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Don Lobo Tiggre
Michele Buchanan is different from me in many ways, and probably not like you either. She describes herself as a "sweet lady with graying hair and fire in her blood," but that doesn't begin to get into her world-view and how far from mainstream she is. Her neighbors probably just think she's a nut. But even if they were right, that wouldn't absolve the responsibility of the U.S. government to provide her with equal protection under the law, nor would it make it right for any individuals--in or out of government--to use the coercive mechanisms of the state to harm her or run her off.
As you read about what happened to Michele and her husband, Marvin Kempf, just remember that if it can happen to them, it can happen to anyone. You may be at greater risk if your neighbors think you are a different, or you've given your local Lord some reason to pick on you, but remember that Lords maintain their power by keeping the peasants in their place. Anyone can be picked for the honor of serving as an example to the others. This is about the police state Amerika has become, not about an old couple living all alone out in the woods.
Is this excessive rhetoric? What else do you call a country where the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service has it's own armed branch that will come after someone because of a dozen tree stumps? When you meet Special Agent Anne E. Minden below, remember that she's not a "noble" FBI agent battling evil on the "X Files," she's today's kinder, gentler Smokey the Bear.
Here's basically what happened:
Michele and Marvin are live-in custodians of a picturesque, wooded 40 acre lot that borders some US Forest Service land in the Cascade Mountains. There was a storm in 1992 that blew down some trees and damaged some farm buildings on the land. Michele and Marvin had the fallen trees removed and sold the timber to pay for other clean-ups and repairs. The trouble started the next year, when USFS employees asked Michele and Marvin if they could access their land (there's an old logging road on it) so some logging could be done on the adjoining USFS land, and the logs removed. Michele and Marvin didn't really want to help anyone cut down the "old growth" trees the forest service had in mind, so they said no. The guvgoons didn't like that, so they decided to lean on Michele and Marvin, threatening them, harassing them, and ultimately conjuring up flimsy evidence to have them arrested for "stealing" the trees they cleared out after the storm. Timber theft is a felony charge, so the Ferals took away Marvin's gun and left the couple defenseless when unidentified strangers started taking pot-shots at their home. Seven years of intimidation failed to dislodge Michele and Marvin, and the case against them was finally dismissed with prejudice in 1999. By then, two kindly people who wanted nothing more than to hear the spirit of the wind whispering in the trees around them had been taught bitter, brutal lessons about the true nature of the state.
Being a full service activist organization, when we heard about this travesty, we sent a DF! investigator out to gather information. The case is very complicated. The following cast of characters might help keep the story straight, especially if you look at some of the enclosed documentation:
Buchanan and Kempf Feral Harassment Case
Michelle Buchanan contacted the Liberty Round Table to report what she believed to be harassment by the National Forest Service relating to her removal of "storm damaged" trees in the early spring of 1992. This apparent harassment culminated in felony timber theft charges being lodged against Michelle Buchanan and Marvin Kempf in 1997. These charges were eventually dropped by the US Attorney (London) in 1999.
I was given a partial familiarity with Buchanan's situation by Don L. Tiggre and was asked to visit her in person, to gather more specific data about the case and to form opinions about her and Kempf. After coordination, I arrived at Buchanan's and Kempf's residence on May 5, 2000. I departed the afternoon of the 6th.
After introductions, Buchanan began supplying me with copies of her documentation, followed by a viewing of a video tape. This tape was prepared by Special Agent Ann E. Minden of the Forest Service, and featured Forest Service Surveyor Forrest Shoemaker walking the supposed boundaries between FS land and that overseen by Buchanan and Kempf. This tape was obtained through discovery, as it was meant as evidence against Buchanan and Kempf.
Mr. Shoemaker has a serious stutter which made it difficult to follow his testimony. But it appeared that he was pointing out FS "tags" which he maintained were official boundary markers. He also pointed out stumps of trees which the FS alleged had been stolen from FS land by Buchanan and Kempf (hereafter, B&K). The taping stopped and started making it impossible to verify boundaries by it. Mr. Shoemaker was also inconsistent in identifying tree types--in one case, he identified the same stump as being an alder and cedar. Further, Mr. Shoemaker was inconsistent about dates of previous surveys, at one point claiming that no previous survey had been accomplished, then that he had done one in 1988, and finally referring to another survey in 1990. The overall accuracy of the tape struck me as questionable at best.
