Free Speech

A Grieving Father Is Standing Trial for Criticizing a Judge on Facebook

Jonathan Vanderhagen believes a judge doomed his son to an early death. The judge says Vanderhagen's Facebook posts were intimidating.

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A Michigan man was jailed last month on a $500,000 bond after writing critical posts on Facebook about the judge who denied him custody of his son. Jonathan Vanderhagen, 35, is now standing trial for malicious use of telecommunication services.

The saga began two years ago when Vanderhagen petitioned Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Rachel Rancilio for sole custody of his 2-year-old son, Killian. Vanderhagen argued that Killian's biological mother was unfit to be Killian's sole guardian. Judge Rancilio disagreed and the child's mother was able to retain custody. 

Shortly after the custody dispute, Killian passed away in his mother's care from what authorities concluded was a preexisting medical condition.

Despite that conclusion, Vanderhagen believed that Killian would still be alive had he been granted custody. Since his son's death in 2017, Vanderhagen has used his Facebook page to criticize Rancilio's custody ruling. Those posts, none of which were deemed threatening by the police department that investigated them, landed Vanderhagen in jail. 

According to a complaint and an emergency bond hearing provided to Reason by Vanderhagen's lawyer, Nicholas Somberg, Vanderhagen was charged with one misdemeanor count of malicious use of telecommunication services due to his criticism of Rancilio. The definition of "malicious use" includes using a telecommunication service with the intention of terrorizing, intimidating, threatening, or harassing Rancilio.

The case report filled out by Sgt. Jason Conklin of the Macomb County Sheriff's Office notes that Rancilio was made aware of Vanderhagen's posts, several of which included screenshots of her own Facebook page and pins on Pinterest. The screenshots are accompanied by captions promising to expose the corruption of the court system and calling Rancilio and Mary Duross, a 14-year veteran Friend of the Court who was involved in the custody case, "shady." 

"At no point does [Vanderhagen] threaten harm or violence towards Rancilio or Duross," Conklin wrote in the case report.

Conklin took various screenshots of Vanderhagen's Facebook posts, including the following. 

Dada back to digging & you best believe im gonna dig up all the skeletons in this court's closet ????

Posted by Jonathan Vanderhagen on Monday, July 8, 2019

The Facebook post in question shows Vanderhagen holding a shovel with the photoshopped initials R.R. and M.D., believed to be Rancillio and Duross, respectively. The caption says, "Dada back to digging [and] you best believe [I'm] gonna dig up all the skeletons in this court's closet."

The post was published to Facebook on July 8. Somberg explains to Reason that the date of this particular post should have jeopardized the case brought against Vanderhagen.

Vanderhagen received a letter from Sgt. Morfino, dated July 10, informing him that there was a warrant for his arrest for malicious use of telecommunications. The letter says the actions occurred "on or about" July 7. Vanderhagen was arraigned before the Macomb County District Court on July 11.

Vanderhagen was released on a $10,000 bond under the condition that he would not engage in direct or third-party contact with Rancilio. Vanderhagen was also prohibited from sending "inadvertent messages by way of Facebook" to Rancilio.

Following the arraignment, Vanderhagen continued to use Facebook to post about his son, his son's mother, and his case, topics Somberg argues are not in violation of the bond conditions set on July 11. Regardless, Vanderhagen was summoned to appear before District Judge Sebastian Lucido at the end of July for an emergency bond hearing, allegedly for "posting messages" about Rancilio.

A list of exhibits presented to the court highlights Facebook posts calling his son a hero, criticisms of his son's mother, and criticisms of "the system," none of which directly referenced Rancilio.

The only reference to Rancilio is found in Exhibit 1, which features screenshots of Vanderhagen's July 8 Facebook post. Considering Vanderhagen did not receive his bond conditions until three days after that Facebook post was published online, however, its inclusion seems like an inappropriate attempt to paint Vanderhagen as more of a threat than he actually is.

In a transcript of the exchange between Somberg and Judge Lucido at the emergency bond hearing, Somberg argued that Vanderhagen has a First Amendment right to air his court-related grievances online:

MR. SOMBERG: Every one of these exhibits are innocuous, are irrelevant, are not threatening, are not harassing or not intimidating in any way whatsoever. And I would make the argument that he can F say the Judge, F the President of the United States. I mean you have the right to say that stuff.

