From the July 2003 Idaho Observer:

“You are not to reference the Constitution ...”

by Vin Suprynowicz

Protesting a Denver ordinance against bearing arms, business owner and Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Rick Stanley late last year strapped on a hip holster bearing a .380 Beretta (fellow protester Duncan Philp chose a shoulder rig) during a Dec. 15 rally celebrating the 210th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.

He'd advertised what he was going to do and invited Denver police to come get him. They did. He was peacefully arrested by 18 officers, and brought to trial on May 15 in the municipal court of Judge Robert L. Patterson.

It was defense attorney Paul Grant's voir dire questioning of a potential juror who was also a police officer that gave the first indication of the way things were going to go in Judge Patterson's courtroom. “I asked her when you became a police officer didn't you take an oath to protect and defend the constitutions of the United States and the state of Colorado. She said, 'I guess I did; I can't remember.' I asked her were you ever instructed in those constitutional rights, and she said no. “Then I asked her, if the judge were to instruct you that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the defendant a right to keep and bear arms, do you think you could follow his instructions?”

Stanley describes “pandemonium” erupting in the Denver courtroom halfway through his attorney's question, the city attorney leaping to his feet to object as the judge banged his gavel.

Dismissing the prospective jurors for lunch, Judge Patterson began to lecture Grant, instructing him, according to both Grant's recollection and Stanley's, “I already sent you an order in this case. The order has been mailed to your offices. You are not to mention the Constitution during this proceeding. Do you understand?”

Grant replied that he did not.

The defendant and his attorney report that the judge said, “Then I'll explain it again. You are not to reference the Constitution in these proceedings. You will not address it in voir dire, you will not address it in your opening remarks, you will not ask any questions about the Constitution when you summon your witnesses, and you will not talk about the Constitution when you give your closing arguments. Do you understand my instructions?”

A jury of five women and one man -- not including the cop -- was finally seated. Grant then presented to the judge (he was not allowed to make this argument to the jury) the affirmative defense that both the Second Amendment and the Constitution of Colorado, Article II, protect the defendant's right to keep and bear arms, citing a Colorado Supreme Course as a controlling precedent.

But Judge Patterson rejected that defense argument along with all others, replying (according to Grant, Stanley and another witness) that precedents of the Colorado Supreme Court and even the Constitution of Colorado are not applicable in Denver, because Denver is a home-rule city.

After closing arguments, MIT graduate David Bryant, who serves as public information director for the Libertarian Party of Colorado and also as Stanley's campaign treasurer, approached Assistant City Attorney Paul Puckett to see if he could clarify his understanding of Judge Patterson's remarks. “As I understand it,” Bryant recalls saying to Puckett, “Judge Patterson just said that because I live in Denver, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of Colorado do not protect any of my rights from the government of Denver. Is that your understanding? Is the city government free to deny all the rights secured to me by the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of Colorado, so long as they only do it here, in Denver?” “Yes,” Bryant claims he was told by Puckett. “The Constitution has no force or effect in Denver, because this is a home rule city.”

Reached at his office in Denver, Mr. Puckett responds: “Unfortunately the judge didn't say that, nor did I. Those were the words of Mr. Bryant, who reported them in his, whatever, on the Internet, not a very unbiased observer. What I did tell him in the courtroom was that Denver, as a home-rule city, has a right to pass reasonable regulations on the carrying of weapons. That's under their home-rule status and the constitution of the state of Colorado, and I referred him to a recent court of appeals case finding that ordinance constitutional. But no, the rest of it is fiction.

(Judge Patterson did not return my calls.)

Rick Stanley's jury reached a unanimous “guilty” verdict after deliberating one hour. Stanley could face a $999 fine and up to a year in jail at sentencing, now scheduled for July 25. Stanley says he'll appeal.

The statists currently running our legal system will insist this is the way things are supposed to go, of course -- if there's any constitutional problem with the victim disarmament statute it'll be decided at the appellate level, years from now, assuming Stanley and co-defendant Philp can afford the tens of thousands of dollars necessary to get that far.

But that's pernicious nonsense. What other constitutional rights could be violated so blatantly, and with such impunity? If the Denver City Council passed an ordinance banning Presbyterian sermons within city limits; or free speech by anyone but Republicans (and then only on Tuesdays from noon to 3), would Judge Patterson sit there and simper, “I have no choice but to enforce the law as written. The defendant was clearly caught conducting a Presbyterian religious service within the city limits”?

I don't think so. I think it's just our gun rights.

To contribute to the appeals fund, send checks to attorney Paul Grant “for the defense of Rick Stanley and Duncan Philp” at 6426 S. Quebec St., Englewood, Colo. 80111.


Vin Suprynowicz, the Las Vegas Review-Journal's assistant editorial page editor, is author of “The Ballad of Carl Drega.” This column originally appeared Sunday, June 23, 2003.

Note: Rick Stanley is one of the most fearless and dedicated freedom fighters it has ever been my pleasure to meet. He traveled all the way cross country with us for Freedom Drive 2002 and has proven himself to be worthy of every American's appreciation and respect for the personal sacrifices he makes every day in the effort to restore to the people of this nation their right to life, liberty and property.

As it stands now, Stanley has vowed that he will not give up his right to keep and bear arms, nor will he give up any other constitutionally protected right. It is possible that the federal government is at this time planning to raid Stanley's premises. The feds will either capture or kill this outstanding American. Stanley does not believe they will capture him.

For almost daily updates as to developments in the federal government's refusal to obey the law and other collected items of national interest and importance, subscribe for free to The Stanley Scoop.

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