One item of concern for B&K was a lack of an official survey map showing boundaries they might have crossed, and thus taken FS trees. A post-"theft" semi-survey was done by Shoemaker in 1993, using data from a reportedly incomplete Bureau of Land Management survey made in 1992. Shoemaker derived a map from his semi-survey/random traverse marker verification and the earlier BLM work. This map was provided to B&K.
However, Shoemaker's map is quite peculiar. A normal survey begins with location and verification of corner markers, then plots lines from there. Since real world terrain and vegetation make it difficult to accurately place markers directly on a line, "random traverse" markers are placed as close to the actual line as possible, and their offsets from said line recorded in degrees and distance. Mr. Shoemaker appears to have derived entire new boundary lines by taking these random traverse markers as actual, directly on the real line, boundary markers.
Interestingly, an affidavit by the BLM survey crew chief refers to pre-existing FS tags which he used as random traverse markers and which he recorded as being to the south (on B&K's property) of the true boundary. Shoemaker specifically referred to these tags when he identified "stolen" trees; he "knew" the trees were FS property because the stumps were just north of the tags.
B&K were also provided with a copy of the original BLM survey data. However, they maintained throughout my visit that they have never been given a "real official map" because no survey has ever been completed. This seems to account for the confusion about whether or not B&K got a map.
B&K were formally charged with timber theft. However, memorandums obtained from the FS also refer to other investigations by other agencies. One such investigation alleged that Kempf had defrauded the department of Housing and Urban Development; this seems to have stemmed from his use of tribal (Kempf claims to be a Native American... I don't know his tribe, but his physical appearance supports this claim) programs drawing on HUD for rent assistance payments. These payments were apparently used to "pay" his rent at B&K residence. Again, this is confusing because both B&K alternately claim to be renters, live-in caretakers, or only Buchanan is a caretaker with Kempf renting. Memos from the US Attorney indicate that HUD declined to press charges largely because they were busy and the supposed defrauded amount was too small to worry about.
Lest we begin to complacently put the various charges aside, there were also allegations of tax evasion (sales taxes, mostly; relating to the purchase of equipment for the Farm. These allegations/charges seem to have drowned in a confusion of claims, counterclaims, and sheer chaos. B&K maintain that they were tax exempt because the Farm is actually owned by Stafford Holdings, which may or may not be something called a tax exempt "Aruba Corporation." In any event, Stafford Holdings is apparently owned in whole by His Excellency Mohammed Khalifa Bin Yousef Al Suwaidi, Director of Economic Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates. It's vaguely possible that the threat of diplomatic entanglements derailed these other charges.
The US Attorney declined to prosecute the timber theft charges on 10-19-98, but the case remained open for investigation until the Attorney dropped the charges on 11-26-99.
Since there seemed to be solid grounds for suspecting malfeasance, or at least gross incompetence on the part of the local minions of various Feral agencies, I gathered notes from various e-mail communications with Michele and put together a list of questions for an interview:
Don Lobo Tiggre [DLT]: We don't want to give out your physical address, but some description of your general location would be good (County, State).
Michele Buchanan [MB]: Private land, Skagit Valley, bordering Mt. Baker National Forest.
DLT: What is the current status of your case?
MB: All court proceedings against us are closed.
DLT: You said that a severe storm in late 1992-early 1993 blew down trees and that you hired a timber cutter to cut the leaning trees and clear out the fallen ones on your land. Where these the only trees in question?
DLT: Why did you hire someone to cut the fallen trees, for firewood? To sell?
MB: To clean up the damage of the storm. The money that came from the logs was used to continue the clean-up, which also included a barn that fell down and other damage.
DLT: This all started in 1993? Did the US Forest Service request the access for logging before or after the storm and their accusations of timber thievery?
MB: After the storm and after the timber was cut.
DLT: You've said that U.S. government employees have threatened you and used foul language. Can you tell us who called you what? Was it an employee of the USFS, or the BLM? And, in order to be accurate in what we say they did, can you please set aside your manners for a moment and spell out exactly what they said?