Lucido's responded that there are "limits" to the First Amendment right to free speech:

THE COURT: There cannot be anything of a threatening nature. You can't yell. They used the example, the famous case, you can't yell fire in a public place or movie theater, something like that. We're talking about threatening a sitting Circuit Court Judge is the original allegation against Mr. Vanderhagen. When there's a no contact, it's no contact directly, indirectly or social media. These are [although] he likes to hint around the fringes of it, in my opinion they are of a threatening nature after the no contact was put in place.

Somberg then asked Lucido to explain why the other posts were considered threatening towards Rancilio. Lucido told Somberg that the Facebook posts "speak for themselves:"

THE COURT: You can sit there and read every one of them if you want but [they're] already part of the record.

MR. SOMBERG: I understand that, your Honor, but you just said that you found the exhibits to show that they are threatening in nature. I'm just asking what—

THE COURT: Correct—

MR. SOMBERG: —is threatening about them.

THE COURT: —because [they're] alluding to Judge Rancilio and I'm not going to sit here and explain it any further. But here's what I am going to read and what is also put in LEIN. Do not harass, intimidate, beat, molest, wound, stalk, threaten or engage in any other conduct that would place any of the following persons or a child of any of the following person's in reasonable fear of bodily injury, spouse, former spouse, individual with whom the defendant has a child in common, resident or former resident of the household. Do not assault, harass, intimidate, beat, wound or threaten the following persons, Rachel Rancilio. And in my opinion, he's violated that.

"People have a constitutional right to express opinions about government officials, including judges," says Loyola Law School Professor Aaron Caplan. "Defendants who appear before a judge have this right, just like anybody else. It might not be wise to criticize the judge hearing your case, but it is a right that defendants have if they want to exercise it."

Caplan notes that free speech "does not include the right to make what the law calls 'true threats' to inflict bodily harm on any other person, including judges."

Yet Conklin, the investigating sergeant in Vanderhagen's case, concluded that "[a]t no point does [Vanderhagen] threaten harm or violence towards Rancilio or Duross."

Not only does it appear that Vanderhagen's First Amendment rights have been violated, Judge Lucido also increased Vanderhagen's bond to $500,000, raising questions about the use of excessive bail amounts as a means of further punishing and suppressing Vanderhagen's speech. 

In an emergency appeal, Somberg argued that legal precedent states that "bail is excessive if it is in an amount greater than reasonably necessary to adequately assure that the accused will appear when his…presence is required." The nature of the offense, Somberg continued, also raises questions about the $500,000 bond. Vanderhagen was charged with a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Somberg can see no logical explanation for the court's decision to increase Vanderhagen's bond 50 times the initial amount. Vanderhagen has no criminal record. Nor is he a registered firearm owner. These factors, Somberg argues, would justify a lower bond, not a higher bond.

In a statement to Reason, Somberg likens the high bond to intimidation. "He has never threatened anybody, has no criminal history, and is no flight risk. A $500,000 cash bond is what you would expect for a murderer or rapist. I can't think of any other reason to set such an astronomically high bond other than to intimidate and punish him for his speech. We are fighting this case not just for my client but to defend the constitutional rights of all of us," Somberg says.

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  1. The definition of “malicious use” includes using a telecommunication service with the intention of terrorizing, intimidating, threatening, or harassing …

    Wouldn’t it be sweet if these same laws could be used against police, prosecutors, judges, bureaucrats, and politicians; ie, all the government agents who are responsible for most of the terrorizing, intimidating, threatening, and harassing which goes on in this country?

    1. That would violate the basic principle–that our great nation’s criminal justice system is meant to protect the interests of respectable, honored members of society, not of one or another individual who decides to harass the well-to-do with inappropriate online “criticism”–established in America’s leading criminal “parody” case. See the documentation at:

      https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    2. No kidding.

      Meanwhile Hillary never faced proper justice for her emails and Smollett gets away with fabricating a hoax.

      Bull shit system.

