From the June 2001 Idaho Observer:

Blow by blow: How a poor family's tragedy becomes an international media feeding frenzy

To reread the newspaper articles regarding the McGuckin story from day one to the present all in one sitting is very revealing. We get to see how the story changes; how images are planted in the minds of the reading public in an effort to shape their understanding of the story as it unfolds. The McGuckin story, as the dominant media has unfolded it through information released by the "authorities" is a model of public perception manipulation and damage control.

By The Idaho Observer

(Quotes are from the Spokesman-Review)

May 30

"Wild dogs, armed kids keep Idaho law at bay" ~Spokesman-Review

This article by Spokesman-Review Staff Writer Susan Drumheller sets the hook in the minds of the reading public that the "standoff" is about guns, children, a pack of vicious dogs, an insane mother, child neglect, unsanitary conditions, poverty, tragedy -- and not the use of force to kick a family off its valuable property after a long and arguably illegal foreclosure process.

"...sheriff's deputies tried to help six hungry children."

We have learned that the children were not hungry.

"The children, believed to be armed, retreated into a house....after turning a pack of vicious dogs loose on deputies..."

The dogs have proven to be protective; not vicious. Though Sheriff Jarvis claims Benjamin McGuckin, 15, said, "get the guns," they were never brandished or fired upon deputies. "The incident was triggered by the arrest on Tuesday of the children's mother on a warrant of felony injury to a child."

See the complaint that resulted in the arrest warrant on page 11.

"Authorities believe that Joann McGuckin, 46, is seriously mentally ill."

The county foreclosed on her property as if she was mentally competent and separated her from her children as if she was mentally incompetent.

"McGuckin owns 27 dogs which have been running free and hunting in a pack...'There's stories of them not being fed regularly.... They took down a moose a little while ago, [said Sheriff Jarvis].'"

If the dogs were running free and hunting in a pack neighbors would have been reporting this menace to county officials, but they have not. There were 10 adult dogs and a litter of 10 puppies. The dogs, like the kids, appear to be in good health and are not "malnourished." There is no official report of a moose being killed in that area.

"On May 21....the dogs attacked Stephanie Almy who was walking her dog near the house."

Was Almy on the McGuckin's property? Why wasn't McGuckin arrested for a dog ordinance violation?

"Bonner County deputies Mike McDaniel and Bill Tilson happened to be at the McGuckin house at the time of the attack, conducting a welfare check of the children."

Happened to be at the house?

"McGuckin retreated into the house and agreed to put all of the dogs in the basement, except two. She refused to come out of the house any more."

One can imagine that she did come out of the house after deputies left the scene.

"We know there are six children in there and guns are in the house. The kids are trained to use the guns...We've been been working for four or five days trying to figure out how to get the mom off the property and get her in a mental hold [said sheriff Jarvis]."

We can be thankful that the McGuckins trained their children to use guns -- responsibly. Deputies did get the mother off the property -- by deceiving her into believing they wanted to help her and then arresting her.

"The home lacks power, water and heat."

The home had power at the time, the family had access to water, the home has a wood stove and the family had immediate access to wood.

"They [the children] are believed to be malnourished."

We have learned that the children are not malnourished.

"'They've been homeschooled and the 15-year-old boy apparently reads well enough that he is enamored with survivalist magazines,' Jarvis said."

Benjamin is apparently extremely intelligent, plays an advanced game of chess and has been described as well spoken and well read. To characterize him as reading just well enough to like survivalist magazines is inaccurate and an obvious attempt to poison public opinion against this young man's character. Homeschooled children are winning spelling and geography bees all over the nation because public schools are teaching children what to think -- not how to think.

"A 19-year-old sister who left home some time ago has been assisting the Sheriff's Department."

We think Erina McGuckin thought she was helping her family by talking to public servants and found out that her good intentions were used to manufacture a criminal case against her mother.

"'The family is absolutely stone broke,' Jarvis said.

So authorities developed a plan to bring McGuckin some money, thinking maybe she would leave the house to get groceries."

Deputy Tilson delivered the money and McGuckin asked him to take her to Garfield Bay to make a phone call. That is when he arrested her at 4 p.m. on May 29 -- supporting her alleged distrust of government.

"Deputies returned to the home to get the children and put them in the protective custody of the state Department of Health and Welfare.

See the story page 14. It would appear that protective custody where the state and child welfare are concerned is an oxymoron.

