This could be the most controversial episode of Off The Grid News radio and it covers everything from Nazi Germany to a man being arrested for keeping chickens. Our first guest draws some shocking connections between the happenings that led to the start of Nazi Germany and the happenings that are going on now in the United States.
The show starts with Joe Wolverton II, J.D. of the New American magazine. Joe uses the battle of the Second Amendment that is ongoing in America and the disarmament acts that took place in Nazi Germany. Bill states, “I think our listeners really need to know how closely Nazi Germany resembles our country today.” Joe goes on to discuss the progression of firearm laws.
For the second half of the show, Bill and Brian are joined by Randy Zeilinger. Randy is currently facing a legal battle in Garden City, Michigan for keeping chickens in his yard. He first got a notice (in postcard format) letting him know that he needed to appear in court for an ordinance concern. Before he even got to court, his ordinance case was turned into a criminal case before anyone from the court system had even physically seen a chicken in his backyard. His case was literally started because of an angry neighbor complaint and then moved to a disgruntled prosecutor who makes a twisted connection between keeping chickens and shooting someone in a home invasion.
Off The Grid Radio
Release Date May 24, 2013
Brian: Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Off the Grid News—a radio version of OffTheGridNews.com. I’m Brian Brawdy, here as always with Mr. Bill Heid. Bill, how are you, sir?
Bill: Brian, I’m sunny. It’s sunny outside. I’m feeling sunny. I’ve got sunshine, not even on a cloudy day but on a sunny day.
Brian: Very nice.
Bill: But you know our guest today, Brian, we talk about sunshine but we also talk about dark clouds descending so how can you have—it would actually be the opposite of that song where you had really kind of a sunshine but really you had a cloudy day, a dark, ominous, cloudy shadow.
Brian: That’s funny, when you said that I thought of Garth Brooks’ The Thunder Rolls. Right, you can hear it off in the distance.
Brian: Storm clouds building, you hear it coming; you know it’s on its way.
Bill: It’s the new Thor movie that’s coming out. I saw the previews for it the other night when I watched Iron Man 3.
Brian: Oh, cool. I’ve got Viking in my blood so…
Bill: Don’t waste your time with Iron Man 3. It’s excessive. Tony liked it but it’s excessive. I’m telling you, it’s too much. It’s like Japanese anime. But anyway.
Brian: You cut it to the quick. You said, “Tony liked it.” I’m like, “Eh, I’m not going to go. I’ll eat my popcorn at home. Hey, I have a little game I’d like to play with you. Is that okay? Before we introduce our guest? Now this, I just want to read you something that I got from the New American Magazine and I want you to kind of pick for me, Bill, who you think would have been the person or what ilk of person would have authored this quote. Are you ready?
Brian: Very good, no pun intended. Fire. Here’s the quote, “The purpose and goal of the law at hand are to get firearms and have done so much damage or that have done so much damage from the hands of unauthorized persons and to do away with the instability and ambiguity of the law that previously existed in this area. The difficult task was to find the appropriate limits between this necessity of state on, the one hand, and the important interest of the weapons industry that was employing a large number of workers and had been heavily damaged through the peace treaty and the interests of the legal sporting industry and the personal freedom of the individual.”
Bill: That sounds like a prepared statement that a speechwriter wrote for Nancy Pelosi or someone of her ilk.
Brian: Oh, very cool. When I first read it I said Eric Holder, loquacious, a lot of big words. What fascinated me was the personal freedom of the individual was the last on their list. They were worried in this particular quote about the heavy damage that was going to be done to the weapons industry, right, pulling a large number of people. They go through all the different things in the treaties, the interests of the legal sporting industry and then of course as an afterthought almost, let’s not forget personal freedom of the individual.
Bill: We’re all for that, aren’t we?
Brian: So they say, read the fine print. We are. I know that. But if you look at the headlines now, doesn’t seem like a lot of people in our country believe that to be the case. So I thought if it’s cool with you, Bill, I’ll go ahead and introduce…
Bill: Who actually did do that? Who actually did do that piece, Brian, before you…?
Brian: This is from—great question. I’m going to have our guest in case…
Bill: Our guest can reveal who actually said that. It wasn’t Eric Holder. It wasn’t Nancy Pelosi or even anyone that works for our company. It was somebody else.
Brian: They wouldn’t work for your company very long, Bill, I think if that was your position.
Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to say hello to Joe Wolverton II. He is the correspondent for the New American and travels frequently nationwide speaking on topics of nullification, the NDAA and the surveillance state. I know he’s a bigwig over at the John Birch Society and I thought what we would do then, Bill, if it’s cool with you is say hello to Joe Wolverton. Joe, how do you pronounce and where did the individual come from that authored the quote that I read from your article?
Joe: Well, you’ve got me at a disadvantage. I don’t have the article in front of me so I don’t exactly what name. Why don’t you guys tell me and then I’ll tell you the story.
Bill: It was Hitler’s arms de…in your article it was Hitler’s arms decomissioner.
Joe: Knoerser, Knoerser.
Bill: But it’s a big long Reichsmark, nein, “take guns” kind of guy. He was in charge of getting rid of… making sure the citizens lost their guns and, Joe, you wrote a brilliant article, as Brian was alluding to, that gun past meets gun present and that’s in the New American, which is a great magazine for everyone to subscribe to. I certainly get that and take a lot of information from it.
You do cast a dark shadow, Joe, with respect to just your comparison of what went on in Germany from the ‘20s up through to election time and beyond so… the crazy thing is I think, through the 20s, the Nazi party was just—there was a lot of parties, Joe, and I think the Nazi party had like 1,000 members up through ’28, kind of like the American idol audience today. No pun intended there, Brian. But in other words, something happened, Joe, and it kind of launched. You want to kind of take us through this a little bit? And I know we’ve got to summarize your article a little bit, but let’s go through the key points because I think our listeners really need to know how closely Nazi Germany resembles our country today.