      1. So long as the legal system is run by human beings instead of Seraphim, there are going to be injustices. Our system, while far from perfect, is a notable improvement on most others. That said, I hope that the eventual charge of civil rights violation ruins that goddamned Judge.

        1. Wasn’t Lucifer a Seraphim?

    3. Or annoying. So if the dirty-robed bitch Rancilio is annoyed, Jonathan has violated this criminal law. The statute — 750.540E — is vague, overbroad, violates 1A. It is unconstitutional on its face AND as applied to Jonathan Vanderhagen.

  2. This brings to mind the wood chipper brouhaha a couple of years back; federal attorneys and judges will not brook criticism and they will construe it as threatening, First Amendment be damned.

    1. But here there’s the added question of who should be first in line. The thin-skinned judge who started this whole mess, the unnamed judge who approved a patently unconstitutional prior restraint or the hack who escalated the whole mess?

      With luck, the Appeals Court will quickly step in and quash this whole mess. If there were any justice, the Appeals Court would go further and sanction all the judges involved.

      1. “If there were any justice, the Appeals Court would go further and sanction all the judges involved.”

        Don’t hold your breath.

      2. Who says they can’t all be lined up against the wall?

        1. That leaves their entire backsides tar-free and featherless.

          1. Tar and feathers is so last century. I say tar and lit matches.

        2. Lynching, though a temptation, is a poor answer. It gets sidetracked into the punishment of scapegoats far too easily.

    2. I was thinking the same thing. As in that case, this seems like another instance in which the infamous Reason Woodchipper needs to come out of the shed and checked for fluids. Fuck this judge. Talk about using your power to fuck over somebody that has none.

  3. The old liberal formulation about how we should all be free to do as we please so long as we don’t harm anyone else has always been inadequate. Criticizing other people, especially public officials, can be and is harmful to them, their future prospects, their ability to be reelected and appointed elsewhere, etc. The correct formulation is that we should all be free to do as we please so long as we don’t violate anyone’s rights. I fail to see that this man violated anyone’s rights in criticizing this judge, and if the law says that he should be found guilty despite the fact that he didn’t violate anyone’s rights, then the law is wrong.

    P.S. For both Reason’s and your own benefit, I would caution anyone here against making any statements in this thread that could be easily misconstrued as threatening towards this or any other judge. It isn’t always a question of right or wrong. Sometimes it’s a question of whether being right is worth the hassle. If you can see the logic in not wasting the time and energy to argue with a troll like Tony, . . .

    1. You need to stand up to bullies, publically. It’s the only way to make them stop. The entire reason our government is as fucked up as it is, is because people have repeatedly decided it’s not worth it to get excited about the excesses of the bureaucrats. The more press these corrupt assholes get, the better, let everyone see them for what they are.

    2. Your alternative — NAP only applies to not violating rights — doesn’t hold water either. What about the right to not be harmed?

      I’ve tried coming up with some formulation which puts the emphasis on individuals. If you don’t like what someone is saying, there are several remedies:
      1 He shuts up.
      2 He moves away.
      3 You put on headphones.
      4 You move away.
      5 You ignore him.
      6 He pays you for harming your silence.
      The first four both require effort by one or the other parties. The last also does, but additionally requires measuring that harm, not an easy task. Only the fifth (ignore him) requires no real action from anybody.

      What kind of simple legal language can specify “grow a thicker skin”?

      1. You forgot #A-Prime: Work with the other person to come to a compromise you can both live with.

        Sometimes the law is an inadequate mechanism for dealing with a social dispute. Sometimes people argue. That is life. Expecting the law to come in and protect people from inconvenience is expecting too much of the law. Indeed, it is because so many people expect the law to solve every problem that our collective capacity to work shit out on our own has atrophied.

        A year or two ago, I got fed up with my kids constantly coming to me with their little disputes. I finally said “If there is no harm or potential harm to property or person, I don’t want to hear about it.” It was brutal for months, but eventually the kids have worked out mechanisms for living under the same roof. It isn’t perfect, but at least these children have figured out a way to live with people that bug the shit out of them. It is sad that grown adults cannot do the same.