"As Tilson was explaining the situation to the 15-year-old boy, he runs back to the house and yells, 'Get the guns,' Jarvis said. 'They let all the dogs out of the basement. The dogs were attacking again. They've gone totally wild.'"

Jarvis explained that they tried to convince the children that they were there to assist them. The children did not believe them. Apparently, the dogs did not believe them, either. So they made a stand.

May 31

"Media helicopter thwarts attempt at negotiation" ~Spokesman-Review

This article by Susan Drumheller states that Jarvis blames a KREM TV helicopter for ending standoff negotiations. May 31 is also the day we learn that McGuckin is a mentally disturbed drunk being held on $100,000 bond, the kids eat lily pad soup and other unsubstantiated insights to misshape public opinion over this incident.

"'We're not going to do anything to put psychological pressure on those children,' said Jarvis."

Their father was recently buried, the sheriff tricked their mom into being arrested, they are the center of an international media event -- all because of the curious manner in which all of this came about -- and he is not wanting to put psychological pressure on the children?

"The standoff began Tuesday after the children's mother....was arrested on charges of felony injury to children."

Why wasn't she arrested for something relating to her dogs attacking a citizen and police? Is it because police and the citizen were on private property?

"The hungry children are lovable, say friends and neighbors. They're prepared to defend themselves, but they're law abiding and respectful."

It turns out they were not hungry, but this characterization of the children is consistent with what we have found. Nice kids.

"Authorities suspect McGuckin suffers from a mental illness that may have triggered child neglect."

Bingo. If "authorities" suspected that McGuckin was mentally ill, why would they issue an arrest warrant on a criminal complaint? To successfully prosecute a criminal charge criminal intent must be proved. How can criminal intent be proven in this case? If Bonner County Prosecutor Robinson suspected McGuckin was mentally ill, why would he file a criminal complaint against her?

"Then the six kids -- ages 8-16 -- hunkered down in the house and let loose 27 snarling dogs on the officers."

Apparently there were ten dogs, not 27, and they were just doing their job -- protecting the family from aggressors.

"Bonner County Prosecuting Attorney Phil Robinson asked [Magistrate] Heise to increase the bond from $10,000 to $100,000 because the children were not in protective custody."

Bond is a mechanism to protect the public from the accused fleeing prosecution or from the accused presenting a danger to the community. If McGuckin was mentally disturbed as Robinson claims, then bond would not be an issue as she would have been committed to a mental institution. Robinson apparently wanted the increased bond to prevent McGuckin from being reunited with her children while they were still at the family home. To a reasonable person, $100,000 bond would seem excessive under these circumstances. [Suspected murderers rarely receive this amount of bond.]

"'McGuckin had been spending the family's meager resources on alcohol,' Robinson argued in a Tuesday hearing to obtain an arrest warrant"

How would he know? He had not been to the McGuckin home yet so any comment such as this is second hand, unqualified, inadmissible as evidence and heresay.

"'The power to the remote home was cut off about five years ago'....Robinson said."

Power had been out last winter and at various times over the last few years, but was connected at the time of the standoff. Looking at a map, the home is hardly "remote."

"The eldest daughter, Erina....couldn't get into the Navy because of stress fractures caused by malnutrition, authorities say."

Real "authorities" would not jump to such spurious conclusions without more information. We know that malnutrition was not the issue here.

"The family has no heat and cooks over a campfire in the yard."

The family has wood heat. So what if they cook over a fire?

"...the children were reported to be staying in tents, sick and on the verge of starvation....the family may not have potable water [according to Robinson]."

The children may have been playing in tents, they are not sick and they are not starving. If McGuckin and her children did not have potable water, they would be sick and dehydrated, wouldn't they?

"'The family supplemented its diet with lake water and lily pad soup,' Jarvis said."

This is preposterous. However they were getting water it was fine. Though wild animals eat lily pads, people just don't, probably because they taste bad and/or they are poisonous. We have to wonder where this comment came from -- the same place that told Jarvis the dogs-downing-a-moose story, perhaps?

"Coroner Dale Coffelt listed the cause of [Michael McGuckin's May 12] death as dehydration and malnutrition."

Mr. McGuckin did not begin starving and dehydrating himself many years ago. He finally succombed to the ravages of multiple sclerosis. It is likely that he did not eat or drink very much for the last few weeks of his life. To say he died of malnutrition or dehydration is ridiculous. Coffelt later changed the cause of death to multiple sclerosis.

"Jarvis had considered arresting McGuckin following the [burial] service but rejected the plan as too distasteful."