MB: In 1993 Marvin asked the USFS to come on the land to request the purchase of a log that was half on the Original General Land Office (GLO) line and half on USFS line based on GLO maps, 1992 BLM survey markers, Title Reports, and a 100 year old fence line. Lawrence Bates of the USFS said no, the tree was too old for Cedar Shakes. He then asked Marvin for access, through the middle of my brothers property [His Excellency, Mohammed Khalifa Bin Yousef Al Suwaidi], to log the 50 miles of trees behind this property. Marvin said no. Mr. Bates said, "If you don't give us access we will burn the forest like you fucking Indians use to." Marvin then asked him to say that to me. He walked up to the house and asked me for permission to put a road in to log the 50 miles of trees which include a lot of Old Growth. (Based on evidence of their USFS reports). I said no I couldn't give him access. And he looked straight in my face and said, "If you don't give us access we can make trouble for you or burn the forest like you fucking Indians use to do." Both Marvin and I told him to leave and to never come back.
Forrest Shoemaker of the USFS said, "F-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-uck this is the line." I said, "What did you say?? He said, "Fffffffffffffffffffffffuck, I pppppppuuuuuutttttt thiiis lllline here iiiinnnnnn 111111119888888888." [DLT: As noted by the LRT investigator, Mr. Shoemaker has a pronouced stutter, this was Michele's way of getting it across in writing.]
Special Agent Ann Minden Sanford on all of her "unwarranted", "uninvited" visits, told us that we had no rights and that They were the government and that if we didn't cooperate, that she would make problems for us. She told both Marvin and I on many occasions that we could never win against the US Government. (Of course in my stupidity, I continually told her that I thought we were the government, the people.) She was extremely aggressive. At one point she gave me a list of things that she wanted. She said that she would arrest me if I did not give her the evidence that she wanted. I still have her hand written list. I did not respond to it. She did not have a warrant.
DLT: In 1993 the United States Forest Service came on your private property, without any court papers or anything like that and "forcefully interrogated" you for over 20 hours? Does that mean that they would not leave and kept asking you questions, or that they used physical force to enter your house and threatened you?
MB: Between 1993-1995 they came onto the property without warrants many times and demanded information, this lasted over 20 hours cumulatively. This is documented in their synopsis and discovery. These times were sporadic and at this time, we have received more information that shows that they were here much more than 20 hours.
DLT: The basic claim is that you "stole" trees (that you merely had cleared from your own land after a storm) and land (a problem they created by redrawing the property lines which had been established since the turn of the century), right? They came back later and added a water rights issue... Can you list for us all the charges they have made, and which have been dropped?
MB: Timber theft in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641 (that we "did willfully and knowingly steal, purloin, sell and convert to their own use property belonging to the United States, to wit, timber, of a value in excess of one thousand dollars) and depredation (also "against property of the United States, to wit, timber) in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1361. These are the only charges that have been formally pressed, though several different agencies seem to be investigating us over issues relating to the land we live on. At the time, we were facing 15 years in prison. The prosecutor offered us a plea bargain. I told him, first of all that I will not lie, that I did not do anything illegal that I know of, and go ahead and take me to prison.
DLT: And all of these claims relate to the re-drawing of the property lines, which wasn't even completed until 1996, three years after the trouble began? And, even now, they have yet to produce a copy of the map upon which they base their claims? Or have they produced one which was entered as evidence in court, but just not shown you a copy?
MB: They submitted into court a map that was drawn by USFS Forrest Shoemaker that claims to have been drawn based on the BLM 1993 survey notes. This survey and notes, the BLM says do not exist. The county auditor says to this day no new survey has been submitted. The BLM says they ran out of money before it was done. Shoemaker's map is the only map that was submitted with the GLO maps. The GLO maps are completely different and the USFS is claiming that there was no prior survey until a 1997 survey.
DLT: Do you know how many federal agents were involved in your arrest and which agencies?
MB: 2 USFS agents, 1 Federal Marshall, 1 Sheriff, 3 deputies. They broke our doors down and arrested both of us in chains and leg chains and hauled us to Seattle to face a Federal Court. For Stealing trees.
DLT: Did they knock first and tell you they had a warrant?
DLT: Did they give you a chance to cooperate?
DLT: Did you refuse to cooperate...
MB: Yes, I would not come outside and they didn't tell me they had a warrant.
DLT: ...or did they just come smashing in...