Joe: Sure. It began after World War I. Nazi Germany, or not Nazi Germany—prior to Nazi Germany the German government passed several, what we would call gun control regulations, gun control laws and…
Bill: This is the Weimar Republic, right?
Joe: The Weimar Republic. They were reacting to what they described as the increasing presence of communists in Germany. So in order to fight the communists they passed a law, the first of which was passed in about 1919 said all firearms and all firearm ammunition are to be surrendered immediately. And they put fines on anyone caught with guns or with ammunition. A fine of about 100,000 Marks, five years in prison.
Bill: Was that because of an event that they did that, Joe?
Joe: Well, that’s what I was about to say. The problem was this; the reaction to the communists were several riots around Germany and with a few killings and some trouble in the streets, setting fire to government buildings. Sort of what I would consider—consider this, you know how we had Eric Holder with the Fast and Furious. How did he explain Fast and Furious? He said, “We’re going to give these guys arms so that when these arms are used, we know it was by the bad guys,” right? That was his justification for Fast and Furious. Well the Germans did exactly that. They gave these communists that they discovered… alleged communists, let’s be clear. They gave these communists guns and then once those guns were used or once the people that they had identified were suspected of committing crimes then they would use that as an excuse to install greater and greater restrictions on the ownership of weapons and ammunition. I mean it is exactly the blueprint being followed by our government today. After they passed the law regulating all private ownership of firearms and ammunition, then they installed what was called a disarmament czar to check up and make sure that law was being followed.
Then you have the next year, you have the law that actually created what they called the Reich’s commissar for disarmament of the civilian population, what we would call the disarmament czar and then he had to go around making a list of all the weapons that were going to be taken. We’re going to discuss– in other words, he said “We’re going to lay out of list of these dangerous weapons, the weapons that are really causing all the crime in the streets that the communists are using. Once we have a list of all the guns and the ammunition the communists are using, we are going to go out and make sure we seize those. Not because we want to infringe on liberty” they said “But just because we want to keep these guns out of the hands of these terrible criminal communists.” I mean you can see where we’re walking towards…
Bill: So they had someone like Diane Feinstein create a list and every culture has its Diane Feinstein, right? They had theirs.
Joe: Exactly, and they used tragedy or the pretext for tyranny the same way we do. In their case it was communists burning trucks in the street and seizing presses, newspapers and that sort of thing. And in our case it’s school shootings or someone shooting at random in a crowd. That sort of thing, the same sort of thing, using tragedy as a pretext for tyranny, it’s the same exact thing. Of course I can’t imagine it will be long before we have a disarmament czar as well. As soon as President Obama can get the UN Arms Trade Treaty enforced in the United States through executive order, then we’ll have this sort of thing as well. They’ll have a list of these supposedly… just change in the German law of the 1920, change the word military weapon to assault weapon and you’ve got the exact same thing happening in the United States.
Bill: That’s a pretty amazing thing. So take us on, up and through… that’s the 20s, Hitler gets elected or do you want to not go that far? Do you have more to say on the Weimar or do you kind of want to go up into the 1932 election?
Joe: Well, we can go… starting in the 20s—in the late 20s the law then moved along to requiring the licensing of anyone who manufactured, assembled or repaired firearms and ammunition. This included reloading. Any private citizen that had reloading equipment had to register under this new law that was passed in ‘28. You could not trade or sell firearms or ammunition without a license. That included, the law specifically said including at gun shows and competitive shooting events, which is exactly like one of the laws being proposed now. The one that was just voted down, as a matter of fact. That would’ve required the background checks at gun shows and that sort of thing.
Now the thing about this was that you had to go in and get yourself a license from the government, just the same way we do, and this license was issued at the will of the Weimar Republic; the same way our licenses are issued at the will of our government. The funny thing about it is the applicant had to show that he was psychologically sound and we have such proposals being considered now. In fact, in many states, New Jersey was the first and then New York and several others require psychological tests before you can have a gun license; exactly the next step they took. They placed ceilings on the number of rounds of ammunition you could own even if you had a license. They had, for example, if you had more than five guns you could only have a hundred rounds of ammunition. If you had any more than that it was classified as an arsenal and the agents of the government came around and seized your weapons and your ammo, which is part of the Arms Trade Treaty that’s been approved by the United States and the rest of the United Nations. That will soon become part of our law. You’ll have ceilings on the amount of ammunition you can own and certainly certain types of guns will be absolutely prescribed, prohibited from being owned.
Now the thing which happened, which is perhaps most interesting to Americans, is that we know, of course, that Hitler came to power in 1933. They had something called the Enabling Act. Essentially what that enabled Hitler to do was become a law unto himself, a stroke of the pen, law of the land kind of deal, right? And sort of like the way we live today. The President, that is to say Hitler, decided that the situation was so dangerous in the country and the crime had gotten so out of control is that without consulting the people’s representatives, he was able to issue decrees to get a handle on the situation.
Now, people think this would never happen in America. But I guarantee you in 1932 people thought that would never happen in Germany but by a vote of 441-94, the Enabling Act was passed by the Reichstag, which if you see the steps that we’re walking one after the other in the footprints of these people, why do we think that all of a sudden we are not going to walk that road as well?
Bill: Well, Joe, can I interrupt you just for a second and ask you a question about the Iraq war? Didn’t congress sort of in a sense already give Bush an enabling there? In other words, go do what you want to do?