        1. Sometimes people don’t want to compromise. Or consider the second amendment. Gunnies have compromised time after time, and the only result is the hoplophobes coming back with more demands.

          Or consider the basic heckler’s veto. My freedom of speech does not require me to compromise with every snowflake who is offended. Take this guy in this case — what kind of compromise should he make with this judge — stop calling him out? No, the judge is wrong and that’s all there is to that.

          1. If I thought their positions were honest, I would say that somebody needed to explain to the Radical Left that the First Amendment promised them that the State would not censor their speech or their writing. It does not promise them a publisher, a podium, or an audience. They have a right to speak. We have a right to ignore them.

    3. P.S. For both Reason’s and your own benefit, I would caution anyone here against making any statements in this thread that could be easily misconstrued as threatening towards this or any other judge.

      If I fear for my safety if I exercise my 1A rights, can I have her locked up for that?

    4. Yes, we should voluntarily give up our rights, so that they won’t be violated. Sounds like a winning strategy. For those who hate freedom anyway.

  4. “He has never threatened anybody, has no criminal history, and is no flight risk. A $500,000 cash bond is what you would expect for a murderer or rapist. I can’t think of any other reason to set such an astronomically high bond other than to intimidate and punish him for his speech.”

    The reason Vladimir Putin has his critics and adversaries assassinated using radioactive isotopes is because he wants the world to know that he’s the one who had them assassinated.

    Yes, the most likely explanation for why this man is being subjected to such an unjust bail amount is because they want to intimidate the rest of us into not criticizing public officials.

    I’d say it’s ironic to see someone wrongly charged for intimidating a public official–only to have public officials try to intimidate the rest of us into silence–but “ironic” often implies “unexpected”–and hypocrisy by public officials is by no means unexpected.

    1. Yes, the most likely explanation for why this man is being subjected to such an unjust bail amount is because they want to intimidate the rest of us into not criticizing public officials.

      Hm, if any of the information regarding this case and the bail increase have been sent over email or anything like that by the courts, couldn’t they be charged with malicious use of telecommunications services?

  5. VERY concerning. I don’t see any way to characterise Judge Lucido’s actions but disgusting. Nothing Mr. Vanderhagen has done comes even close to stepping outside the boundaries of the First Amendment. Lucido shouldn’t have allowed the charge to be brought in the first place.

    Unfortunately, as someone who grew up in the Detroit area, I know that the Lucido’s don’t have much sympathy for decent citizens. I’m old enough to remember when his father Jack’s ‘golf club’ was seized by the Feds over its use by the mob for money laundering. I’m sure he cried buckets over that. The grief of the father of a murdered son, however, is obviously a different matter.
    https://archive.li/RpBpv#selection-1681.0-1697.194

  6. The progressive/ feminist movement strikes again. Killing kids and jailing innocent men.

    1. Damned patriarchy, blaming feminists for wanting women to be free to do other things than care for their children.

  7. The definition of “malicious use” includes using a telecommunication service with the intention of terrorizing, intimidating, threatening, or harassing Rancilio.

    I wonder if the local cops or sheriff’s office ever threatens, intimidates, or harasses anyone over social media. They routinely post mugshots and make accusations against people. Surely that’s at least considered harassment and intimidation.

  8. The leviathan protects itself. This is as obvious a wrongly decided case and effort at intimidation as we’ll ever see. Asserting those comments were threats should get him removed from the bench permanently.

    1. In other words, “we the people” are the servants in the government’s eyes rather than the masters.

      The government’s rationale goes like this:

      Do exactly what I say, and we’ll get along fine. Do not question me or talk back in any way. You do not have the right to object to anything I may say or ask you to do, or ask for clarification if my demands are unclear or contradictory. You must obey me under all circumstances without hesitation, no matter how arbitrary, unreasonable, discriminatory, or blatantly racist my commands may be. Anything other than immediate perfect servile compliance will be labeled as resisting arrest, and expose you to the possibility of a violent reaction from me. That reaction could cause you severe injury or even death. And I will suffer no consequences. It’s your choice: Comply, or die.

      https://thewashingtonstandard.com/martial-law-masquerading-as-law-and-order-the-police-states-language-of-force/

  9. “…because [they’re] alluding to Judge Rancilio and I’m not going to sit here and explain it any further…”

    This is the trueman argument:
    ‘I posted it; I’m right and no, you’re not getting any supporting material!’

