Monday, June 17, 2024

#2783: Roger Dowdell

Before MAGA, there was the Tea Party (there’s plenty of overlap), and like so many MAGA loons, many Tea Party-affiliated bozos had bizarre and scary ideas about how states and governments work, partially due to militia or sovereign citizen influence. One such recurring, bizarre idea is the deranged notion that a group of citizens can decide to join up for a grand jury and indict people – anyone they disagree with, but the focus is usually on government officials – for whatever they, through typical conspiracy thinking, are convinced that these people have done wrong (both the alleged facts of the case and the standards by which the actions are wrong are usually imagination-based), and then convict them and hand down punishment outside of the judicial system. A particularly deranged feature of that kind of thinking is the delusion these people tend to entertain that someone other than themselves would take any conclusion they arrive at more seriously than the clown show it is.


In 2015, for instance, a group of sovereign citizen loons on the Sarasota county’s Charter Review Board suggested putting a “people’s common law grand jury” (typical nomenclature among sovereign citizen loons) to vote by the electorate, in direct conflict with local, state and federal law, which they don’t tend recognize. The purpose of the common law grand jury was to allow everyday citizens (i.e. themselves) to, on their own, indict government officials for corruption, without official assistance, oversight, or nuisances like due process concerns. The suggestion is, of course, completely outside of the general mandate of the Charter Review Board, but the board had at this point been usurped by morons who tried to spend as much time as possible promoting sovereign citizen stuff instead of doing their job. The idea was primarily pushed by two local village idiot members, Pat Wayman and Steven R. Fields, and the explicit goal was to arrest and possibly execute then-president Obama. “Take a look at the French Revolution and what took place there,” said Mike Bolam, a local clown who attended charter review board meetings to support the creation common law grand juries. Wayman, the charter board member, also had a history of posting Facebook posts calling for the arrest of then-president Obama on murder and treason charges and promoting the III Percent group, as well as videos claiming that the Sandy Hook shootings were staged false flag operations and warnings against UN takeover of the US through its non-binding Agenda 21 agreement.


The architect behind the grand jury idea, the guy whose proposal the Sarasota crazies were intending to implement, were developed by Tea Party activist Rodger Dowdell, who denied being a sovereign citizen but did claim thatGrand jury powers come from God,” not the state or the Constitution, and – importantly – that the rulings of such a grand jury would be kept out of reach of presidential and even U.S. Supreme Court authority. Dowdell is, in other words, a sovereign citizen activist who don’t like the ‘sovereign citizen’ label, presumably because it is tricky to market that label beyond groups of local village idiots. “A people's common law grand jury can, without any probable cause, go into any nook or cranny of government – local, state or federal – research anything that's going on and root out corruption,” continued Dowdell. He also claimed a common law grand jury was already operating in Manatee County, Florida (which seems to be where Dowdell himself lives), but offered no evidence of that: “I can’t talk about it. Everything is secret. In order to keep innocents who may be investigated from being damaged, whatever a grand jury does is secret;” or in other words: a grand jury’s work are rulings are not bound by any Constitution or law, nor by principles of accountability or transparency, nor does it in any way involve the people beyond a couple of conspiracy theorists and their followers. The freedom for which a system like this is a recipe (Dowdell is also affiliated with something called The Liberty Restoration Society) is a strange kind of freedom.


Dowdell is otherwise state coordinator of the wingnut National Liberty Alliance. It is unclear what size or influence that group has, but Dowdell is also active in a range of other groups with similar goals, such as We the People of Colorado, which was formed in part upon the realization that the U.S. government is illegitimate: “When they figured this out, they said ‘how will we get the government to the way it was founded. They did the deep research  … and put an ad in the paper and asked people to come to a meeting,” said Dowdell in 2017 after a group of We the People of Colorado-affiliates got arrested for threatening, intimidating and filing fraudulent liens against dozens of public officials in relation to another Citizens Grand Jury they set up (we’ll just name those defendants for potential future reference: Brian Baylog, Steven Byfield, Stephen Nalty, Harlan Smith, Bruce Doucette [whom we have encountered before], Laurence Goodman, David Coffelt, Janis Blease). Dowdell also runs a website – which is hard to load partially due to its chaotic combinations of fonts and colors – where he issues pseudolegal documents, accusation,s and threats, interleaved with conspiracy theoris and seemingly random Bible verses.


The Sarasota proposal failed, by the way, due to a tie vote (4–4)!


Diagnosis: It’s easy to dismiss people like Rodger Dowdell as loner clowns with internet access and cognitive shortcomings, but his ideas actually have some traction among similarly cognitively challenged wingnuts (of which there are many, even in local governments), and they have caused real, tangible harm to communities across the US. Dangerous.

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