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Thread: Judge rules national park rangers WERE out of control stopping fest goers

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    http://tinyurl.com/2ekwod

    Judge rules search of festivalgoer was illegal
    A drug charge was part of a swirl of complaints about Blue Ridge
    Parkway rangers who patrolled amid FloydFest.
    By Laurence Hammack
    981-3239

    There was something suspicious about Sean Moore. Maybe it was Moore's
    being "way too nice" during a traffic stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
    Or maybe it was because he was attending FloydFest, a four-day concert
    heavy on sandals, tie-dye and long hair.

    For whatever reason, Moore's behavior prompted a park ranger to order
    him out of his pickup truck, pat him down and arrest him after
    allegedly finding a small amount of marijuana in his pocket.

    The ranger's reasons were not good enough for U.S. Magistrate Judge
    Michael Urbanski, who recently ruled the search illegal and threw out
    a misdemeanor drug charge against Moore.

    Urbanski's decision is likely to bolster complaints by some of
    overzealous law enforcement at FloydFest, which brings both heavy
    traffic and extra park rangers to the Blue Ridge Parkway each summer.

    The judge -- who has dismissed at least one other FloydFest drug
    charge based on a ranger's heavy-handed frisking -- was not impressed
    with the testimony of Bruce Gagnon, who stopped Moore the afternoon of
    July 25 for driving through a patch of fog with his headlights off.

    Gagnon testified that he quickly became suspicious because Moore was
    "way too nice" and "extremely polite," answering his questions with an
    eagerness that amounted to rambling.

    But as Urbanski noted in an Oct. 26 opinion, "Moore's continued
    cooperation, talkative demeanor and friendly attitude does not suggest
    that crime was afoot."

    Nor could Gagnon justify his search of Moore by the mere fact that the
    36-year-old had been to FloydFest, Urbanski ruled.

    "Basing Moore's detention purely on the fact that he attended
    FloydFest, without any other fathomable objective basis, creates an
    intolerable risk of arbitrary and abusive police practices," the
    16-page opinion stated.

    Bill Cleaveland, a Roanoke lawyer who represented Moore, said the case
    validates concerns of festivalgoers who complained of being pulled
    over for minor traffic offenses by park rangers more interested in
    searching for drugs or other contraband.

    Moore, who lives in the Greensboro, N.C., area, could not be reached
    for comment.

    At past FloydFests, the National Park Service has deployed its
    Criminal Interdiction Task Force, a group of rangers who patrol a
    14-mile stretch of the parkway adjacent to the event.

    "Despite the fact that FloydFest was targeted," Urbanski wrote, "no
    evidence was introduced that it is a high crime area, and individuals
    must remain secure in their right to be free from unreasonable and
    unwarranted interference by overzealous policing."

    John Garrison, the parkway's chief ranger, said beefed-up enforcement
    is necessary for an event such as FloydFest, which drew an estimated
    10,000 people.

    Of eight complaints the park service received, only two were from
    people who had personal contact with a ranger, Garrison said. In those
    cases, the ranger's conduct was deemed appropriate, he said.

    As for Moore's case, "We're looking at what the courts may be saying
    about the specific way we go about conducting our work, and we'll take
    their guidance as well," Garrison said.

    Although complete numbers were not available, Garrison said he was
    aware of one other FloydFest-related charge that was dismissed.
    Another charge of public intoxication ended with a deferred
    prosecution.

    Several cases are still pending, Garrison said, and the rest resulted
    in convictions.

    During the week of the festival, rangers logged 183 contacts with
    drivers along the affected stretch of the parkway. Most of the stops
    resulted in written warnings. About 50 people were charged, including
    29 in drug-related offenses, 12 in traffic violations and two in
    drunken driving.

    While few people disputed the need for law enforcement, many
    questioned the manner in which the parkway was policed.

    The crackdown drew so many complaints that U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher,
    D-Abingdon, called the superintendant of the parkway to discuss his
    concerns.

    Before the next FloydFest, Boucher will meet with festival organizers,
    parkway officials and other involved parties.

    "My entire purpose for doing this is to ensure that whatever problems
    arose this time ... do not recur," Boucher said Wednesday.

    Urbanski's opinion gives a detailed account of how the stop of Moore
    "quickly escalated from one involving a minor traffic violation to an
    inquisition regarding contraband."

    After pulling Moore over, Gagnon noticed that the driver had both
    hands out of the window -- which he interpreted to mean there was a
    weapon in the vehicle.

    There was no gun. But Gagnon wasn't done.

