Burns Chronicles No 23 – Terrorism Enhanced Penalties v. Due Process

Burns Chronicles No 23
Terrorism Enhanced Penalties v. Due Process

kangaroo court2

Gary Hunt
Outpost of Freedom
August 10, 2016

So far, ten of those charged in United States v. Ammon Bundy, et al, have pled guilty, and the eleventh is soon to follow. They are, as follows:

  • Jason Blomgren (Joker J), pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge.
  • Brian Cavalier (Booda), pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge and a charge of possessing firearms or dangerous weapons in a federal facility.
  • Blaine Cooper, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge.
  • Travis Cox, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge.
  • Eric Flores, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge.
  • Wesley Kjar, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy
  • Corey Lequieu, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge.
  • Joseph O’Shaughnessy, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy
  • Ryan Payne, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge.
  • Geoffrey Stanek, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge.
  • Jon Ritzheimer, scheduled to plea

So, why are they pleading? Is it because they really think that they are guilty?

Most, if not all, of those above have been “intimidated” or “threatened“, by federal prosecutors, either directly, or through their appointed counsel, that a Terrorism Enhancement could result in a sentence of 30 years, possibly for each count.

For a little background, over twenty years ago, I reported on a trial (see below) that I would eventually learn to be one where the Federal Sentencing Guidelines had brought into our judicial system something that was very foreign to the system of justice, as implemented by the Founders. Perhaps it would be beneficial to begin with an understanding of the judicial system that was intended, based upon many centuries of evolution in the British Common Law.

The English Constitution, even before the Magna Carta (1215 AD), began evolving in 1080 AD, and was also the beginning of a legal evolutionary process that sometimes went backwards, but most often went forward, in an effort to provide justice rather than blind obedience to laws. It was the English Common Law that was the foundation of jurisprudence for the Founders.

This foundation is evidenced even in current statutes, such as Florida Statutes (2015), where we find:

2.01 Common law and certain statutes declared in force.—The common and statute laws of England which are of a general and not a local nature, with the exception hereinafter mentioned, down to the 4th day of July, 1776, are declared to be of force in this state; provided, the said statutes and common law be not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States and the acts of the Legislature of this state.

We can also look to the Maryland Constitution (2008), which provides, in its Declaration of Rights:

Art. 5. (a)
(1) That the Inhabitants of Maryland are entitled to the Common Law of England, and the trial by Jury, according to the course of that Law, and to the benefit of such of the English statutes as existed on the Fourth day of July, seventeen hundred and seventy-six; and which, by experience, have been found applicable to their local and other circumstances, and have been introduced, used and practiced by the Courts of Law or Equity…

In the same Declaration of Rights, we also find:

Art. 23. In the trial of all criminal cases, the Jury shall be the Judges of Law, as well as of fact, except that the Court may pass upon the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction.

Now, the Maryland Constitution predates the United States Constitution, as it was first ratified by the People on November 11, 1776 – over a decade before the Constitution. Clearly, the understanding (original intent) of the Maryland Constitution and the United States Constitution were predicated upon those laws that then existed, and definition, or intent, of the words used, were as they were understood at the time. Absent a lawful change of definition, those definitions and intentions are still the body of the law and should be recognized as such.

Also true of the Common Law, at that time, and remember, the intention is still the same, is that a jury determines law and fact. However, there is one more aspect that comes into play. The jury also imposed the sentence, as they were the judge of facts, those which determined the severity of the crime; the law, what was intended and the extent applicable to the case at hand; and, by combining the two, would determine the sentence to be imposed, if the accused were found to be guilty.


For instance, if there were two assault cases, and one was minor, in that only a few bruises were the result, could it possibly be compared with, and judged, with the same severity of punishment if the victim were left bloody and unconscious on the ground?

This would also go to intent; If one knowingly, and provably, disobeyed a law, and his intentions were for personal gain, the punishment should be more severe than if one broke the law, with no malicious intent, and was not even aware that he was breaking a law. The former should have a harsh sentence, while the latter should have a lighter sentence, if any punishment, at all.

Even if that decision were left to the Court, the facts, and the circumstances, etc., should be paramount in determining a just sentence for any crime.