DLT: ...without giving you a chance to do so?
MB: Yes. They did not knock first. The USFS agent Patty Chandler was outside my window asking me to come outside, she wanted to talk to me. I said no. I went to the phone to call the police, not knowing that the police were already there. Then the Sheriff broke the door down and there was a gun at my head. I passed out. After they handcuffed me they put me in a cage in the back of the USFS vehicle and drove me onto the State Hwy. On the way to the Hwy, Ann Minden said that she was not going to read me my rights until we got off the property. That is about 3/4 of a mile from my house. They stopped the car and read me my rights.
DLT: You said that you "were shot at and told to leave the community" and were "harassed," had your "windows broken out and on and on." By whom? The Ferals in uniform? People you suspect of having been feds out of uniform? Just neighbors who thought you must be criminals if the feds were saying so?
MB: The neighbors are the FEDS. They are all involved.
DLT: You said, "The Attorney that they appointed for me told me to leave the country and never come back." Can you give me anything like a quote on this? Did anyone get it on tape? If you were being prosecuted, wouldn't telling you to leave the country be like telling you to skip on bail, or something similarly illegal?
MB: I have not gone through all the tapes as I have just received 900 more pages of evidence from the USFS. However, I have a witness to the fact that after the case was dismissed with prejudice, in '88, Karen Klein told me more than one time to leave the country and never come back because Ann Minden Sanford was out to get me.
DLT: You said, "The land was purchased in 1906 under a Patented Homestead that was surveyed by the Government Land Office and signed by the President of the United States. A certified copy I have. Also it was filed in the County Auditors office in 1906, a copy I have." Can you send me copies of these documents?
MB: [Faxed several documents, each of which is quite large; if you would like to see them, please e-mail me at DonLobo@hushmail.com and I will forward them to you:]
DLT: You said that the BLM finally finished the survey (the incomplete data from which the USFS used to back their accusations against you) in 1997 and "moved the property lines." How much did they move them?
MB: The estimate of the Timber Cruiser is that the "new line" took approx. a little over one half a million dollars.
DLT: Did the changes reduce the your acreage...
DLT: ...or just move them?
DLT: Do the new lines give the Feds the old logging road?
MB: Yes. The BLM said they shredded the papers so we can't have the 1997 "new Survey". The United States Forest Service says that there is an ongoing investigation on us so they won't give us the maps.
DLT: If we could raise the money and hire a lawyer to launch a countersuit, and sue the Feds for harassment and obstruction of whatever, would you be willing to take part in that? (They might come down on you harder, or back off--I can't say which--but it would serve the bastards right.)
DLT: You said that you were hauled off in chains after a forceful entry into your home and that: "The Judge asked why we were arrested like that. The Prosecutor said we were violent. To this day, I have asked what violent act I have committed. No answer." Is "violent" the word they used?
DLT: By 1997, you'd had four years of harassment--had you ever said anything threatening to the gummint thugs up to that time?
DLT: Had you ever told them that you'd shoot them if they came back to your property, or anything like that?
DLT: You said that you have three videos and the three videos all show different trees. These are videos the government introduced as evidence against you?
MB: YES! And further, they have been edited to make them look better. We just noticed that more specifically when your investigator was here.
DLT: You said that the USFS "made sure that we were put in every newspaper across the State Of Washington as Timber thieves." Do you have copies of any of these articles, or any of their press-releases? Can you send me copies of some of the most distorted ones?
MB: Yes and the USFS press release. (Included in 47d8813)
DLT: What about retractions and admission of mistakes made by the government? Have they officially apologized for anything?
MB: Kirk Pearson of Congressman Jack Metcalf's Office said the USFS said that they did not handle the case right and that they were sorry. He said our situation reminded him of Ruby Ridge.
DLT: You said the IRS audited you in 1995. Did anyone involved mention or admit that the USFS put them up to it?
MB: Yes. I have the letter from the IRS that says that USFS Special Agent Ann Minden furnished all the bank documents. He also stated that if the owner had given us permission that they did not have a case. They still pursued it after our arrest. I have the documents that show that as well. I will send the letter with this as an attachment.
DLT: Another bit of evidence that "they" were really out to get you is that "they" called the ATF and "reported that we had guns and were dangerous. (We had one hunting rifle which we used for hunting.)" How do you know this?