    As the well-mannered motorist answered questions in a "rambling,
    cooperative and forthcoming" way, the suspicious ranger became even
    more so -- especially after learning that Moore had been to FloydFest.

    So he asked if he could search the truck.

    "By all means, go ahead, brother," Moore replied.

    Gagnon searched the cab and rummaged through luggage in the bed of the
    truck, looking for guns, drugs or alcohol. All he found was some
    medication that belonged to Moore's passenger.

    He patted the passenger down, found nothing incriminating and turned
    his attention back to Moore.

    "Lacking any objective basis for suspicion," Gagnon then frisked Moore
    and found a pipe with a small amount of marijuana in his pocket, the
    opinion stated. Although prosecutors argued that Moore consented to
    the search, Urbanski ruled that the ranger had no legal reason to
    detain him.

    Even some members of the local law enforcement community are irked at
    the way park rangers have acted, according to Jonathan Rogers, a Floyd
    County lawyer who represents two people charged in the crackdown.

    Especially troubling, Rogers said, is that someone can arouse an
    officer's suspicion just for being "way too nice" or "extremely
    polite."

    "You can't be polite without being suspicious," he said. "Please. It's
    outrageous."

  2. #2
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    *Cue the crowd of posters saying that the rangers were justified because there were evil drugs involved...*

    Good to see a judge who's doing his job.

    It's sad though that the standard is: a citizen is guilty if he's uncoorperative, and guilty if he's cooperative.

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    I remember when NPS ranger acquaintances in Yosemite NP hated to have to take their turn at wearing the gun.

    This was back in the days when the unorganized 'climbers camp' at Camp Four was tolerated; as we learned to live for days and weeks on the wall in preparation for bigger things like El Cap or the NA Wall.

    Either we are equal or we are not. Good people ought to be armed where they will, with wits and guns and the truth. LAB/NRA/GOP *******

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    It is clear that the Blue Ridge Parkway rangers were a LE force out of control. They formulated a strategy to go hunting for wicked law violators (and revenue?) and through a set of cascading rationalizations ended up law-breakers themselves.

    Power tends to corrupt...

    The chief of the Parkway rangers should be fired immediately for incompetence.

    Floydfest, eh? What a groovy name...




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    Regular Member Marco's Avatar
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    imperialism2024 wrote:
    It's sad though that the standard is: a citizen is guilty if he's uncoorperative, and guilty if he's cooperative.
    1+
    If you think like a Statist, act like one, or back some, you've given up on freedom and have gone over to the dark side.
    The easiest ex. but probably the most difficult to grasp for gun owners is that fool permission slip so many of you have, especially if you show it off with pride. You should recognize it as an embarrassment, an infringement, a travesty and an affront to a free person.


    ~Alan Korwin

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    After pulling Moore over, Gagnon noticed that the driver had both
    hands out of the window -- which he interpreted to mean there was a
    weapon in the vehicle.
    Whaaa...? That's particularly disturbing, especially since that's what I do with my hands when pulled over. Even when there's no weapon present.



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    Tomahawk wrote:
    After pulling Moore over, Gagnon noticed that the driver had both
    hands out of the window -- which he interpreted to mean there was a
    weapon in the vehicle.
    Whaaa...? That's particularly disturbing, especially since that's what I do with my hands when pulled over. Even when there's no weapon present.
    News to me too, though I usually just keep my hands at the top of the steering wheel...

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    imperialism2024 wrote:
    *Cue the crowd of posters saying that the rangers were justified because there were evil drugs involved...*
    Weed isn't a drug...

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    imperialism2024 wrote:
    Tomahawk wrote:
    After pulling Moore over, Gagnon noticed that the driver had both
    hands out of the window -- which he interpreted to mean there was a
    weapon in the vehicle.
    Whaaa...? That's particularly disturbing, especially since that's what I do with my hands when pulled over. Even when there's no weapon present.
    News to me too, though I usually just keep my hands at the top of the steering wheel...
    I wonder if T-hawk was just kidding. I see no purpose to unilaterally making a traffic stop a felony stop.

    Though it would actuallybe interesting to have some kind ofinstantaneous manner of becoming totallysubservient/nonthreatening to anapproaching traffic stop LEO. Some kind of white flag thang....

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    Guns aren't evil, neither are drugs. They are both just objects.

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    Just for the record, I was being sarcastic with the "evil drugs" reference... there was, in fact, not the turnout of posters who feel that freedom only applies to gun ownership and, perhaps, taxes.

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