Criminal Justice

Baby Snatching: It's Hilarious When We Just Don't Like Their Kind


A fascinating culture-war blog entry plus comments at Wonkette, well worth reading for people confused as hell as why Sarah Palin is able to succeed selling a sense of "they hate us but really we are more than OK" to lots of Americans.

The setup: a couple in New Hampshire had their baby stolen from them by government agents–which I think most normal humans recognize as one of the most wrenching, horrific, violative of one's integrity and liberty things that a state, or anyone, could possibly do–whatever the reason for it might be.

The affidavit about the snatch lists ongoing charges of child neglect against the mother regarding her other two children, and charges against the father involving weapons possession without a license, as among the reasons for the kidnapping.

The affidavit also** [see update below]–and this is why it has become a populist right cause celebre on the Internet–the father, Jonathan Irish, has "associated with a militia known as the, 'Oath Keepers,' and had purchased several different types of weapons including a rifle, handgun, and taser."

Wonkette finds it absolutely hilarious that anyone might be alarmed that political associations (with a group whose greatest sin is a refusal on the part of its members who are agents of the U.S. government to enforce unconstitutional orders) and weapons possession might be among the reasons listed for the state taking custody of a child from its parents.

The author and commenters goes on with some incredibly mean-spirited class-based mockery that is actually kind of extraordinary–especially in the monolithic ability of people to laugh at baby snatching as long as it occurs to those kind of people. We don't like those kind of people. There is even an incredibly un-self-aware, head-up-the-ass comment asking the angry right-wing populists to do a racial inversion on the situation (the parents are white)–not wondering for a minute how funny Wonkette Assembled would find all the assumed language, class, and diet mockery in the thread in the case of such an inversion.

See some very pro-parent accounts of the situation from Alex Jones' Prison Planet site (including the first page of the affidavit) and from the Daily Tea Party site, including a YouTube interview with Mr. Irish.

UPDATE: The most recent version of the Prison Planet account notes that the point mentioning Mr. Irish's membership in Oath Keepers is from a "different separate document" than the apparent order regarding why New Hampshire's Division for Children, Youth, and Families took the child, which means the way the story was being framed by everyone from Prison Planet to Wonkette to me in the original post is almost certainly wrong–that is, his alleged membership in Oath Keepers seems as if it does not have anything to do with the actual legal excuses for the child snatching. [See Update IV below] That does not affect the strange reactions of the Wonkette folk, who believed that was the case as much as the angry right-wing populists across the Internet believed it was the case. (And as I believed was the case, given the way the document had been presented on those two sites earlier today, and is still presented on the Daily Tea Party site.)

UPDATE PART II: While it is unclear whether Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, was also misled, as Wonkette and I were, by the way prominent right-populist web sites presented the supposed documents, he is insisting on his web site that he has:

confirmed that the affidavit in support of the order to take the child from her parents  states ,along with a long list of other assertions  against both parents, that "The Division became aware and confirmed that Mr. Irish associated with a militia known as the Oath Keepers."     Yes, there are other, very serious allegations.  Out of respect for the privacy of the parents, we will not publish the affidavit.  We will leave that to Mr. Irish.   But please do remember that allegations do not equal facts—they are merely allegations (and in my  experience as a criminal defense lawyer in small town Montana I saw many allegations that proved to be false).

UPDATE III: The Concord Monitor reports on protests outside the hospital where the baby-taking occurred, with these details, sounding as if the reporter saw the whole affidavit, with more details on the accusations against the parents. (Whether anyone thinks an act of violence as severe as taking a newborn from parents is justified by these sorts of procedures is the big question):

By mid afternoon, about 20 people who had never met the couple gathered at Concord Hospital to protest what they termed the state's unconstitutional interference in a family matter. None claimed to know anything about government's allegations that Irish had beaten his fiancee or her young children, but they said they were outraged that the affidavit supporting the taking of his newborn mentioned Irish's association with a group called the Oath Keepers….

But according to an affidavit provided to Irish by the state Division for Children, Youth and Families, state officials took the child because of Irish's long record of violence and abuse. According to the affidavit, a judge determined that Irish abused Taylor's two other children. She is still married to the father of those children, though Taylor said yesterday that her husband has refused to accept her divorce petition for the past two years.

The affidavit also says that the police in Rochester report a "lengthy history of domestic violence" between Taylor and Irish, and that she accused him of choking and hitting her on more than one occasion. According to the document, Irish failed to complete a domestic violence course as ordered by the state, and that a hearing was held last month to terminate Taylor's parental rights over her two older children.

Taylor "has failed to recognize the impact of domestic violence in her life and the potential danger it poses to a newborn baby," the affidavit reads. "Mr. Irish has not acknowledged any responsibility to date and remains a significant safety risk to an infant in his care. . . . Without the intervention of the court, the infant will be at risk of harm."

Irish, 24, said in an interview yesterday that he had never abused his fiancee or her other children. He said he was unemployed and collected disability because he is blind in his left eye from a childhood accident. He said that Taylor suffers from "stress-induced seizure disorder" and that complications during her pregnancy required him to tend to her almost constantly. He said he has no lawyer, though a hearing in the matter has been scheduled for next week.

The affidavit also states that Irish is "associated with a militia known as the Oath Keepers and had purchased several different types of weapons including a rifle, handgun and Taser."

And the FBI brought bomb-sniffing dogs to the protest, reports local TV station WMUR.

UPDATE IV: Stuart Rhodes at the Oathkeepers site provides an actual scanned (though with some of the specific accusations against the couple redacted) version of the documents that show that indeed, despite the confusing way Prison Planet first presented them, that noting Irish's Oathkeepers membership was indeed part of the official set of reasons stated for snatching his girlfriend's and his baby. Relevent quotes from Rhodes:

below you will find an embedded PDF which contains the full (though redacted) versions of the following documents:  the two Petitions (one pertaining to each parent), the Court's Ex Parte Order, the  Affidavit of Dana Bickford which was attached, the Motion for Change of Venue, and lastly, the Notice to Accused Parent, explaining the legal process.   We have highlighted in yellow all text where the Petitions or the Court Order refers to the Affidavit which contains reference to Oath Keepers.

By looking at the below documents, you will be able to see from the two Petitions, the Order, and Affidavit item #7, in that order, that:

1.  Both Petitions state:  "7. Details or Details or facts of abuse/neglect (attach separate sheet if necessary):  See affidavit filed with the Concord Family Court."

2.  The Court's Ex Parte Order states:

"Findings of Fact:

There is reasonable cause to believe that the child is in such circumstances or surroundings as would present an imminent danger to the child's health or life, which require the immediate placement of the child for the following reasons:

See attached affidavit"

Thus, the Court's Order does, in fact, refer to, and adopt all of the reasons given in the Affidavit as being the reasons for the order.

3.  The Attached Affidavit, referenced by the Petitions and adopted by the Court as its findings of fact, includes, at #7:  "The Division became aware and confirmed that Mr. Irish associated with a militia known as the, "Oath Keepers," and had purchased several different types of weapons, including a rifle, handgun and taser."

This is how all such petitions are done.  The same goes for a restraining order. The petition is supported by affidavit laying out the reasons, and then if the judge finds those reasons sufficient, he or she issues the order. Such orders always rely on the affidavit attached to the petition.  And in this case, the Order explicitly states that the reasons in support are listed in the "attached affidavit."