For Jarvis to even entertain the thought, under the circumstances, is distasteful. [Especially since there is nothing in the files to reflect that there was an arrest warrant in place before May 29, 2001.]

(The article then describes the McGuckin's descent into poverty and becoming increasingly reclusive beginning about five years ago. Poverty and Michael's failing health is blamed for the family's anti-social behavior. I suspect that the real reasons are more complicated and that once McGuckin and the children can talk about them without the presence of the "authorities" we will find out what they are. I also suspect that the "authorities" may be attempting to prevent the McGuckins from freely discussing what has been happening to them over the last several years).

June 1

"Lawyer says family guilty of poverty" ~Spokesman-Review

In this article by Susan Drumheller we begin to see how original reports of no water, no power and no food are exposed as false. However, for most people, the false thoughts were planted and revelations that the thoughts are false are not changed on a subconscious level and are still shaping opinions on that level.

"'The real crime these people have perpetuated is that they are poor' said [Attorney Edgar] Steele."

I disagree. The crime here is not poverty. Government loves poverty so that it can pretend benevolence by distributing food and other aid to the poor as a mechanism to obtain votes. The crime here is to be poor and not want government help; the crime here is to be cash poor, reclusive, defenseless and property rich.

"Before the McGuckins shut off their phone and took down their mailbox five years ago, JoAnn McGuckin spoke to neighbors and friends about her fears of people coming to harm her family."

Was she wrong? Why did all of this begin to happen after Michael had died? Michael had reportedly been attached to military intelligence when he left the service and eventually came to Idaho. What caused him to leave the military? Why was he reportedly "paranoid" and why are McGuckin's fears being dismissed as symptomatic of mental illness when we do not know the details of her concerns?

"The cause of death was listed as dehydration and malnutrition, with multiple sclerosis listed as a contributing factor."

It does not take a physician to realize that the above cause of death is backwards.

"'Why did Bonner County choose to deed to the county 40 acres with a quarter mile of private lake frontage to pay off $5,487 woth of taxes?' McGuckin asked in a (sic) April 2000 letter to the county treasurer's office."

Good question, particularly since McGuckin offered to trade a 1.75-acre piece of land to cover the delinquent taxes.

The article makes several statements from Erina McGuckin through Bonner County Food Center employee Joan Woller. Just like the rest of the McGuckin family, Erina has not been available for comment.

"Officials with Health and Welfare won't discuss the McGuckin case.

"'We're prohibited from discussing any history with this family,' Walker said."

Why? Though it appears the McGuckin's lifestyle was eccentric, public officials had previously determined that the children were not in danger. It is evident that there is family history information available that would discredit the county's actions in this matter.

June 2

"Lawyer makes contact" ~Spokesman-Review

Things really begin to get strange now. Public Defender Bryce Powell failed to appear at a bond reduction hearing because he attempted unsuccessfully to talk the children off the property; Benjamin "surrenders"; Steele withdraws from the case and; a few more of the previous comments are found by reporter Susan Drumheller to be fabrications.

"...but the frightened, malnourished kids refused to leave."

A blood test later determines that the kids were not malnourished.

The article explains how " appeared the boy (Benjamin) and his mother accompanied Powell to the home late Friday."

"Powell would not confirm that."

It appears that Powell was implicated in another example of BCSD trickery designed to trick the children into "surrendering" by thinking that two people posing as their mom and their brother were with police. Could this be one of the mounting reasons why McGuckin has not been allowed to talk to anyone other than Powell? Is Powell really defending McGuckin?

"'We know the children have food and water...' [Powell said]."

No comment necessary.

"She's accused of jeopardizing her children's health because of her paranoid fear of government."

Now that we know the kids have been proven not to be neglected, starved, dehydrated or frozen as per Robinson's complaint, she is now being charged with thought crimes that are tantamount to felonious injury to children? Are you paranoid if they really are out to get you?

Anonymous sources said the McGuckin children were not allowed to leave the property or talk to strangers. "'It's almost like living on a compound," said Robinson who wanted to somehow convince the children that nobody was going to hurt them.

Heresay. No signed statement -- no proof that these comments are true.

Benjamin reportedly walked to a neighbor's house, a county dentention officer and, after talking awhile, went with him to the sheriff's office. We believe that Benjamin was on a reconaissance patrol, could not cross enemy lines and get back to the house. We believe that his "surrender" was more akin to a "capture."

"'Pediatrician Joyce Gilbert and general practitioner Tom Lawrence examined Benjamin and found him to be malnourished,' Robinson said."