Joe: Oh, well absolutely and the authorization for the use of military force in Iraq is the basis of the Patriot Act, is the basis of the NDAA and all of those things. So, yes, absolutely. You look in Nazi Germany in the same way. The Enabling Act enabled, it wasn’t just a clever name. It enabled Hitler to issue law without consulting the people’s representatives and that’s what has happened now. Our own Congress, as you so rightly say, gave to the executive branch the power to wage war worldwide including on American citizens, including on American soil and all the extensions have been based on that authorization of the use of military force in Iraq. So yes, we owe the NDAA in the targeting and assassination of American citizens on American soil to the authorization for use of military force. That’s exactly right, perfect analogy.
Brian: Hey, Joe, let me ask you then, because this is some of the debate that I get in at times when we talk about, well the enabling act meant that he didn’t have to go back to the people. You know, the representatives of the Reichstag sent that through but when I hear people today say, “Well, the government today can do this and do that,” and Bill usually kind of like his eyebrow kicks up when I say this but, I blame Joe Wolverton. I blame Brian Brawdy, I blame Bill Heid because… and if can just say quickly here’s why. We elected this government so when we say, “Oh, the government did this and the government did that,” it almost seems to me like we’re asleep; we don’t look at the history. We go, “Oh, our government wouldn’t do that so let’s just let it be.” But ultimately the government that enacts these things are put there by the three of us and our friends and our families.
Bill: Guys, it’s a vigilance thing, right? What’s the price of freedom? And that’s another old Birch society thing, Joe, right? There has to be that eternal vigilance and one of our chapter leaders in our area, my wife’s grandfather always said the Edmund Burke plaque on his thing. And so that old phrase about just what’s required you know, all that’s necessary for us to lose is good men to do nothing. I don’t think Brian’s accusing you of doing nothing, Joe, certainly, but the idea that we’re all kind of amnesia, no history, asleep at the wheel kind of.
Joe: Oh, I agree with that 100% and I think the problem and you rightly pointed to history as our guide. I mean Patrick Henry said, “We have but one guide to light our feet and that is history.” And I think most of Americans are ignorant of history and I think the first step in that ignorance comes from graduating from government controlled schools where we don’t hear anything of the decline and fall of Rome and we don’t hear anything of how the Grecian confederacies were destroyed by conspiracies inside the executive. We hear nothing of those things and that’s on purpose.
Then we’ve got complete dedication of this population to, of course, what someone could describe as bread and circuses. As long as we’ve got our food and as long as our Wi-Fi signal is strong and as long as we can tune into the E! Network and watch with the Kardashian’s are up to, we really don’t care what’s happening in Washington. And that’s the way the people who are in Washington, that’s how they want it. Keep up fat, keep us watching TV, keep us entertained and we won’t pay attention to what’s really going on. And there’s too few of us that care to pay attention in what has happened.
Bill: And I think the thing is we say, well just this sort of passive not caring, what could it do, right? But let’s keep talking about what happened. What did the passive sort of amnesia or sort of desperation or maybe a mixture, Joe, of historical amnesia along with sort of an existential, we need to eat now in terms of World War I, what that did no Germans. But, I mean look at who paid a price? The Jews paid a price for this. Right? This wasn’t funny. People, millions of people died because of complacency, because of a lack of vigilant.
Joe: Absolutely and one of the things you need to remember is Hitler and his crew, although they came to seize power from the Weimar Republic, they were at one time a division of the enforcers of the Weimar Republic receiving millions of Marks in subsidies from the very government that they eventually seized control from.
You’ve got these analogies with the way that these people in our own government support so many of the same people. How many times do we see that these people that commit these crimes are the very people that are living on government subsidy in this way or another? So you’ve got these Nazis who were once paid millions to be the enforcers for the Weimar Republic. Now comes 1933; you’ve got Hitler in control, you’ve got passage of the Enabling Act. And within one week, within one week, there was an order issued regarding the ownership of guns that said, “If you do not join the Nazis or one of our many organizations, the ASA, the SS and all of that. If you do not join one of these units but you keep your gun, then you are considered an enemy of the state and you will be held responsible for this and we will, without hesitation, single you out and with the “utmost severity carry out your disarmament”.
Brian: So Joe, are we there now? And the reason that I ask this is because there is a big article, a headline article in Forbes entitled “Disarming Realities: As Gun Sales Soar, Gun Crimes Plummet. So all the people that are running around screaming now, “We need their guns. We need their ammunition,” and the like. We have all the statistics, some of them from the FBI themselves, that said that violent crime with the commission of a handgun is down. More people die every year from being hit with a baseball bat or a hammer than a gun in our country but no one’s listening. The same people that you reference being asleep, here’s the statistics from the FBI saying violent gun crimes are down but everyone’s still running around still trying to grab our guns. Is it too late for us?
Joe: Well I think if you’re looking to Washington, yes, it is too late. I think the same thing could have been said in 1933 when Hitler was screaming that the communists are killing the women and children of Germany and you’ve got to have our men join the Nazi party to fight the communists that are killing everyone. If you would have stopped to look at the statistics, the communists weren’t killing everyone at all and the same thing happens here. We scream that everybody’s a threat; we’ve got to get control of these “military style weapons”, these assault rifles, we’ve got to get control. And Washington is not going to do anything about it. The only hope we have for freedom in this country that is left is the most ironically, the most constitutionally sound remedy and that is nullification. That is to turn these states back into the bold works of freedom that the founding fathers intended them to be. That’s our only hope. We are going to have to have Americans start voting with their feet and moving to these states that decide, “No, we’re not going to enforce un-Constitutional federal edicts.
Brian: Joe, are you saying it’s even more than the 2nd amendment? It’s like the 9th and 10th amendment then, right? It’s the whole debate as to who is more sovereign, right? It’s the debate of the supremacy clause?