  10. Looks like Rachel Rancilio went to the Preet Law School for Judging.

  11. Michigan doesn’t have an anti-SLAPP law, but has a “malicious prosecution” law that serves much the same purpose. I do hope it gets used here.

    1. Yes, please. These judges need held accountable for this embarrassing misuse of taxpayer funded machinery of violence.

  12. Could be wrong here, but frankly all of this goes back to the problems associated with immunity involving judges and other public officials.

    Since you cannot personally hold these jerks accountable for their professional behavior, you are limited to humiliating them publicly. And now the judge in question wants to weasel out of that.

    The problem then results in violence. If you give people no recourse to the whims of authority eventually violence is what you get. I’ve seen this play out in country after country when things start to fall apart.

    The fact that those pushing these actions fail to realize that they will not be the winners in such contests is even more worrisome. Which is why the intellectuals always get the axe first when socialists take over and the guys running the joint are always creeps like Beria, Stalin and Mao,

    1. Good job Peacedog!!! I do agree!!! Let’s keep on barking up the tree, even when we think that one one is listening! We WILL have our way one day, SOME sunny day!

      (Peace is good, war is bad. Same as freedom is good, and slavery sucks! Contrarians, PLEASE suck my balls!)

  13. Somberg can see no logical explanation for the court’s decision to increase Vanderhagen’s bond 50 times the initial amount.

    No? Here’s a hint: professional courtesy is a helluva drug.

  14. Under our current system of Just Us, criticizing a judge is not permitted and judges invariably stand by one another. It behooves the rest of us to recognize that in the U.S. today, anyone holding an office that calls for them to be addressed as honorable almost certainly is not.

    1. Judges are members and guardians of their guild first and foremost.

  15. “At no point does [Vanderhagen] threaten harm or violence towards Rancilio or Duross,”

    But that’s not the point.
    Big Government does not allow criticism because it’s made up of a bunch of hypersensitive snowflakes that brook no opposition to what they say or do.

  16. wow jail bc the judge is a pussy. america.

  17. “Those posts, none of which were deemed threatening by the police department that investigated them, landed Vanderhagen in jail.” I saw nothing inherently “threatening” in the post but we live in the “sensitive” “P.C.” times of “micro-aggressions.” The photo of Vanderhagen with a shovel to be used to “dig up the skeletons in the court’s closet” was probably (deliberately) misconstrued as a threat to kill and bury the judge. I once used the old expression “Heads MAY roll” and some incompetent took it to mean I was threatening to bring back the use of the guillotine against him!

    1. Tell me more about this guillotine.

      1. Designed as a more merciful means of execution, back when executions actually took place.

  18. The legal system is totally broken. It needs to be rooted out and built completely new. I suspect we could improve things greatly by getting rid of Common Law, as it seems to exist solely to make attorneys necessary.
    Every judge, lawyer and legal professional in the country needs to be disbarred, the law schools closed down, and the system rebuilt from the ground up.

  19. A Rattling Good Brief by the Michigan ACLU for Nehru Littleton:
    https://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/People_v_Littleton_ACLU_Amicus_Brief.pdf

    Now it didn’t work for Nehru Littleton because he got antsy and threw in the towel and copped a plea. And besides, Littleton’s bombast was right alarming, if you ask me, although his threats did not constitute true threats within the purview of _Elonis_ and other relevant caselaw.

    But this doggone rattling brief ought to work wonders for Jonathan Vanderhagen in the piddling misdemeanor case now in session against him in Macomb County, entitled _State of Michigan vs. Jonathan Vanderhagen,_ charging him with insluting butthurt-buttcheeks Rachael Pompousass Rancilio, the radfem quack snowflake judge who dumped his beloved but delicate little baby boy on his unfit mama druggie ex.

    I’d be cussing her too. Oh, shades of Niketh Velamoor and Preet Bharararara.

    And don’t be correcting my misspelling. It was intentional.

