Back in November of last year, I shared the story of Paul Jacob, Susan Johnson, and Rick Carpenter. Together, they are sometimes referred to as “the Oklahoma 3.” Their crime, “conspiracy against the state” (what we know as petitioning the government for a redress of grievances) could cost them 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
The allegation against Jacob, Johnson, and Carpenter is that they illegally participated in petition drives as they had not established residency in Oklahoma. Jacob insists that they made a good faith attempt to abide by the law. Jacob pointed to a Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling regarding a petition challenge to the state’s ban on cock fighting as a basis for establishing residency:
I also asked the folks at National Voter Outreach whether there had been any challenges of petition drives on the basis of residency, and whether any ruling on same had been issued by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. I received a copy of the court’s decision in a challenge to an initiative to ban cock-fighting. In that decision, circulators were challenged for being “out-of-state” circulators because they had moved to Oklahoma during the petition drive and because many lived in hotels during their residence in the state. According to the information I received, every circulator in the cock-fighting ban petition who declared him or herself a resident was ruled to be qualified to circulate the petition, regardless of how long he resided in the state or whether he lived in a hotel. The only circulator disqualified had listed an out-of-state address on the petition form.
This is a short video I took from Paul Jacob’s speech at the Libertarian National Convention.
I spoke briefly with Jacob before he left for the airport. He seems confident that he and his co-defendants will not be convicted for exercising their First Amendment rights but he mostly wants his story to be told.
David writing for Free Paul Jacob linked this post (thank you David) and wrote the following about my statement “He seems confident that he and his co-defendants will not be convicted for exercising their First Amendment rights but he mostly wants his story to be told” at the end of his post:
Doubtless not intended, but this almost makes it sound as if Paul would be okay with being tossed in the hoosegow so long as he can get his story out there. Paul wants to tell his story, defend the right of citizen initiative and the Constitution, and not be unjustly imprisoned for the “crime” of participating in an Oklahoma citizen initiative drive in which he and others involved in the drive acted in good faith to comply with Oklahoma law governing citizen initiative drives. He’s standing up for his own rights and those of all of us simultaneously. But most important here are his own freedom and the well-being of his family, which are being unjustly jeopardized.
David is right. I did not intend to make the impression that Jacob would be okay with being a political prisoner; I could have phrased this better. As is evident from Jacob said he told his daughter, clearly he understands that he could do time for his political activism. What he told me was in response to my question asking if he thought he would prevail in court. When I say “he seems confident,” I mean that he seems confident that the system will ultimately work the way it’s supposed to. I am similarly confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule the right way in D.C. v. Heller (ruling that the right to bear arms is an individual right rather than a collective right) but I also understand that there is a real possibility that the court will rule the wrong way.
I think Jacob wants his story told for at least 3 reasons:
1. By exposing this injustice for what it is to the nation and the world, the courts will know the eyes of the world are upon them. This exposure can only help his case (if this case was not publicized, there’s a much greater chance that the AG and the courts would get away with prosecuting and convicting Jacob under this grossly unconstitutional law).
2. Jacob does not want others to be intimidated by the government, especially when others decide to petition their government for a redress of grievances.
3. His case could bring about change in Oklahoma for the better as many citizens would be outraged at the prospect of “the Oklahoma 3″ being put in prison for rights we generally take for granted.