A name change costs just over $100 through the probate court in New Hampshire. It involves a simple form and a super fast hearing in front of a judge. (So fast it was over just after I got my camera rolling! Literally, less than 30 seconds.) However, when you are a known activist with a message of ending the idea of the violent monopoly state, a simple name change could get far more expensive. This one is going to cost 100 hours of community service, plus having a year of jail hanging over my head for two years, the arrest, bail conditions, and time blown in court.
While judge Edward Burke of Keene district court should have dismissed the ridiculous case against me for victimless ID “crimes” outright, he ultimately issued a sentence today that from his perspective, made sense to lay out. The state police prosecutor asked for a $500 fine, 60 days in jail, and 10 months suspended. Since I was facing two “class A misdemeanors”, Burke could have gone draconian and hit me with two years in prison. Ultimately, after statements from me and my business partner Mark Edge, Burke sentenced me to 100 hours of community service (50 per charge) and hung twelve months in jail over my head for two years.
His sentence was also smart from Burke’s perspective because it still appeases the state’s power over others while at the same time disincentivizes me from appealing the case to a de novo (“from the beginning”) jury trial. Why not appeal? Well, it was my plan to appeal if I was hit with significant jail time (more than a couple weeks). Consider my experience in 2011, where despite beating one of my two charges at a jury, the robed man there sentenced me to a 50% greater sentence than Burke had for both of the charges at the initial bench trial! So, jury de novos have their own risks, at least until NH statute can be changed to prevent de novo trial judges from sentencing harsher than bench trial judges.
Burke has in recent years made some pro-freedom rulings when he threw out the outrageous “NO TRESPASS FOREVER” order banning from the entire Cheshire superior court property several liberty activists (including myself) as written by the Sheriff. Burke later tossed out the illegal no trespass issued against Graham Colson by the “city of Keene”, banning him and others from Central Square. I am grateful that he denied the state’s request for jail today as I will now be able to take care of my senior family member and my growing radio show and network rather than sit in a cage.
I learned some important things today. Namely, that character witnesses can be motioned for in advance (it may be possible to just bring them without notice) and they are subject to cross-examination. Also I learned that if you are in court often enough and you have made it clear that you refuse to pay fines to the state, Burke won’t even mention it as an option. This is a smart move on his part, because it prevents me from announcing to the court audience my refusal to pay fines. In this case, there were a couple of people still left in the court that I didn’t know and were presumably awaiting a case, though the courtroom had been mostly cleared of cases before my hearing.
More takeaways from this case: Besides the violent way the state police acted over a paperwork error (and their subsequent bragging to the media about my arrest), it’s worth noting that I did not hire an attorney nor did I take a plea. Strangely, the state did not offer a plea deal, not that I would have taken it if they did. Since I did not hire an attorney, I saved thousands on the case. Now, in theory an attorney could have done a better job, but there’s no way to compare apples-to-apples to know for sure how the attorney would have done instead. Ultimately I’d only have brought in an attorney for the jury trial, because had I been facing significant time in jail, bringing in a professional for the “de novo” trial would likely help reach a jury more effectively, and of course attorneys are better at objections and the legal process in general.
Thank you to all who came out to watch and support me!