Saturday, July 5, 2008

100 from Rainbow Family made appearances at a temporary federal court


Rainbows appear in court

By TOM MORTON - Casper Star-Tribune - 07/05/08

FARSON, Wyo. — More than 100 participants in the annual Rainbow Family of Living Light “Gathering of the Tribes” near Big Sandy made appearances at a temporary federal court at the fire station here this week.

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management had issued numerous citations and warnings, ranging from traffic violations to drug possession, during the week before the event semi-officially began Tuesday.

Chief U.S. District Judge William Downes signed the unusual order to create the temporary courtroom because the closest federal courtrooms to the gathering are in Green River, Lander and Jackson, he said Thursday.

Farson was chosen because it is close to the gathering and because it imposed the least inconvenience to law enforcement and the Rainbow gathering participants, Downes said. “We sent the magistrate judges to them.”

This marked the first time in Downes’ nine-year tenure that he has signed an order to create a temporary court, he said. “But it was clearly appropriate here.”

The court will remain as long as Rainbow gathering participants are in the area, he said.

About 40 participants appeared in court on Wednesday, and an unknown number appeared on Thursday, according to the clerk of federal court in Casper. One defendant on Wednesday apparently got out of hand and was subdued with a Taser, she said.

On Tuesday, about 70 participants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Marty of Green River.

One group of about a dozen defendants included a family with two children and a mother nursing an infant.

None of the defendants was in custody.

Seated behind the cited Rainbows were at least two dozen U.S. Forest Service and other law enforcement officers.

The Forest Service had assembled an incident management team of more than 40 officers from across the country, plus police dogs and administrative personnel, agency spokeswoman Rita Vollmer said before the gathering began. Vollmer did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Those cited by the Forest Service and other agencies had been charged with Class B misdemeanors, which are punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail, Marty told the court.

The U.S. attorney’s office did not recommend any jail sentences for any of the charges, she added.

Several defendants had been arrested for minor traffic violations, including lack of proof of insurance, expired registration, failure to use a turn signal, and parking five feet away from a posted area.

Based on the recommendations of U.S. Attorney Jim Anderson, Marty fined most of these defendants minor amounts such as $20, plus $25 in court costs and $10 for the victims’ compensation fund.

Marty dismissed the citation of a Colorado man whose vehicle had one of his two rear license plate bulbs burn out during his 700-mile trip to the gathering.

Jim Anderson told the court most drug charges he would prosecute were related to marijuana possession, and he would recommend fines of $250.

However, one defendant who possessed multiple drugs and fireworks received a fine of $400.

Like other Rainbow Family events, the courtroom scenes took on their own surreal flavor.

The defendant with the $400 fine shook the hand of an officer before she left the building.

Other defendants mouthed, “We love you,” to the officers.

One officer gave a toy badge to a child of one of the defendants.

Another officer recorded the courtroom with a video camera. Recording and other electronic devices are forbidden in federal courtrooms unless a judge authorizes their use, Downes said.

Outside the fire station, Forest Service officers took their police dogs around vehicles to sniff for drugs.

U.S. marshals brought out a case of bottled water for the defendants lined up at the tent where security personnel conducted searches.

There, too, Rainbows made nice with the government.

One Rainbow asked a marshal how he kept a straight face.

“I’m smiling on the inside,” he responded.