He may have been without food for two days. Drs. Gilbert and Lawrence (and Robinson) should know the difference between malnourishment and hunger.

Benjamin apparently took exception to the comment that he read survivalist magazines. A friend said that he liked Zane Grey.

Robinson said that Steele cannot represent the McGuckin children until he makes an appearance in court.

Where is the statute that makes this comment true?

"'Bull,' said Robinson. 'McGuckin brought the tragedy on herself.'"

No comment is necessary.

"'We didn't file criminal charges against her because she was poor....charges were filed 'when it became obvious to us that they were living in grossly substandard conditions because she chose to,' [Robinson said]."

What is standard? Where is the evidence of substandard? Where are the witness affidavits? Where is due process?

"Betty Gift, 68, showed up at the roadblock Friday at 8 a.m. and offered to take all of the McGuckin children."

Gift has reportedly known the family for years and has the room and the experience of raising nine children to ensure proper care. The state, though it professes to want what is best for the children and to keep them together, to our knowledge, has failed to take Gift up on the offer.

"'I'll do whatever it takes to get the kids out safely, even a pact with the devil himself,' [Jarvis said.]"

It does appear that something sinister is behind this surreal situation, doesn't it?

"Standoff fueling rhetoric" ~Spokesman-Review

Bill Morlin, who has made a career out of lumping every American who is concerned with vanishing liberty and encroaching government into his special category of anti-government, right-wing radical racists, said, "The 4-day old standoff in North Idaho is fueling hot talk in anti-government and militia circles."

Pardon my departure from style for a moment, but does anyone listen to that idiot any more? This matter has prompted the full spectrum of the American cultural fabric to become alarmed. The story's 20 column inches of ink was Morlin's attempt to turn this family tragedy into a soapbox from which he can spout his divisive and uninformed rhetoric.

"Dogs ran wild for years" ~Spokesman-Review

"But sheriff's officials say they've only received two complaints about the dogs in the past seven years...And state wildlife officials say they've never had a complaint..."

So, there is no evidence, no signed witness statements, no affidavits -- just heresay. McGuckin has not been charged with dog ordinance violations.

June 3

"A touch of Pooh helped end tense standoff with children" ~Spokesman-Review

On the promise of Jarvis that if he had anything to do with it the children would not be separated and a note from their mom, the five remaining Guckin children came out Saturday, June 3. The children were taken to Bonner General Hospital where they were examined and found to be in good health and good spirits. "Robinson said that his only regret about the week was that deputies hadn't put the children in state custody at their father's funeral a week ago Friday."

Is that Robinson's only regret? Rather than continue with this blow-by-blow comparison between fact and fiction as the story unfolds in the dominant media, let us take the rest of this page to list a few other things that the Bonner county prosecuting attorney might regret if he gave it a little more thought:

1. Robinson should regret having filed charges of felonious injury to children against McGuckin without first finding out if a) the charges had any merit and b) that he could stablish criminal intent.

2. If this incident was initiated by McGuckin's dogs coming off private property and biting a citizen, Robinson should regret having failed to proceed against the McGuckins for a dog ordinance violation.

3. Robinson should perhaps regret that the county did not go for the deal made by McGuckin that would have traded a 1.5-acre piece of property in the same area in payment of the delinquent tax debt.

4. Robinson should regret having failed to consider that six homeschooled children might be smart enough not to trust county officials who trick moms into being arrested.

5. Robinson should regret how so many things that have been said by "authorities" to justify their actions in this matter have been proven to be false or exaggerated.

6. Robinson should regret that his apparently malicious prosecution of the McGuckin family has made him, Bonner County and north Idaho look very bad and will cost, according to Bonner County Commissioner Tom Suttmeier, the taxpayers of Idaho an estimated $500,000 when the entire confrontation could have been avoided.

7. Robinson should regret that, in order to justify his actions, he has expended public resources to put the McGuckin residence under a bureaucratic microscope in hopes of finding evidence after he had her arrested.

8. Robinson should regret that he had no probable cause to have her arrested and that he has used the Bonner County Sheriff, the District Court, the Fire Marshall, the Plumbing and Electrical inspectors and the local media to help him save face.

9. Robinson should regret that he publicly stated that he wanted McGuckin to be held with an excessive bond to prevent her from getting out of jail to see her children.

10. Robinson should regret that he has shown just how malicious he and the government can be and that he would rather prosecute this widow and her orphans than show them the compassion that they have proven to deserve.

11. Robinson should regret how he has angered a nation over this incident.

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