Joe: Well, the so called supremacy clause. Article six does not that say the government is supreme to the state government. To the contrary it says when the federal government acts within its narrow sphere of powers then, yes, it is in those areas, it is supreme. But you cannot read article six without reading the 9th and 10th amendments. If those powers are not given to the federal government then they are, in fact, denied to the federal government and the states retain that power. But you’ve got 50 states, who for a hundred years now have refused to stand up. But frankly they can’t when they’re receiving 34% on average of their money from the federal government. It’s really hard to slap Washington with one hand and take a big check and cash it with the other. And that’s the situation we’ve got.
We’re going to have to get some governors of these states, some state legislators with some stugots, as Tony Soprano would say, who can stand up and tear the check up. When the check comes in, have a press conference, tear the check up; obviously metaphorically speaking. Tear the check up, cut themselves loose from, just quit sucking on the federal tit, to be honest and pass laws saying “Positively we will refuse to enforce any un-Constitutional federal act with regards to the Second Amendment. If it is regards to the presence of drones, if it’s in regard to the NDAA and indefinite detainment of American citizens, any of that.” And the 2nd amendment is a hot button issue right now. You’ve not Texas, you’ve got Kansas, you’ve got Missouri all standing up and saying, “We’re not going to let our citizens be disarmed by the federal government.” So what’s going to happen? Eric Holder sends a letter to Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas saying, “Oh, we’ll… by any means necessary, we will enforce federal gun laws.”
I just gave a speech on Saturday and the people were asking me, “Well, what’s going to happen?” I don’t know what’s going to happen. I only have history to guide my feet just like Patrick Henry said.
Bill: Joe, there aren’t too many examples in history where, as Brian said, “Is it too late?” There aren’t many examples that don’t go, it seems like history has to run its course and here’s the point that I want to make that I think is really germane. At some point history runs its course and you have the enemies of freedom become what Van Til would have said is epistemologically more and more epistemologically self-conscious. In other words, they start doing things more and more the way that it has to be done. So you just said it earlier; at some point if you don’t join, you’re an enemy. So people say, “I just want to catch the Kardashians, man, or the Bulls are on tonight,” and guess what people if you’re listening. Listen to this very carefully, you don’t get to assume a neutral position.
At some point you will be asked “What do you believe?” This is a creedal issue like we have creeds in church, which mean nothing more than what is it that you believe. You will be asked to make a creedal statement about what you believe. Whose order do you support? Historic Christianity or do you support this new thing that they’re doing? This new humanistic and make no mistake, it’s a religious enterprise that they’re engaged in. For Hitler it was the same thing. It was religious because Hitler was always working with ultimate concerns, right? He had his ultimacies.
So you can’t sit there, guys, and say, “Well I don’t get a chance—I’m not going to have to decide as Bush would say.” Remember Bush would say, “I’m the decider. Hey wait a minute I’m the decider.” We’re all going to be the decider. What say ye when they come to your door? What say ye? And I think that’s really the turning point for–everybody’s going to have to work closer. I never thought it would come this quick, Joe. I knew, I told you before the show I knew Mr. Welch and I had supper with Mr. Welch one time and I saw things that were kind of right on the fence at the time but it just seemed like nothing happened and nothing happened and the last 15 years, all of a sudden it went light speed on us.
Joe: Well, I agree with that and I think the issue is that we have over the course of about the last 100 years, lost Washington completely. Now I don’t think that’s an accident. I think there are those who intended for that to happen, but that’s a show for another time. But the effect on us is that we now have to turn our states into bastions of freedom. We got to wall these states up from this federal intrusion and I mean almost literally because you’re going to have federal troops, federal agents, you call them what you want. When a DHS agent comes in armed and comes in an armored personnel carrier using military technology, that’s a troop. I don’t care what you want to call it. That’s a federal troop.
Joe: And when they come in to enforce these federal laws, whether it be the law against ownership of “military type weapons”. That right there, that’s over, Washington’s lost. You’ve got to be prepared and you’ve—the first thing, how many of these states? Let’s just imagine, worst case scenario, how many of these states have a militia capable of standing up to an armed to the teeth Department of Homeland Security?
Brian: They’re all in Afghanistan, Joe, as you know. They’re all in Iraq. All our National Guards are deployed all over the world.
Joe: But National Guard and reservists, those are federal troops as well because they are federalized at the will of the executive.
Joe: How many of these states have state guards? Do you know how many have them? Three. Three states and can those three states, can they stand up to the federal government? No. I mean, we’re walking that road now. I mean 1933, 2013 there is very little difference if you read and I encourage all of your listeners to read that article and read the—click on the links as they say. Don’t just listen to what I have to say. Click on the link and read the history yourself and be prepared and then don’t turn your face towards that swamp in Washington. Turn your face toward your own state capital and get busy getting people elected and if that means you yourself, then run for office. Get busy electing people who are liberty minded, who understand the Constitution and are ready to make these states into bastions of freedom. I tell you it’s the last hope we have.
Brian: Well, Joe, I want to comment on that by saying that we loved your article. We love the work that you do in terms of the blog posts and I want people to know they can reach you at [email protected] .Obviously at thenewamerican.com you put up the articles and the posts that you’re working on. We can’t thank you enough. Unfortunately the half hour has slid by and we promised we’d get you out of here in under thirty. So thank you so much, not just for your time today but for the great work that you’re doing. What you’re doing to wake people up and really just say, “Look, I’m not a fiction writer. I’m just telling you what’s happened in history and it’s way past the time for you to make a decision on your own.” Do you have a Facebook page? Is there any other place you’d like our listeners to reach out to you?
Joe: You can find me at TNA, stands for The New American at @tnajoewolverton on Twitter.
Brian: Very cool.
Joe: And I tweet out, I use Twitter to get the best stuff out there because it’s the quickest way.
