From the November 2003 Idaho Observer:
CDA coin dealer unjustly held without bond since April, 2003
Lodge refuses to hear motions, continues trial until Feb.
by Don Harkins
COEUR D'ALENE -- Idaho District Federal Prosecutor Nancy Cook had area coin dealer Robert Mertens, 46, arrested on drug dealing and money laundering charges April 9, 2003. Since his arrest, Cook has stacked some 38 charges against Mertens that would put him in prison for over 600 years.
His trial, which was originally set for October 21 at the Federal Courthouse in CDA, has been continued until February 12, 2004 -- almost a year after his arrest. Mertens has been held without bond and his motions to schedule a bond hearing have been denied by Judge Edward Lodge.
Mertens believes that his support of the Weavers at the infamous federal siege at Ruby Ridge near Naples in 1992 is behind the malicious prosecution in his case.
Cook is also the federal prosecutor who apparently abused her authority to arrest David Hinkson of Grangeville last year. According to Hinkson, Cook said she would drop her prosecution against him if he would drop the civil case he had filed against her for prosecutorial misconduct. Hinkson refused Cook's compromise and has also been held without bond since last April.
Mertens has been a participating member of the CDA business community for over 20 years and belongs to several local and national business and numismatic associations.
Charges of possession of methamphetamines against Mertens were filed and dropped in 1994. Mertens claims he was framed for those charges as well.
Cook alleges, among other things, that Mertens was trafficking in cocaine, heroine, LSD and marijuana through his storefront in CDA. Thus far, Cook has provided no evidence to prove her charges. She is apparently basing her allegations on the testimony of a confidential informant named Don Stovall.
The confidential informant in this case, Don Stovall, has stolen $15,000 or more of collector coins from my business. Most were sold on e-Bay off his website www.Coin-Dog1.com. I have bank checks from my business to prove ownership of specific coins, Mertens explained.
Though he claims to have certified the chain of evidence and has attempted to file grand theft charges against Stovall, the feds refuse to seek an indictment of their confidential informant.
At the time of his arrest, the federal government seized all of his assets and inventory at his store. Federal agents also raided his home and the home of his mother, seizing unrelated personal papers and effects,and irreplaceable objects of sentimental value. Mertens also claims evidence that his older brother Gordon was brutally murdered in Salmon by corrupt law enforcement officials who stole $150,000 in antiques, gemstones and rare coins in 1982.
According to Mertens, several items, including $6,000 in certified coins on consignment to another local coin dealer have disappeared and are presumed stolen.
In my mother's house in Sandpoint, locked away in a 4,000-pound safe was indispensable evidence of my brother's murder. At a 4th of July gathering in honor of my late brother I showed this evidence to Stovall. This safe was later drilled into by the federal government who took these documents from my family. My 82-year-old mother also had other personal property stolen from this safe and others. Some of these things include her two-carat diamond wedding ring, seven 100 ounce silver bars and an eight-piece gold coin collection, Mertens said.
Mertens believes Stovall planted two hand guns, cocaine and marijuana in his CDA home the night before his April 9 arrest. These items were hidden in a box of miscellaneous coins and collectibles that he had out on consignment and was returning to my house. I believe this was all done with full knowledge and collusion by the federal government and that the feds and the Idaho State Police are covering up this grand theft of coins, mail fraud and other major crimes, said Mertens.
So far, the public has only been told the government's side of this case. To believe what the government has to say about Mertens, one would have to believe the worst about this man though there is no evidence to support its claims. Mertens has also established a pattern of civil conduct in his community over the last 20 years. From that pattern, it is impossible to believe Mertens is guilty of the charges being stacked against him.
On the other hand, the allegations against Cook contained in the civil action filed by Hinkson fit the pattern of prosecutorial abuse being established in this case.
Furthermore, Judge Lodge, who is denying bond and blocking Mertens' attempts to obtain items in discovery, has established a 20-year pattern of such judicial misconduct and has made a career of upholding the lawless actions of federal agents over the rights of citizens.
Mertens has contacted Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden regarding this matter. He has also asked Idaho Senator Larry Craig to recommend an FBI civil rights violation investigation into this case. Senator Craig's office returned a letter to me saying my case is under review, said Mertens.
As of this writing, Mertens looks forward to sitting in jail without bond and without any evidence against him until his trial in February. He has lost his business and his liquid assets have been seized so that he cannot raise the money to provide a proper defense for himself.
If you are interested in contributing to Mertens' defense fund or would like to receive more information about this case with the intent of helping justice to prevail in this case, write to Robert Mertens, c/o Marcella Mertens at
Mertens Legal Defense Fund, PO Box 957, Sagle, Idaho 83860.
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