Armed Marches, Free Speech, and Legal Entanglements: The Kokesh Connection

Many within the Patriot Community will remember that back in 1994, Linda Thompson proposed a march into Washington DC where congressmen would be hung from lampposts. Needless to say, it was called off, perhaps because the idea itself was dangerously ill-conceived, but the kernel of the idea never completely went away. It has been germinating this entire time, yet most patriots consider it more as a fanciful whim rather than as a serious opportunity. A variation of this original scheme has been proposed recently by one Adam Kokesh; however, in the interest of fair play, it would behoove us to first understand him as well as other events that have recently transpired.

 

 

Kokesh has been accused by many conservatives in the blogsophere for courting “leftists” and otherwise associating with individuals and organizations held to be allegedly un-American. It would seem to be the case that the sources for these claims are simply based on unfounded speculations, conjecture, and rumor. Kokesh got his start in political activism by joining Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), even going so far as to tattoo the acronym on the inside of his right arm; however, this seems to form the only foundation for the potentially libelous claims, for from here, it gets quite slippery.

It is true that Kokesh had his picture taken, at least once with Medea Benjamin, one of the co-founders of Code Pink, which is an antiwar organization. It is also accurate to say that both the IVAW and Code Pink fly under the banner of International A.N.S.W.E.R., which is nothing more than a umbrella title for the massive coalition of the various and sundry antiwar groups. Most revealingly, there is no proven connection between IVAW and the Muslim American Society, other than they both, by default, come under A.N.S.W.E.R. So, for conservative bloggers to suggest that Kokesh has affiliations with several “leftist” antiwar groups, no matter how many degrees removed, is little more than blatant guilt by association. This would suggest that anyone who opposes government wars, if affiliated, in any way, with others of the same feeling, ought to be pigeon-holed similarly. I find this rather intriguing, for I had thought that only the Southern Poverty Law Center performed this same technique against the many patriot organizations, but I digress.

The original proposal that Kokesh made for his armed march into the District of Columbia was on May 6th of 2013. It very specifically spells out:

 

“On the morning of July 4, 2013, Independence Day, we will muster at the National Cemetery & at noon we will step off to march across the Memorial Bridge, down Independence Avenue, around the Capitol, the Supreme Court, & the White House, then down Constitution Avenue to peacefully return to Virginia across the Memorial Bridge.”

 

What this shows is that this event is primarily a protest march, so in that respect it is much toned down from what Mrs. Thompson claimed to have wanted to do. It also shows the rendezvous point and a parade route. Then the event description goes on to detail:

 

“This is an act of civil disobedience, not a permitted event. We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny. We are marching to mark the high water mark of government & to turn the tide. This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent. Should we meet physical resistance, we will peacefully turn back, having shown that free people are not welcome in Washington, & return with the resolve that the politicians, bureaucrats, & enforcers of the federal government will not be welcome in the land of the free.”

 

This is rather interesting for a number of reasons. First, he is suggesting that loaded firearms be used as symbols only, and not to be used for what they were originally designed for, should the government give the marchers any trouble. Second, this form of civil disobedience is reminiscent of the Free Staters up in New Hampshire when they do things such as smoke marijuana in a public park (keep that imagery in mind, for this story is going to take a similar turn). And third, it would seem that the goal of this march is to demonstrate what a good portion of the population already understands: that the federal government has no interest in abiding by the Constitution.

Following the release of this proposal (initially on Facebook), Adam Kokesh made subsequent appearances on both mainstream and alternative media outlets. Most pundits who commented about his open carry event were generally not supportive, albeit for very different reasons. It was at this time that numerous conservative bloggers attempted character assassination against Kokesh, in the attempt to persuade their readers to condemn his open carry march, such as by claiming that he lied about his activities during his time in the US Marine Corps based on one subjective interpretation of his DD-214.

On May 18th of 2013, this story takes an intriguing turn, for it was on this day that Kokesh was arrested for violating Title 18, United States Code § 111. The arrest occurred during another Facebook scheduled event, Smoke Down Prohibition V, organized by the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for the Repeal of Marijuana Laws (NORML) as well as by Mr. N. A. Poe of The Panic Hour podcast. Arresting Officer Donald Reed’s affidavit states:

 

“Because the event paperwork claimed to be about the legalization of marijuana, and because at past such events there had been claims that marijuana was possessed openly and illegally in the Park, that area was posted by the Park with signs reminding the public that possession of marijuana in the Park is illegal.”

