From the June 1999 Idaho Observer:
Kootenai Prosecutor "Bombs out"
Douglas feels bomb laws lax; wants parts possession laws passed
by T. Allen Hoover
A recent Associated Press article in The Idaho Statesman describes the efforts of Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas to tighten Idaho's lax bomb laws. In the article Douglas complains that Idaho's current law is too lax because it requires INTENT, and that it is very ineffective.
In 1996, a bill outlawing bombs was introduced in the legislature but failed because several people testified that the language of the bill was written in a manner that allowed too broad an interpretation. Under its provisions virtually anyone could have been charged with possessing the components of a bomb. For example, anyone caught possessing mousetraps, wire and a battery might be charged with having triggering devices. Having ammonia and a bottle of aspirin could be considered to be bomb making chemicals. And a smoker walking down the street with a bottle of 151 Rum with a pack of matches and cigarettes in a paper bag could be construed to have the makings of a molotov cocktail. The bill died amid heavy resistance from the citizenry.
Around Thanksgiving of that year a fellow was arrested for DUI and during an inventory search of his vehicle two Boise PD officers found a box with the DUI suspect's name on it. When they attempted to open it, it exploded injuring them. Subsequently it turned out that a jilted lover of the fellow's new girlfriend had planted the device.
Since there was no Idaho statute particularly relating to this attempted murder that missed, the bomber was eventually charged with damaging interstate commerce vehicles because the officer was blown backwards into, and damaging, a nearby semi truck. I cannot find an answer as to why he was not charged under federal manufacturing of destructive devices laws.
Shortly after the beginning of the 1997 legislative session, I got a call from Representative Bill Sali asking for my help with a new bomb law. The Idaho Prosecutor's Association had copied Utah's bomb law and added a few touches. Bill faxed me a copy and I called him, laughing, because the bill made mere possession of ammonium nitrate fertilizer a felony.
The last bill had been pretty bad, but this one took the cake. Heck, it went so far as to make it a felony for that old actor to advertise 'Miracle Grow' fertilizer for sale. Bill had seen the implications, also. He told me he had six 100 lb. sacks of the stuff in his garage for his garden come spring.
Recognizing the danger to our freedoms, I jumped in and started a phone tree, made calls and contacted Richard Sherrow, former ATF bomb expert, now private consultant (as a note, he was the on-site expert that found the axle of the OKC bombing Ryder truck). Also contacted were members of gun clubs, mining groups -- the list goes on. A lot of people, far too many to be mentioned here, contributed to the final product, HB 259.
What went into HB 259? A little federal law (so as to be in alignment with certain existing statutes), a lot of common sense, some ingenuity and a lot of work. I cannot tell you how many faxes went back and forth, refining, deleting, adding and modifying to get to the final bill. The best part was that the law required men era, a guilty mind.
Now everyone can sympathize with the prosecutor, for sometimes intent is indeed a hard thing to prove, but the Constitution was written for the government, and the Bill of Rights was written for the people, and I'd rather let a crook or two slip by than to convict a lot of innocents.
There are farmers, having a rock or stump in their way, who will never pay for expensive dynamite when they can make the problem disappear with a mixture of cow-poop and used motor oil. The same goes for miners.
Shooters and hunters reload ammunition and therefore have gunpowder and primers, muzzeloader shooters and cowboy action shooters use black powder. There is a gun club that, in January every year for about the past decade, goes out to a snowy shooting range and fills cans with gasoline, PVC pipe with propane, cardboard boxes with black powder and primers, sets it all out and proceeds to shoot at these with tracer bullets. These harmless pyrotechnics are quite exciting to watch (and even more fun to participate in), but might, like the previous examples, be chargeable under a possession law.
Bill Sali's HB259 was written with intent as a requirement for a reason, because precious tax dollars could be wasted, people's lives destroyed by misguided, but well-intentioned, prosecutions. After the Ruby Ridge affair, we see how far (or should I say TOO far) the government can go in its zeal to find (or manufacture) bad guys.
Getting the bill through the legislature was a bit of a chore, requiring numerous appearances at the Senate Judiciary Rule Committee to explain the bill and fend off opposition from the Prosecutor's Association. The case cited in the Statesman article about some nut found with bombs in his car outside a mental health office was claimed to be a reason to opt for a possession law, and the same argument was being used back then. I am still wondering why this guy was not charged federally, as he most certainly could have been, unless the non-prosecution was intentional so as to provide ammunition for the passing of an Idaho possession law, just as it is being used now.
After much testimony and discussion, even the then representative for the attorney general's office agreed, we needed a spear gun because the net would catch too many innocent fish. HB259 passed in the House 61-0 and in the Senate 35-0 and was signed into law by Governor Phil Batt as an emergency measure on March 21, 1997.
Attending the public signing ceremony were (L to R) (myself) T. Allen Hoover, Boise Police Chief Larry Paulsen, Boise Police Officer Chris Ware, Boise Police Officer David Pouge, Governor Phil Batt, Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower, Deputy Prosecutor Connie Vietz, Representative Bill Sali (18A) and Ada Coounty Sheriff Vaughn Killeen. The two Boise officers were those injured in the Thanksgiving Day, 1996, bombing.
It should be noted that there have been many reports of the laws successes. Just a few weeks ago the Statesman reported that the Nampa students that had committed numerous pipe-bombings had been charged with felonies, as, I understand is the case in Sandpoint, where both threats and bombs made a felony.
Therefore Prosecutor Douglas, lacking any current documentable failures of this totally unenforceable law, is willing to recite dated cases and deceive people in order to get the mere possession law he (or somebody higher up) wants.
If Douglas gets his way, you could be facing felony charges for mere possession of a myriad of innocent household items, cleaning agents and Miracle Grow.
May I suggest that those in Kootenai County who may possess Miracle Grow NOT vote for Prosecutor Douglas again.
Mens rea and mala in se Constitute crime, the American way.
No mens rea or mala in se,
It's not a crime,
No how, no way!
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