent inclinations. The fact that the FBI and Secret Service took Raub and then interned into a psychiatric facility indicates he may have made threats not only against military brass but probably the President of the United States in addition to having mental issues too.
Jim Duensing could have spent a day or two in jail, paid a fine and was released escalated into him being a convicted felon that could have resulted in him doing time in prison and has to pay thousands of dollars in medical and legal bills. Berard Von NotHaus could have simply closed his business, or converted it into an online precious metal business. Instead, he could have spent up to 25 years in jail and paid $250,000 in fines. Brandon Raub, on the other hand, probably developed psychiatric problems due to his service overseas in the military.
What surprises me are some libertarians actually ignore the many facts about these cases by intrinsically standing by people like Duensing, von NotHaus, and Raub even though they were clearly wrong.
For all of the talk from libertarians about personal responsibility, that same standard should apply to our own. There are times when civil disobedience should be conducted in obvious instances of fraud and abuse be it perpetrated by governments or other individuals. However, the above cases indicate that all three gentlemen knowingly acted careless or maliciously. Libertarians can still call people like Jim Duensing, Bernard von NotHaus, and Brandon Raub fellow freedom fighters. But when they screw up they need to be told so, held accountable like anyone else, and their actions should not be rationalized or explained away in an attempt to make excuses for them.
It is understandable for like-minded people to sympathize when something like this happens to one of their own. But when it comes to obvious acts of stupidity, the facts speak for themselves.