    1. Hopefully the ACLU of Michigan steps up again for this clear infringement of the First Amendment, too. Their efforts to continually defend rights that are well settled (but also well ignored by petulant judges) are much appreciated.

    2. “insluting” was intentional?

      1. Yep, and you know, I should have said something about the ultimate scholarly brief, by Prof. Eugene Volokh, which says that when you address the whole world, as Vanderhagen did, and badmouth someone without sending the message directly to them, or in this case the shyster Rancilio, without more there is no violation of law. This is just another dirty rotten cyberstalking case in different raiment, with bad law to support it.

        If prosecutions like this scarecrow are allowed to prevail, then 1A is in danger.
        So I’m hoping Profs Volokh, Caplan, and Scott Greenfield will issue opinions. MSM too. There are courts higher than SCOTUS: the law reviews.

      2. As in, “Please don’t inslut my sisters’ career as an exotic dancer.”

    3. > And besides, Littleton’s bombast was right alarming, if you ask me

      Yew meen bumblast dont chew, baldy?

  20. If someone were to incite thousands of people to send Mr Lucido copies of Ken White’s (“Popehat”) guide to bad arguments about free speech, would that be a crime? Asking for a friend.

    1. Let us know when your friend gets out of jail, will you?

    2. Have at it. Longtobefree is pulling your leg. You can send that one-eyed skank anything you want to, long as it’s not a threat or otherwise contraband.

      1. Thats ire larry shamie ervin sniffs butt fa ye… Dumb as uh fence post…

  21. Where is the ACLU to defend this man? Joking.

    The choice of the words “digging up” and “skeletons” along with the shovel probably ruffled their feathers.

    Civil servants, often appointed rather than elected, are considered a protected class now by the Deep State.

    1. The ACLU has a proud, even though imperfect, history of defending the First Amendment. Credit where credit is due. They did so recently (and successfully) in a case very similar to this one in Washington State (Rynearson v. Ferguson).

  22. The lawyer better be careful. The judge may find his arguments “intimidating.”

    A judge with skin this thin should be removed from the bench, if not disbarred.

    1. Exactly right. Sad how many inferiors are allowed to slip into robes. While character failing has likely been a consistent part of those in the judicial profession, it seems these days they don’t even try to sound convincing or plausible when they rule for nonsense. It’s as if they have no pride at all.

  23. The definition of “malicious use” includes using a telecommunication service with the intention of terrorizing, intimidating, threatening, or harassing – – – –

    So every speech by a democrat is malicious use if it gets broadcast or put on social media? Because their platform is all of the above.
    Cool!

  24. Given that this is a Reason article, I’m confident Mr. Somberg is familiar with Professor Volokh. The good professor litigated a similar case in Moriwaki v. Rynearson (on appeal) where a judge and her friend hemmed up a man for his critical Facebook posts despite him not having a criminal record, no history of threats or violence, not even any profanity. Then turned around and sued the State of Washington in federal court and got the “cyberstalking” law struck down.

    The court filings and decisions are on the media page of StopClarenceMoriwaki dot com if interested. The Timeline of the page gives the context. Similar stories and hopefully Mr. V has a similar victory against insecure tyrants in robes who have no concern for their judicial obligations.

  25. “People have a constitutional right to express opinions about government officials, including judges,”

    In fact most especially judges, since they claim most exalted status.

  26. Don’t criticize the judiciary’s right to grovel on their bellies before females and to try to force everyone else to.

  27. Of course it’s intimidation. This guy is a nobody. I’d like to see tough guy Judges Rancilio do it to people in higher places. Ie a celebrity or politician.

    Thought so.

    /looks over to woodchipper.

  28. The hierarchy of Macomb County has been mob rule for the decades I lived there. Nothing new.

  29. The picture looks pretty threatening. It’s also a brilliant and sophisticated piece of photographic art. And what’s with the phone number on the hands? I want more backstory about the picture.

    1. Just noticed, it might not be a phone number on the hands, it might be a date, maybe his dead son’s birthday.

      1. More likely when he died, or else he’d barely be 2 now.

    2. Threatening?

      Yeah, if you have an active imagination.