Brian: We’ll be following you here at the top of the hour, as soon as we get out of the show. Ladies and gentlemen, we spent the last half hour with Joe Wolverton. Check him out at thenewamerican.com. We’re going to run to a quick commercial break. When we come back, Bill, you’re right. The clouds just keep on rolling in. Come on back after this break.
Just a reminder, you’re listening to Off the Grid News Radio here at OffTheGridNews.com .And now back to Off the Grid Radio.
Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back. It is a pleasure to have you here with us for our second half hour. In a show…I know. Thank you, Tom.
Bill: Brian, there’s a noise that really, I’m furious at Tom for—who does he think he is?
Brian: I know and I’m upstaged by a lot of things around here, I got to tell you, but being upstaged by a chicken voiceover.
Bill: No one’s ever called you a chicken.
Brian: No, well, not and lived to tell about it. But, Bill, we’re going to talk about today. We’ve got a gentleman… and this is one of those things where you go, “You’re just not going to believe this.” This isn’t fiction. We haven’t hired actors to play the role of our guest today. This is a real Off the Grid News Radio Show taken from the headlines, whipped if you will from the headlines.
We are going to interview a gentleman today who was sentenced to jail for keeping chickens in his backyard. We’ll let him tell you where he’s from. Oh, top of the line, topnotch city prosecutors here in this—wherever it is. So it has been a really popular article on Off the Grid News as well, so we’ve got a lot of people responding. So, Bill, I would like to say hello and introduce you to Randy Zeilinger. Randy, you still with us?
Randy: I’m with you.
Brian: How are you my friend? Say hello to Bill.
Randy: Hello Bill. Hello Brian.
Bill: Randy, how you doing, buddy? Good to have you on the show today and as Brian said that’s really interesting, we just got done interviewing a guy—while you were giving your tour to the botanical center where you live we were interviewing a guy talking about how the Nazis kept changing the gun control laws until they just finally took all the rights away from the people. And here we are talking to you, not about guns, but about chickens and just amazed at the story and I think it’s a little bit of a precedent for just how the world’s going. Do you want to kind of take us through your situation a little bit and give our… we’ve got 30 minutes so give our listeners a little bit about what happened to you.
Randy: Okay, I’d be happy to talk about it. It’s been an on going process for well over a year now. At least the court proceedings have been well over a year. I’ve had chickens for two or three years now. Before I got chickens in my residential area, I did a good bit of research on the Michigan Right to Farm Act and as I read through that I realized that this law does encompass me and I am protected by the Michigan Right to Farm Act. I mean it’s clearly stated. There are a couple of objectives that a farmer needs to meet.
One is to have a farm operation. Okay, having chickens qualifies there. Another thing is to produce a commercial, agricultural product. Well I sell the eggs; I sell the chicken manure, so there’s my agricultural products. And the third thing is you need to be compliant with a set of rules established by policy from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. We call them MDARD. They have a set of rules for animal care, waste management and site selection. There’s other GAMPs involved for things like farm markets and cranberry crops and things like that. It’s evolved over time since the original law was enacted in 1981 and what it allows for is the Ag people to keep up with new and developing science. So the GAMPs are reviewed every year and the best practices are looked at and added to the GAMPs and things that don’t work have the potential to be taken out. So I have complied with all of that. In fact pretty much I exceed all of the minimum standards they have for animal care and manure management, but keep in mind one of the things that the GAMPs were written for were the large operations, the CAFOs, concentrated animal feed what is that—outfits, operations sorry.
Randy: But if they can—I figured if you can care for several thousands or tens of thousands of chickens, my 10, 12 chickens should be a piece of cake to care for. So I set up my practice for the best animal husbandry that I could do. And everything was fine for a while until I had a neighbor lodge a complaint with the ordnance officer of the city. Now this is Garden City, Michigan and they have an ordinance which was written somewhere back in the ‘60s that says the only animals allowed in Garden City are cats, dogs and canaries, period. And then the next little sentence says or other common pets, something to that effect. It’s like, okay, so all animals except dogs, cats, and canaries are considered against the ordnance if you take it literally word for word, but that’s what I was charged with.
Bill: And you’ve had some other—so really at the heart of it was a neighbor and were you making…and then it sounds like in reading your story that you didn’t really—you don’t have a rooster so it’s just some of the harmless clucking that the listeners heard at the beginning of this section and is that all there was to it? I raise chickens too so it—having just a handful of chickens really doesn’t smell like any—it’s not like a big confinement, as you say, operation. So was—do you have bad feelings with this neighbor prior to that or what was the…?
Randy: No, the neighbor who complained, oddly enough, we had been best friends for 10 years plus and everything was great until she started putting some demands on me that I had to get rid of some ducks, I had to cut down a tree that was in the front yard, just some demands like that that I just had enough. I said, “No, I’m not going to do that,” and that caused some hard feelings and then I get a visit from the ordinance officer who wants to take a look, says he’s got complaints.
Bill: Did he come in and look at your chickens?
Randy: He came out and looked at the yard and actually with his cursory inspection, he didn’t even see any chickens.
Bill: So the ordinance didn’t see a single chicken and you eventually had an ordinance violation based on that trip, is that correct?
Randy: That’s correct. He came out on March 21, 2012. A ticket was issued on March 23 but it wasn’t delivered to me like you get a ticket from a traffic stop. It came in the form of a postcard a couple weeks later. It says, “You have a pretrial hearing at the court,” so that was…
Bill: So you got a postcard like you’d get a postcard from Niagara Falls only it didn’t say, “Having a good time. Wish you were here.” It said, “You’re in trouble for this.” A postcard isn’t exactly a registered letter. I throw most of my postcards away just to be candid. So like in my case I likely would have been in contempt because I just throw my postcards away. I don’t read a lot of stuff anymore. I don’t have enough time. So you get a postcard and you’re expected to go to a pretrial hearing?