In support of the concept, though not the application, because that responsibility has been usurped by the courts, we find, in 18 U.S.C. § 3553: Imposition of a sentence:

(a) Factors To Be Considered in Imposing a Sentence. – The court shall impose a sentence sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the purposes set forth in paragraph (2) of this subsection. The court, in determining the particular sentence to be imposed, shall consider –

                (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant;

                (2) the need for the sentence imposed –

                                (A) to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense…

The United States Sentencing Commission, “an independent agency of the judicial branch of the federal government of the United States”, was created by the “Sentencing Reform Act”, part of the “Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984”.  There are seven voting members on the Commission, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and serve six-year terms. At least three of the commissioners must be federal judges, and no more than four may belong to the same political party. The United States Attorney General or his designee and the chair of the United States Parole Commission sit as ex officio, non-voting members of the Commission.

This, then, constitutes an extra-constitutional “commission” that has taken the imposition of penalty away from the discretion of the judges (who had taken it from the jury) and made an arbitrary, though somewhat flexible, micro-management of sentencing. That flexibility, however is most often used against the accused — for the benefit of the prosecution.

The intention of the Act was to standardize sentencing, simply a form of incorporating federal control to a micro-management level. It was expressed as “necessary to remove the judge’ discretion in sentencing”.

So, back to twenty years ago, when I was covering, though from a distance, the Trial of the Branch Davidians. I received a copy of a letter sent by Sarah Bain, Jury Foreperson in that trial, to the Judge, Walter Smith, that presided over the trail. In the letter, she expressed concern over some of the verdicts that had been found by the jury.

To verify the letter as having come from the Jury Foreperson, I contacted Sarah to discuss the letter. During our discussion, we also spoke of the automatic weapons the government alleged that the Davidians had. She told me that the jury found no evidence that automatic weapons were used, or even present at Mt. Carmel; we were not aware of the sentencing, just a few days before. I wrote this article, based upon that conversation.

When I heard of the sentencing, by Judge Smith, I was appalled by the sentences handed down, though I had no idea, at the time, of what “enhanced sentencing” meant. The sentencing, as reported by the Los Angeles Times on June 18, 1994, with regard to sentencing, states:

“Under mandatory sentencing guidelines approved by Congress, the weapons charge–carrying a weapon in the commission of a violent crime–is punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison. At the request of prosecutors and over the objections of defense attorneys, Smith imposed the maximum sentences on grounds that automatic weapons, the most destructive kind, were involved.”

This added ten years to the sentence of five of the defendants, though the “fact” that it was based on was not a “fact”, at all, as determined by the jury. This is a circumvention of the Constitution, and is more akin to the backward sliding of the British Common Law, over the centuries, when the king determined that he was above the law. It appears that, now, the government appears to consider itself above the law, by developing means to circumvent that which so many have fought and died for.

However, when I began researching for this article, I found that the Branch Davidians, specifically James Castillo, had pursued this injustice to the United States Supreme Court (Castillo, et al. v. United States 530 U.S. 120 (2000)). The Court decided, not so much on sentencing, rather on the wording of the statute, that the enhancement was not within the purview of the District Court judge to decide what had not been found by the jury. The statute uses the term “use” of a firearm, where the jury found no such fact to be true. So, the case was remanded and the sentences reduced accordingly.

This then, begins to touch on the whole aspect of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG), though it does not get to the heart of the matter.

* * *

Now, the events in Burns, Oregon evolved out of the persecution of Dwight and Steven Hammond. They had performed a controlled burn, the fire got out of hand, and burned 126 acres of public lands before they managed to put the fire out. Then, when the government set their own fire, supposedly a controlled burn, that had gotten out of hand, and threatened the Hammond’s ranch and home, they set a backfire that spread onto public land, though it kept the fire from burning down their home and outbuildings. They were charged under a statute that was enacted with the intention of prosecuting those who set fires, with terrorism as an objective. Though that was not the case with the Hammonds, and was not brought up at trial, they will serve five years in prison, without any enhancement. The Statute was enacted to punish terrorists, not to punish ranchers who carried on practices that have been carried on for centuries, those same practices also being carried on by government agencies. This is truly a perversion of the intent of the law, but not, in the least, the application of “enhancement sentencing”.

Instead, probably more subject to an overarching attitude in Congress that they can prevent crime by enacting laws, though with wording that allows the Justice Department to interpret those laws well beyond the intent of the Congress.

* * *

The accused parties in United States of America v. Ammon Bundy, et al, are charged with, among other charges, in Count 1 of the Indictment, violation of 18 U. S. Code §372, to wit:

If two or more persons in any State, Territory, Possession, or District conspire to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties thereof, or to induce by like means any officer of the United States to leave the place, where his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his property so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duties, each of such persons shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six years, or both.

The question arises, then, of just who, what person or persons, were intimidated or threatened by those that had moved in to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge? Can it be a threat or intimidation if there is no person that was directly threatened or intimidated?