      1. Activating the imagination is sort of the point of a photo illustration.

  30. I would say this has First Amendment written all over it. This judge should be removed just for bringing this action.

  31. To bring the story up to date, the appeals court did not reduce bail, so Vanderhagen spent two months in jail awaiting trial, twice turning down plea bargains for time served. The case went to a jury today, and it took the jury all of 27 minutes to return a not guilty verdict. https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/macomb/2019/09/19/jury-acquits-macomb-dad-charged-after-criticizing-judge-facebook/2364899001/

    1. Good on the jury for concluding that 1+1=2 which is more than some juries can muster. But this duo of awful judges know that a guilty verdict wasn’t the point. It’s the whole beating the rap but not the ride quip.

      Two months in jail, sickening this happens in our nation. The voters need to ensure this judge is not elected again, and hopefully Mr. V uses his hard fought First Amendment right to expose these disgusting robed thugs to a much wider audience. Despicable tyrants, embarrassment to Michigan and America.

  32. I wasn’t clear the first time, about why I want to know about the photograph. Let me explain.

    That is an art directed photograph. Look at the calligraphy on the shovel. Look at the artistic treatment on the clothes. Look at the placement of the kids’ photos in the background. The composition and the light work together in ways that have to be planned—they don’t fall together like that by accident. The photographer who lit the set and captured the image is someone who can command serious money for those skills. This is nobody’s cell-phone selfie, and that image did not just happen. Had Karsh of Ottawa taken that picture, he might have ranked it among his best work (or maybe discounted it for excessive drama).

    On that basis, I suggest the photograph is likely evidence of some kind of unacknowledged institutional presence behind Vanderhagen—an institution which knows how to mobilize the most sophisticated kind of PR skills, and can afford to do it. So please, what the hell is going on here? I can’t even imagine a plausible back-story that meshes with this narrative—but it looks like there has to be one. Does it have any significance? I can’t tell without knowing the back-story.

    Maybe the guy just has a girlfriend who works in high-end advertising. But I hate it when someone gives me an explanation which raises some huge question which gets no mention at all.

    1. Are you familiar with Adobe Photoshop?

      Making a photo like this is not rocket science. You can just apply filters and such. The “calligraphy” on the shovel might be nothing more than the application than some font from Photoshop to the photo. Your assumption that this photo must be the work of some sort of professional is unwarranted.

      1. David, you don’t know what you are talking about. If you know so much, tell me what explains the peculiar look of the catch-lights in this guy’s eyes. Then reconcile that explanation with the other lighting in the picture. If you can do that convincingly, we can talk.

      2. David, looking at my comment above, I thought it would only be fair to tell you a cautionary story, before you answer.

        When I worked in high-end graphic design, doing work for Fortune 500 clients, I collaborated closely with a brilliant studio photographer. He had a client like you. The client said he understood how my friend worked. The client all but said, “You can just apply filters and such.”

        My photographer friend gave the client a confiding look, and replied, “We don’t usually discuss this with any of our clients, but since you already know most of the secret, I can tell you. We only have one photo, and it’s all we need. It’s a steaming pile of dog shit, and we use Photoshop to turn it into whatever the clients want”.

  33. Without reference to the individuals involved, libertarians would do well to note how menacing is included by the legal system as a sort of initiation of force. In that context, driving a herd of cattle north across the border, or bringing in uninspected aliens in ninja masks are similarly viewed–especially of some kind of threat to actual political State personnel is imaginable.
    Now think of what voters will imagine when they read what’s been done to our platform since we got 338% more votes by running pro-choice candidates again (as in 1972).

  34. so is he gonna get out of the prison or not?
    نیوراک

  35. The jury found this man not guilty on 9/20. Why is Reason still displaying a link to this story as prominently as the one to the acquittal?

    And I agree with other posters above – these two judges and the prosecutor that brought the case should be:

    1) Paying to repair his life after two months in jail on a bogus charge.

    2) Spending two months in jail themselves.

    3) Disbarred and fired.

    But we elect lawyers to write the laws and appoint lawyers to administer them, and so we get a system that protects lawyers on the government payroll above all others.

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