Randy: A pretrial hearing and what that entailed was meeting with the prosecutor for the first time and discussing the case. He says, “Look, you’ve got chickens in the yard. You can’t have that. Garden City says you’re not allowed to have them.” I said, “I don’t really care what Garden City says because Michigan state law says I’m permitted to.” I said, “And furthermore Michigan state law says that you can’t stop it because in the Right to Farm Act it’s very clear. It says no city shall impose any ordinances that violate this Act,” and I’m looking for it. I have it…
Bill: So basically the prosecutor just was looking for—is this an older prosecutor? A younger—sometimes you can tell what you’re going to get. If it’s a young prosecutor occasionally people are just looking to rise and so they’ll do crazy things based on the fact that they want to get ahead. Were you going to be made an example of?
Randy: Yeah, that was stated. He’s actually a named partner of a law firm that the city had hired and during one of the city council meetings, the attorney himself said, “Look, the mayor of Garden City hired me and I answer to him.” That was made public at a city council meeting and my thought was, “You’re answering to what the mayor says, but you’re being paid by the citizens.” That seems kind of odd.
Bill: Well, there should be some interest in justice, I would say along the way. Maybe just, not a big thing but maybe just what’s right and what’s wrong. So okay. Keep going; he wants to make an example out of you.
Randy: He stated that when I showed up and I said, “Look, the Right to Farm Act is perfectly clear. I am legally entitled to have these chickens in my yard. They’re not hurting anybody. They’re providing me with some income and that should be the end of it. This should be dismissed.” And he said, “Well, you know what, if you want to live on a farm then you ought to move out of Garden City.” I said, “Excuse me, are you telling me that I can’t live where I want to live?” He said, “Well, if you want to have farm animals, got to move to a farm.” And I said, “Okay, I see where we’re going with this,” and he says, “Look, if you decide you’re going to pursue this then we’re going to make an example of you. We don’t want chickens in Garden City.” He says, “Oh, I had to work on a chicken farm when I was a kid. I hate them. They’re dirty, smelly, nasty animals.” I said, “Maybe the farm you worked on was like that but I have a nice clean backyard with no smell or no kind of pest problem at all.”
Bill: I’m glad he brought that anecdotal childhood experience into a legal case, too. Very helpful and I’m not sure where he went to law school. I have some jokes here but I’ll let it go. So he wants to make an example of you and then so where does it go from here? Do you actually—you never get a violation of that ordinance, right, because at some point they turn this into a criminal case?
Randy: Yeah, here’s where it gets funny. Throughout the time frame from April of last year I kept getting the postcards and the Notice to Appears in the form of a letter to show up at court on this date, that date for a total of—well from start to finish I’ve been at that courthouse 32 times.
Randy: Up to and including the sentencing. But you know what when I told them I was going to fight it and that I thought I was within my rights, I got some challenges from them and I requested a court appointed attorney. I didn’t have the means to hire an attorney on my own or one of the farm defense groups that are out there. I just didn’t have the funds. So I was appointed a court appointed attorney. Like many people in the city his first question was, “I don’t really understand the Right to Farm Act. What does it mean?” “Well, I’m protected if I’m growing an agricultural product…”
Bill: An attorney, I don’t mean to interrupt you but an attorney asked you what the law means?
Randy: Yeah, yeah.
Bill: So he must have went to the same law school as the other guy went to.
Randy: No, I would disagree with that because a bankruptcy lawyer is going to have one set of discipline. He’s not going to know anything about criminal.
Bill: Well when you go to law school though you get a broad based thing and they teach you how to go find where a law is and how to research it. You hit a couple buttons anymore; you have case precedents where that law was invoked instantly so it’s really child’s play. And I’m not trying to debunk your attorney’s story but a layman can do this stuff.
Randy: Well, what it was he was assigned a case right then and there. He happened to be the attorney that was unlucky enough to be in the lobby when I asked for the court appointed attorney. So a brief consultation, he says, “What’s it all about?” And I explained it and the first question and we get this a lot from people is, “So I live in a city. I can have a cow, right?” I said, “Well, it’s not that simple. You need to meet the criteria. It has to be for an agricultural activity, a commercial process of selling a product from that animal. If you want to try to put a cow on your quarter acre lot and you can justify the expense and actually show that it’s a commercial endeavor then, yeah, technically the law would protect you. But is that going to happen in all practicality? No, but a few chickens, that’s easily done.
Brian: If I could interrupt, what is your state’s senator, Glen Anderson—he seems to, from what I’ve been able to background on him, seems to be pretty involved in the things going on in Garden City there. What was he able to say or was the state, even at that level, able to offer any help seeing that the city had decided to go against what, I mean at least according to my read of it, is a state law. What did your senator have to say?
Randy: The senator, I had sent a letter to him back in June or July and he had one of his staff members send back a reply which was basically a copy of the Right to Farm Act which I already had. And in the body of the letter from the staffer said, “You know if you’re going to build a coop then you need to follow the local ordinances.” I replied back, I said, “I didn’t build a coop. I built no structures. These are just chickens that are in the backyard. During the day they’re in the yard but in the night they sleep in the garage. No structure was built. So your coop statement doesn’t even apply.” But then I never got a reply back from him.
Bill: Take us—we don’t want to burn all your time up. So take us a little bit further, Randy, on it. Get kind of to the meat of it a little bit so the listener can understand just how all of it worked.