They were also charged (in an effort to be vindictive), as appears to be true based upon Count 3, violation of 18 U. S. Code § 924(c)(1)(A), to wit:

(c) (1) (A) Except to the extent that a greater minimum sentence is otherwise provided by this subsection or by any other provision of law, any person who, during and in relation to any crime of violence or drug trafficking crime (including a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime that provides for an enhanced punishment if committed by the use of a deadly or dangerous weapon or device) for which the person may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, uses or carries a firearm, or who, in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm, shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of violence or drug trafficking crime.

However, on a Motion by David Fry’s attorney, the judge dismissed this effort as adding an inappropriate charge, since the statute addresses “violence“, though there was never any violence perpetrated by any of the defendants.

So, it appears, being the poor losers that they are, the government has decided to seek a “Terrorism” enhancement, but we will address that more, later.

So, what are these “terrorism enhancements”? Shane Harris, Author and journalist, has written an article for the National Journal explaining the abuse of the “enhancement” aspect of the Sentencing Guidelines. It is worth the time to read, to fully understand how “enhancement” has become a tool of government, to be used to force plea agreements and to punish those who might refuse to plea, wasting the Court’s time with a jury trial.

However, we must move forward to understand what has happened since 1984, and the dismal attempt of the government to continue to allow the judge to sentence, though to restrain him by micro-management.

In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled, in Blakely v. Washington 542 US 296 (2004),

“The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting petitioner’s argument that the sentencing procedure deprived him of his federal constitutional right to have a jury determine beyond a reasonable doubt all facts legally essential to his sentence.”

The Court held that

Because the facts supporting petitioner’s exceptional sentence were neither admitted by petitioner nor found by a jury, the sentence violated his Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.”

The following year. the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Booker 543 US 200 (2005), begins to give us an idea of the judicial abuse. This case made clear that unless the jury determines a fact, any enhancement, absent that jury’s determination, cannot be applied under the Guidelines. This is based upon the protection afforded by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

However, in a dissenting opinion, not on the jury aspect, the late Justice Scalia made a rather interesting observation with regard to the Sentencing Guidelines (remember, these were implemented to standardize sentencing and remove the judge’s discretionary sentencing), when he said, “In order to rescue from nullification a statutory scheme designed to eliminate discretionary sentencing, it discards the provisions that eliminate discretionary sentencing.”

Now, I don’t know how comprehensive the first USSG was, but I do know that the 2015 version is 599 pages. I have been studying it for the past few days, and I can see that it is convoluted and almost incomprehensible. But, don’t take my word for it. Here is what the Court said in a 2016 decision (Molina-Martinez v. United States No. 14-8913):

“The Federal Sentencing Guidelines first enter the sentencing process when the United States Probation Office prepares a presentence report containing, as relevant here, an advisory Guidelines range based on the seriousness of a defendant’s offense and the extent of his criminal history. A district court may depart from the Guidelines, but it “must consult [them] and take them into account when sentencing.” Given the Guidelines’ complexity, a District Court’s use of an incorrect Guidelines range may go unnoticed.”

So, after 22 years, it is acknowledged that this effort at micro-managing justice has failed, dismally. To top that off, since 2005, over the course of the past 11 years, Sentencing Guidelines have been heard by the Supreme Court in 105 cases. Perhaps such a tangled web that it will never be fully extricated from the dismal depths to which it belongs.

Now, back to Oregon. It has come to light that the prosecution, in some emails to defense attorneys a few months ago, that “terrorism enhancements” might be applied to the defendants, if they should go to trial. About a month ago, this same subject (threat) came to light in some Internet discussions.

Since none of the charges brought against the defendants either reference or are part of terrorism statutes, it is difficult to think that the jury could possibly create, on their own, such a charge. They can only judge those charges brought against the defendants.

This, however, might warrant some edification. The Sixth Amendment, along with other protections against oppressive, arbitrary, or tyrannical, government, provides that:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall… be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation…”

Now, those “accusations”, supported by an Indictment by a Grand Jury, make no mention of “terrorism”.  Only those counts still remaining (absent Count 3) are the accusation. No reasonable person could conclude that additional charges can be brought during trial, or even at sentencing. Any defense offered by the Defendants can only be based upon the original charges, and not some conspiratorial chicanery by the Prosecution.

So, why is it that the prosecution, this extensive battery of well paid government attorneys, has endeavored to intimidate defendants into pleading (plea agreement), for fear that additional time might be added to their sentences, should they waste the government’s time by going to trial and seeking justice, from a jury?