MB: It appears in the discovery. We were shot at after they took our gun. We had neighbors that were witnesses and the cops just laughed at us. Now I have the Police reports and the guy even admitted he was shooting at us, and the cops did nothing. We were shot at by the neighbors, not once, not twice, but three times. The police did nothing. We had witnesses.
DLT: You said in an e-mail that: "They even had a guy forge papers and thank God I keep my copies so I could prove (If they let me go to court) what they did." Can you show me copies of the papers that prove this?
DLT: What papers did they forge?
MB: The USFS claimed that we purchased a tractor without the land owner's knowledge and then either the company that sold us the tractor or the USFS forged receipts with Marvin's name (that he did not sign). We have the original receipts and (hopefully) copies of all forged documents now.
DLT: You said that the "United States Forest Service told us over and over again that we had NO RIGHTS and that They were the Government and that we could not fight the Government." Who in the USFS told you this?
MB: Ann Minden Sanford told us that over and over again, when she came on the land without a warrant between 1995 and our arrest.
DLT: Do you have any proof of this?
MB: As it is a Federal Case, we felt that "Linda Tripping" would be wise. We have some recordings that were made of the death threats as well as the conversations that went on with a lot of the BLM and Forest Service people.
DLT: Can you have copies of some of these tapes made and sent to me (clearly labeling each with who is saying what to whom)?
MB: Don't know what is legal... Federal Law states that it is legal if one party agrees. We have two parties that agree: Marvin and me. This has been a federal case. We were speaking to Federal Employees.
DLT: Were you politically active before the Feds started tromping on you?
MB: Yes, I have always believed in Freedom, and love my country. I have always fought for our Constitutional rights, especially the rights that everyone seems to just give away that we fought so hard for.
DLT: What is your political philosophy? Do you consider yourself a conservative? Libertarian? Something else?
MB: I am a human being. I am Libertarian more then anything else, but I have some strong agendas around education, something I had to fight for, as well as gun control, which at this point, after what we have gone through and are going through, would mean to me that there would be a whole lot of folks who woke up one morning with rakes and sticks in their hands and have fully automatic guns and tanks in their faces. I studied in France and Germany. I went to Auchwitz, and I guess you could say that I have never forgotten what I saw. Although this case has been rough, I have learned a lot. The most important things I have learned are that:
DLT: What's next?
MB: We are at present looking at RICO charges. These charges would allege that USFS, BLM, US Park Service and private individuals that are employed by these government agencies have committed acts that are Unconstitutional, criminal, and done for personal profit, against the US Government and private individuals. We welcome anyone who want to help us with our fight. [Interested persons should contact DLT at: DonLobo@hushmail.com .]
I have only begun to go through the thousands of pages of documentation Michele Buchanan has accumulated on her case, but it looks to me like some local officials decided to crush two upstarts who looked defenseless. They didn't know they would end up going against a land owner with diplomatic immunity and two stubborn individuals who would rather go to jail than admit to crimes they didn't commit. But look at what Michele and Marvin had to go through before the charges were finally dropped--look at all the different agencies that were brought into the fray and the combined might that was brought to bear on a harmless couple of basket and flower weavers! All of this, if the USFS's own words are to be believed, over about 40 individual trees along a disputed boundary line that the government itself doesn't have an accurate map of.
The latest news, as of October 7, 2000, is that the USFS still won't release all the documents and maps Michele and Marvin have requested under FOIA (because of pending investigations, and the judge in her case has denied a motion to order the USFS to release same because there is no action pending against the defendants. Michele and Marvin are fed up, and would like to file a countersuit.
What this shows is that power does corrupt and absolute power does corrupt absolutely, even at the local level and over smaller issues. The state is the most absolute power of modern times. The state is therefor not only the most corrupt institution of modern times, but the most corrupting one as well. Amerika is not slipping ever faster into the totalitarian abyss because of Bill Clinton--he's helping, of course, but he's just a symptom. Petty bureaucrat/tyrants are doing their part as well, and their myriad little strivings to increase their fiefdoms and put those under their power on the rack add up to a giant force thrusting the entire rickety structure ever closer to the brink. It doesn't matter whether you elect Al, George, or the Spice Girls; it's the system, not the individuals caught in it!
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