 

Well, that explains why National Park Service (NPS) Rangers were on location: they were there to enforce the legal code. The affidavit continues with:

 

“During the event, defendant ADAM KOKESH was addressing the group over a loud speaker system just after RICHARD TAMACCIO, charged elsewhere, urged over the loud speaker those present to smoke marijuana and announced a ‘countdown’ to when participants should light their marijuana. The crowd was also urged over the loud speaker to form a tight circle to hinder law enforcement officers.”

 

That seems to explain why Kokesh was initially targeted: though he was not using or even possessing any marijuana that day; he was singled out as being a “leader” of some kind.

Now, let us take leave of Reed’s affidavit for the time being and examine what happened after the arrest. Mr. Poe, one of the event’s organizers, was arrested along with Kokesh for assaulting a federal officer. While incarcerated, Kokesh become his cellmate for the next week or so. It was during this time that Poe and Kokesh discussed the upcoming open carry march, since Poe had some concerns about it. This eventually led to Kokesh giving a press release that he signed on May 23rd stating that:

 

“A new American revolution is long overdue. This revolution has been brewing in the hearts and minds of the people for many years, but this Independence Day, it shall take a new form as the American Revolutionary Army will march on each state capital to demand that the governors of these 50 states immediately initiate the process of an orderly dissolution of the federal government through secession and reclamation of federally held property. Should one whole year from this July 4th pass while the crimes of this government are allowed to continue, we may have passed the point at which non-violent revolution becomes impossible.”

 

As you can tell, this is a bit different from the originally proposed armed march into D.C. Would it be fair to say that Kokesh simply changed his mind regarding his approach to civil disobedience? Or is there something more sinister at play here? And what exactly is the “American Revolutionary Army?” More importantly, who would their civil authority be?

Let’s now examine the actions of the federal government with how they treated the criminal complaint filed by Donald Reed against Kokesh (the documents and further research of which were kindly provided to me courtesy of Deborah Swan). The government prosecutor, United States Attorney Zane Memeger, filed a motion for pretrial detention on May 23rd because Kokesh refused to confirm his date of birth, social security number, current or former addresses, whether or not he was employed, whether he had any family ties in Philadelphia, or where his passport was currently located; such details would provide assurance to the Court that he would appear, as required, to face the charges against him. Of note, there are two proposed findings of fact made by the prosecutor, namely, that “There is probable cause to believe that the defendant has violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 111…” and “The evidence in this case is strong,” which then goes on to repeat Reed’s affidavit. Needless to say, the government’s motion for pretrial detention was granted that same day by the presiding magistrate judge, the Honorable Thomas Rueter.

The following day on May 24th, U. S. Attorney Memeger filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, stating:

 

“The United States, by undersigned Counsel, hereby moves the Court, in the interests of justice, to dismiss the complaint in the above-captioned matter. Counsel for defendant, has no objection to this motion. The government respectfully requests that the Court enter the attached order.”

 

That same day, the Court ordered the following:

 

“AND NOW, this 24th day of May, 2013, based on the government’s unopposed motion, the complaint in this matter is dismissed and the defendant is released from custody.”

 

Just like that, the feds dropped the charges, or so it would seem. Interestingly, the judge who ordered that Kokesh be released was not Judge Rueter, but the Honorable Elizabeth Hey. Considering that May 24th fell on a Friday, I found this to be rather odd. One of Judge Rueter’s staff told me that the federal district court judges rotate on a weekly basis; when I pointed out that according to their own policy, Rueter should have been there on the 24th, I was subsequently told that Judge Rueter had a scheduled day off that particular Friday, but if not for that, he should have presided over Memeger’s motion to dismiss Kokesh’s case. Might this have been a bona fide case of “judge shopping” by the prosecutor?

Of course, I was intensely curious as to why the prosecutor decided to drop this case in the first place. The Public Affairs Specialist for the US Attorney’s Office (Eastern District of Pennslyvania), Patricia Hartman, stated to me in an email the following:

 

“The government, in the interest of justice, has elected to recharge the defendant for violations of the code of federal regulations. Citations have been issued to the defendant and the government will not be proceeding on the complaint. The citations are for ‘interfering with agency function’ and ‘disorderly conduct’ (Class B misdemeanors) which each carry a fine or up to 30 days imprisonment.”

