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For offenses at forest gathering, a nomadic court
Question of the Day
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A roving courtroom has pulled up to a counterculture gathering of about 1,100 people in an eastern Utah slice of national forest.
Federal Judge Dustin Pead, prosecutors and public defenders began hearings in a trailer Thursday, working through 21 minor citations that included having a dog off a leash and drug possession for 17 members of the Rainbow Family.
Legal workers and security agents milled around the makeshift courtroom Thursday morning, checking paperwork and chatting in a meadow. Pead pulled up to the site in a black pickup truck and walked into the trailer with his robe draped over his arm.
Brian Michaels, an Oregon attorney and member of the Rainbow Family for more than 30 years, says the court trailer makes it easier on members, who are 60 miles from Salt Lake City’s federal courthouse.
“Getting out of the gathering and getting a ride two hours away is much more difficult than getting a ride five miles,” he said.
“It just makes sense. It’s more efficient for everyone involved,” Melodie Rydalch, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah told KSL-TV (http://bit.ly/1m58rqU). Three more court dates are already scheduled near site in the next two weeks.
But not all members agree. Thomas “Wind Wolf” Greenwood, who travelled from Indiana, says something about the “kangaroo court” has a “greasy” feeling. “There’s no other way I can describe it,” he told KSL. “It doesn’t feel right.”
It’s not the first time a federal court has packed out in Utah, Rydalch, said. Officials did the same thing during the 2003 Rainbow Family gathering in Summit County. They also heard cases at remote sites near Olympic venues during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Greenwood was in court Thursday for a federal citation for having his dog off a leash. The Forest Service requires owners to leash their dogs at the gathering’s multiple campsites.
Others members of the Rainbow Family appeared before the judge on misdemeanor drug possession citations issued by Forest Service rangers. Several argued that the searches of their tents and vehicles were illegal. Others complained that law enforcement officers harassed them.
Michaels contends past gatherings have logged more instances of harassment.
This year, “the law enforcement people themselves that I’ve spoken with, they’ve all been very friendly,” he said, “but they’re still going around looking to bust people.”
The annual gathering last year met in Montana. It’s expected to grow to 10,000 members by July 4, the height of the celebration.
Information from: KSL-TV, http://www.ksl.com/
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