Is it really justice when the government uses chicanery (The use of trickery to achieve a legal purpose.), “intimidation, or threat“, to entice the defendants to reject the judicial process envisioned to protect them, in favor of avoiding the wrath of the government? Those two words, “intimidation” and “threat“, are, after all, what the Defendants are charged with being in violation of.

Now, since Count 1 describes the action, “conspire to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from”, we know that the government perceives this as criminal in its nature. So, is that criminality universal, or is it simple a tool of government to force compliance, also referred to as tyrannical or despotic.

So, the government prosecutors, along with perhaps the judicial branch and the Defendants appointed counsel, have “conspire[ed] to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, [those] person[s] from” exercising their right to due process of law.

So, it appears that the government has immunity when they conspire to use intimidation and threats, the very crime that the Defendants are charged with. Now, can we possibly consider that justice grants the government the ability to do what the Constitution does not specifically authorize them to do, while punishing people, coercing confessions (plea agreements), when nobody was harmed?

Or, has the government decided to enact laws, rules, and even policies, that deny the justice that had been established over centuries, circumventing the Constitution, in favor of giving themselves absolute control over our actions?


  1. Critical Reader says:

    “The question arises, then, of just who, what person or persons, were intimidated or threatened by those that had moved in to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge?”

    Those who had moved to the refuge attempted to hold a peaceful, prayerful protest against the treatment of the Hammonds.

    It was the professional agitators who raced to the scene, who put out the “call to action” to bring armed personnel up there to threaten law enforcement, insisting they would go so far as to “escort” the FBI from the scene (presumably by compulsion). Threats were made, publicly and online, that the FBI would have military personnel crawling down their throats and up their backsides.

    The Bundy family kicked the agitators out, hoping to avoid trouble, but that did not stop the agitators from getting busy escalating the situation, eliciting a predictable response from law enforcement personnel.

    While agitators are driving the Black Lives Matter group into threatening police, the same is being done from within the patriot movement by infiltrators, rising to leadership positions, to create an excuse to crack down. And the crack-down is happening.

    The set-up is plain to see.

    There is a peaceful, non-threatening way to push back against infringement upon our rights. It is proven to work. Allowing the agitators to take leadership is not going to end well. The Bundy family apparently understood this.

  2. ghunt says:

    Some definitions provided by a reader:
    With References to the Civil and Other Systems of Foreign Law
    byJohn Bouvier

    DISCRETION, practice.
    1. When it is said that something is left to the discretion of a judge, it signifies that he ought to decide according to the rules of equity, and the nature of circumstances. Louis. Code, art. 3522, No. 13; 2 Inst. 50, 298; 4 Serg. & Rawle, 265; 3 Burr. 2539.

    2. The discretion of a judge is said to be the law of tyrants; it is always unkown; it is different in different men; it is casual, and depends upon constitution, temper, and passion. In the best, it is oftentimes caprice; in the worst, it is every vice, folly, and passion, to which human nature is liable. Optima lex quae minimum relinquit arbitrio judicis: optimus judex qui minimum sibi. Bac. Aph; 1 Day’s Cas.. 80, ii.; 1 Pow. Mortg. 247, a; 2 Supp. to Ves. Jr. 391; Toull. liv. 3, n. 338; 1 Lill. Ab. 447.

    TYRANNY, government. The violation of those laws which regulate the division
    and the exercises of the sovereign power of the state. It is a violation of
    its constitution.

    TYRANT, government. The chief magistrate of the state, whether legitimate or
    otherwise, who violates the constitution to act arbitrarily contrary to
    justice. Toull. tit. prel. n. 32.
    2. The term tyrant and usurper, are sometimes used as synonymous,
    because usurpers are almost always tyrants; usurpation is itself a
    tyrannical act, but properly speaking, the words usurper and tyrant convey
    different ideas. A king may become a tyrant, although legitimate, when he
    acts despotically; while a usurper may cease to be a tyrant by governing
    according to the dictates of justice.
    3. This term is sometimes applied to persons in authority who violate
    the laws and act arbitrarily towards others. Vide Despotism.

    Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition
    Kangaroo Court. Term descriptive of a sham legal proceeding in which a person’s rights are totally disregarded and in which the result is a foregone conclusion because of the bias of the court or other tribunal.

  3. […] explained in Terrorism Enhanced Penalties v. Due Process, they were facing what they believed to be a possible sentence of thirty years under the threat of […]

  4. […] XXIII. Terrorism Enhanced Penalties v. Due Process [8/10/16] […]

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