Randy: Well there was a further delay in December time frame from the court, 21st district court in Garden City. They had already issued tickets to two other gentlemen in Garden City and they wanted to take one of the cases first just to see where it was going to go because he had a hot shot lawyer, a very high profile lawyer from Detroit politics and all that kind of stuff. He took Pete’s case and they had a change of venue because Pete’s chickens are abutting the property of the judge’s mom. So there was some kind of conflict there. And the judge recused himself and it went to the city of Wayne under the auspices of the 21st District Court and throughout that trial it was determined that the Right to Farm Act superseded any and all local ordnances and the city was not justified in bringing the case in the first place. The case was dismissed. So that was in January. Now in February, early February, I get an amended show cause hearing where the charges were now listed as criminal. And that’s where my case went from there. It’s now a criminal proceeding, not an ordinance violation.
Bill: Well, who can do that? Hold on for a second. Who can just change something from an ordnance violation to a criminal prosecution?
Randy: Well, that’s the $64,000 question that remains unanswered.
Bill: So somebody—who’s your suspicion? It’s public information. So what’s your suspicions tell you?
Randy: It’s somewhere within the court system.
Randy: However they quoted the ordinance or however they decided to proceed with prosecution but I suspect that the way the Michigan Right to Farm Act says they provide for circumstances under which a farm shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance. It goes on to say a couple of other things. Now the premise that we were given was this case isn’t a nuisance case, it’s a criminal case therefore the Right to Farm Act no longer applies.
Bill: Wow, there’s some twisted Orwellian circular reasoning, isn’t there?
Bill: That’s an unbelievable statement.
Randy: Yeah, that pretty much threw me and it threw my attorney as well because it effectively took out more than half of our defense. And as jury instructions, the judge is telling the jury that because it’s a criminal case and not a public nuisance case, there is a burden of proof on the prosecutor but there’s an additional burden of proof on the defendant to prove that he is actually within his rights within the law. He said, “Consider it like somebody breaks into your house and you shoot them. You as the shooter have to defend your self-defense claim.” So I watched the jury and I thought, “Holy cow, he’s equating keeping chickens to a home invasion shooting.” I said, “It’s no wonder the jury’s confused.” Directions provided and the fact that we were limited in what we were allowed to present as evidence really hurt.
Brian: I—it’s—there’s no—is there an appeal process? Is there something and Bill has asked me to make sure that I don’t forget to talk about the Go Fund Me where you’re trying to raise some money. You’ve got a goal of raising about $1,200 to go ahead and cover some of these expenses. But does your public defender, do they plan an appeal? Is there a countersuit filed against the individual that took it from outside of the criminal courts and then after that part of it was dismissed, re-filed it as a criminal case? Clearly someone’s ego was involved here. Do you have plans, if you raise the sufficient amount of funds, to then go back and appeal your conviction?
Randy: I’ve set in motion the request for the paper work for the appeal and I have a limited time window of 14 to 21 days. As of May 8, the sentencing order had not been signed so there’s some question of when the clock starts ticking for the 14 to 21 days. But so far requesting the transcripts, the paper work, the sentencing and all that stuff from the court office has been kind of stalled. To be honest, I’m getting a little bit paranoid. Are they stalling on purpose or are they just that slow?
Bill: Well, it doesn’t matter. At some point if there’s ticking clocks and you need paperwork to prepare for the next phase of something that’s just not right, again, which is the phrase that kind of the preeminent phrase. Almost like Joel (inaudible 0:52:14) “Folks, this ain’t right.” This is a strange situation but unfortunately it’s becoming more and more common.
Randy: It’s becoming way too common and the fact that the court seems to feel that they can pick and choose which law they care to enforce and they can also pick and choose which laws apply to them and disregard them, it makes you wonder because mine’s not the only case like this. There are other cases. There are three criminal cases for chickens in Garden City so far since 2013 started.
Brian: And has the same prosecutor brought those other cases?
Randy: Yes. Yes, absolutely.
Brian: Slow day at his titled law firm I’m guessing, huh?
Brian: In one article I’m reading the city council basically told him to sit down and be quiet. We’re going to do it our way, not your way. So it’s clear that his opinion is high up there in the minds, the lists and minds of city council members; especially when it comes to allowing your chief of police to also act like a city manager. That’s got to be a pretty cool set up where you get to write the laws as a city manager and also…
Bill: Enforce them.
Brian: Effectively enforce the laws. That sounds constitutional, that sounds cool to me. That sounds good. So, here’s what we’re going to do. Bill, if it’s cool with you, if our listeners—and this is a great cause. I don’t think you and I have ever done this, Bill, where we’ve suggested to our listeners to go and help in this way. So if it’s cool with you the website is gofundme.com. So I’m going to spell it out, www.gofundme.com. If you put in “help the chicken criminal”, then he’s—right now, Bill, he has $252 raised so far of an $1,100 total he’s shooting for.
Bill: We have a lot of people interested in helping so, Randy, I hope this helps. I think the bizarre part as we were talking before we called you is we were talking—we happened to be talking about Nazis and we just had this little idea that your chickens are cooped up but the Nazis are free range.
Bill: In other words you’ve got nasty Nazi neighbors and I don’t know if you can say that five times really fast but you probably should just on the way home when you leave the parking lot there. You’ve got a crazy world around you that needs to be healed and I would say to all of our listeners, “Look there’s a sense in which we have to stick together and help each other out,” so this is an opportunity. If we don’t hang together, we’ll hang separately as a great man once said. So I think this is a great opportunity to help Randy. And he also—Randy also does some other things.
There’s ways to benefit from Randy’s work here. You can go to his site and see what some of the other chicken laws are and I found Randy’s site just by going to Google and typing in chicken laws. His page came up. So that might be the fastest because he’s got some slashes and stuff in his website. But if you just go to Google and time in “chicken laws”, his is the first site, at least for me, to come up. Backyard chicken, what is it, Randy, again?
Randy: Backyardchickens.com, it is both the educational site, it deals with laws, it deals with animal husbandry. There are links in there for social interjection and chatting. There’s links to my story under the learning center, under the laws section. But from what people have been telling me, if you just type in my name and Google it, it’s popping up all over the place. I love that.