 

So, I guess the feds didn’t completely drop the charges, did they? I didn’t even know it was possible to “recharge” a defendant at all! This would seem to support PrisonPlanet.com’s brief article on Kokesh’s release, where they quote his Facebook page as saying:

 

“Released 130524 with felony charges reduced to citations which I refused to sign. Played hardball. Won. Talk to you Monday.”

 

This corroborates with what the Miss Hartman told me, as there is no further documentation I can find as to the current status of those citations, which are now under the auspices of the NPS. Perhaps if we revisit Reed’s affidavit one more time, we might find something else pertinent:

 

“National Park Service Rangers approached members of the crowd who were seen in possession of what appeared to be marijuana cigarettes. KOKESH was next to and had locked arms with a person who had a marijuana cigarette. As the Ranger approached the person with the cigarette, KOKESH physically blocked and obstructed the Ranger. As the Ranger pushed forward, KOKESH grabbed the Ranger by the arm to hold him back. KOKESH was then taken into custody.”

 

What is intriguing about this claim is that it totally contradicts the released video footage of Kokesh being hauled off by NPS Rangers. While it is entirely possible that this footage is what caused the prosecutor to drop the alleged violation of 18 USC § 111, it is only an assumption and not proof positive as to why the prosecutor filed the motion at all.

Besides the prosecutor inexplicably dropping the original charges, and Kokesh drastically changing his mind regarding his open carry march, there was another element at play here during this same period. Apparently, there were two separate legal defense funds; one for Poe, the other for Kokesh. This latter fund was managed by one George Donnely, of Shield Mutual. Kokesh was already a customer of Shield Mutual, which seems to be a freelance public relations and legal aid firm. Shield Mutual managed to raise $5,377.44 for Kokesh’s legal defense. To my understanding, a legal defense fund is established for the exclusive purpose of hiring an attorney to provide counsel to the defendant. Since Kokesh only used his public defender, James McHugh, it does kind of beg the question as to why a legal defense fund was created in the first place. Donnely admitted to me in a June 6th email (replying to my June 4th email inquiry) that “given that [Kokesh’s] charges were reduced to citations, I doubt [an attorney] will be hired.” Interestingly, Donnely published an article on June 5th announcing that Shield Mutual will be offering refunds to any donators who asked for one, just as long as they do so before the deadline on June 12th. What’s intriguing about this is that Kokesh’s media production company, Adam v. The Man (AVTM), released a video earlier on May 27th , which stated the following on-screen text:

 

“He resisted every step of the way and thanks to the efforts of those on the outside who made phone calls, protested, showed up in court, and donated to the legal defense fund, Adam was released on Friday with his charges reduced to citations, which he refused to sign. The legal defense fund is now a “Legal Attack Fund” and you can help Adam seek justice by contributing at adamvstheman.com/invest.”

 

Perhaps there was a miscommunication between AVTM and Shield Mutual, but it would seem to indicate that AVTM had no intention of refunding anyone’s donations, whatsoever, despite the fact that an attorney never was or would be hired; if anything, they were blatantly soliciting for even more money, and Shield Mutual’s 7 day window period seems a bit, well, short. As the old reporter’s adage goes, “Follow the money.”

What can we deduce from all this? Perhaps we should consider not following the plans of any political agitator who is quick to change the major details of a Facebook event that was originally scheduled two months ahead of time without a thorough consideration of the ramifications, and who did so while he was incarcerated because of his arrest at another Facebook event. Second, we should consider that a more subtle approach to civil disobedience be seriously considered whereby the government is not put on notice ahead of time; the fundamental problem here is that if the public is put on notice, then the government will also be put on notice, thus making any large event impossible as it cannot be advertised. Finally, we should consider refraining from contributing to anyone’s legal defense fund, at least until such time an attorney is actually hired, lest those funds be diverted towards a completely different purpose unrelated to getting someone out of jail or beating the government’s charges.

Should the Patriot Community think of Adam Kokesh as any sort of role model, since he seems to work on a knee-jerk reactionary basis without a well-thought out plan? Might it just be possible that sensationalism, and not actually reaching an achievable goal, was the entire purpose at play here? It is questions like these we must ask ourselves if we are able to ever discern between individual merit and shallow popularity contests.

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