Bill: And if you’re got chickens you can learn from just Randy’s experience and maybe you send him 25 bucks, $50 bucks. Some of you people can send a little bit more, that would be great. But just go to his site and try to realize that he’s attempting to teach along the way and chronicle just what’s happened. In his part-time, he takes kids and takes them through the botanical center and so you’ve got a public spirit and a bunch of other things that he does. This is not an arch criminal. This is not the Joker or anybody like that. This is a human being just like you that just wanted to raise some chickens and ran up against the system and I think we all—that’s one thing we all kind of have in common, the listeners is Brian here is that we all sort of—it’s a buzz saw.
Brian: Yeah, he ran up against the poultry police at the prosecutor’s office; if this is one of four cases where this aspiring city attorney has decided to make his mark on going after people that raise chickens. And I would offer, Bill, not just in terms of helping the donation because you believe in the cause but their saying to him, “Hey, if you don’t come up with this money, it’s going to be a violation of your sentencing and we’re going to put you in jail. Not only for the 30 days; you’re going to be subject to probation. You’ll always have a conviction, a criminal conviction on your record all because of the poultry police.
Randy: That’s right.
Bill: Randy, one more thing that I just thought of… if these guys don’t stand down, next year we come to Garden City with John Cougar Mellencamp and Willie Nelson and do ChickenAid.
Randy: Oh, that would be great. Bill, Brian, I’d just like to say a couple things here.
Randy: One, on the Go Fund Me fundraiser, I’ve only requested enough to pay the fines to keep myself out of jail and once I reach that I am not going to collect any other money for future cases. I’ll work on that on my own. From the time this case started my goal has been education both at the local level and also at the state level, which is one of the reasons why I’ve been going to the agricultural commissioner’s meetings each month. We founded a small grass roots organization called the Michigan Small Farm Council to help get awareness out of these just, these crazy laws and these crazy attacks on what is basically a state right for people to grow and produce their own food. It’s not just my fight. This is a statewide thing. It’s happening across all of Michigan and it’s also happening in many areas across the country.
Brian: I would point out to the people listening that the Right to Farm Act in your state—obviously it wasn’t intended for agriculture areas, right? Because if you’re in an agricultural area it’s obvious you have the right to farm. But the Right to Farm Act was intended to cover outside of what would normally be construed as agricultural. It was written with you in mind.
Randy: Well, I would tend to disagree. There’s been a lot of intellectual debate on that from scholars at Michigan State University, various law schools and of course the vast number of criminal cases that have been, while they may not have been criminal, but court cases that have gone to the court of appeals. There’s some interpretation, some people think this was written to protect the CAFOS and then the backyard farmers found, “Hey this also protects us,” and they jumped on the bandwagon. Well, that causes a little bit of heartburn with some of the big CAFOS who say, “Look, we bought and paid for this law. It’s our law only.” And there’s certain officials within MDARD and some of the other state agencies that say, “We don’t care about you little guys. We’re just worried about the big operations.” There’s unintended consequences of the law when it was passed and then when it was amended in 1999 but the court rulings have been very clear. This act covers everybody regardless of size and regardless of where you live. Zoning isn’t the issue here.
Brian: So in fact the law was written to cover people out—in addition to cover people outside of what would normally be zoned in an area where people would think, “Oh, yeah, that’s an area where chickens could grow.” So what, in our closing minutes here, Randy, what has the appellate court had to say in some of these other cases? Because obviously if you were to file a class action lawsuit where all the chicken farmers got together and then went to the appellate division, what has the appellate court said in other cases?
Randy: The appellate court says that he Right to Farm act is very clear. These cases shouldn’t have been brought in the first place and in a couple of cases the courts have awarded the defendants monetary damages.
Brian: So what do we got to do to get your name on the list of people that are—and maybe it’s just raising the money now? Do you file a countersuit against the prosecutor and the city of Garden City? If the superior court or if the appellate court has said, “These cases were brought wrongfully.” That doesn’t mean you just have to sit on your hands and run the risk of jail time, fines and having a criminal conviction on your record. What’s your plan to go ahead and take this to a higher level?
Randy: My plan is to proceed with every court option available to take it to the higher level. I believe that I’m perfectly within my rights. I believe the city is wrong. I believe they’ve been harassing me and it needs to stop. It’s not just me. It’s all the other citizens in Michigan that are trying to produce their own food and trying to make a buck on it at the same time.
Brian: Well, Randy, we can’t. I’m sorry. Go ahead, Bill.
Bill: One last question. What’s the state of the chickens? You probably had all these chickens named individually. What is the current status of Mary Bell and all of the other cluckers? Did you have to get rid of them?
Randy: Yeah, one of the orders was to follow all ordinances and the advice of my attorney was just get the chickens out of the yard and then after your probation period then we’ll revisit it, what’s going to happen. We’ll revisit it after the court of appeals and so on but for right now all of the hens are re-homed to good families, to good friends.
Bill: Outside the city limits.
Brian: Outside of Garden City.
Bill: The good city of Garden City.
Brian: Okay, home to public defenders that think they’re smarter than a superior court which said these cases never should have been brought in the first place. Home to city prosecutors…
Bill: They should put that on their sign out there.
Brian: They really should. We’re smarter than appellate courts, welcome to Garden City. All right, Randy, we’re going to have to run. Let me say really quickly, ladies and gentlemen, if you would, gofundme.com, Randy’s about a fifth of the way there. Please help the chicken criminal.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much. Continue to reach out on Facebook and Twitter, all the different ways we love to hear from you. On behalf of Mr. Bill Heid and everyone here at Off the Grid News, thanks for giving us an hour of your time.
This has been Off the Grid News Radio. For more info, go to OfftheGridNews.com.