The McGuckin story
The Idaho Observer
By Don Harkins
The McGuckin story, which, as I will explain, epitomizes both the arrogance of county government and the power of network dominant media. The story, which on the surface seems like a simple state-concern-for-the-welfare-of-children case, is incredibly complex. I believe that it boils down to a four (or more) year persecution of an unfortunate family that has a really neat, and possibly strategic, 40-acre piece of property with a pristine lake. This entire travesty would never have made more than a few lines of the local evening news if it had not been for one thing: The McGuckin children sicced their dogs on the “authorities” and made a stand.
Since the Idaho Observer keeps its office within 17 miles of the ‘standoff” and, since no other media in the area has the editorial license to tell the truth and, since millions of people all over the world are fixated on understanding the truth behind this surreal scenario, I will place things into proper perspective. My wife Ingri and I were able to gain the proper perspective by riding with Joann McGuckin’s (former) attorney Edgar Steele while he delivered a letter that withdrew his representation from this case and when we discovered that a bond reduction hearing that had been scheduled for 4 p.m. had been postponed until Monday, June 4, 2001 amid strange circumstances.
Rather than turn this into a series of news stories, this is just going to be Don talking. There will be a mixture of facts that can be verified by documentation and my own interpretation of events based upon my knowledge of the characters involved and other stories that I have covered which are connected or related. I will, however, break each segment down under a headline to make things easier to explain.
To fully understand the McGuckin story, it would be best to obtain copies of the November and May editions of The Idaho Observer wherein we reported the christening of the Cutthroat (a 10 foot unmanned submarine that is now being used for research in Lake Pend Oreille) and the Parkison story wherein another Bonner county family was squeezed for several years until they lost their property. I also suggest that you obtain a copy of the September, 2000 edition of The Spectrum newspaper (1-877-280-2866) wherein some interesting clues regarding this region’s importance to sophisticated technology research are found.
It appears that the veneer of propriety on the part of the state is extremely thin in this case. Now that the ‘standoff’ has ended, it will be a matter of simple investigation to prove that the McGuckin’s land was stolen from them illegally and that the charges of child neglect alleged by Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson were fabrications that are not supported by evidence.
Breaking News: Standoff has ended
By the evening of June 2, 2001, the standoff ended peacefully and the five remaining children have been taken to Bonner General Hospital where they were to spend the night. Three persons, including a family friend and neighbor whom the children trusted, made contact with the children and it was that contact which ultimately led to their decision to come out.
Bonner County Sheriff Phil Jarvis claims that he sent word to the children that they would not be separated if he has anything to say about it. The three mediators also gave the kids a note from their mother in jail. It is reported that the note allegedly from mom was what compelled them to go with ‘authorities.’ Jarvis’ promise that they would not be separated may not be his to keep as the children are now in the custody of state child welfare workers who have made no such promises to the children. By all reports the children were all in fine shape physically and mentally were in good spirits when they left their home.
The children were taken to the hospital where they would all be given physicals. It is also likely that the hospital staff was be ordered to administer vaccines to make them current with state recommended vaccination regimen. If the children are healthy now and then begin to experience adverse reactions to vaccines, I am concerned that the mother will somehow be blamed for the delayed reaction of ill health and that the introduction of toxic substances directly into their blood streams will not be considered as the cause.
I am also concerned that the ‘authorities’ will, in their attempts to pacify the children’s emotional needs, start feeding them a bunch of junk food which will exascerbate vaccine-related health complications and compromise their psychological equanimnity. There is still no word on when Joann McGuckin will be released from jail though it appears there is no reason to continue holding her because her children are obviously not the victims of neglect as alleged in the complaint filed by Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson May 29, 2001.
Myths and fabrications
- The children have no food and are eating lilly pad soup:
This is not true as more than one person reports that the children have plenty of food.
- The children have no heat:
This is north Idaho. They have wood and a wood stove.
- The children have no electricity:
The house has electricity that is hooked up and paid for.
- The family has 27 vicious and hungry dogs running wild and hunting in a pack. The number is probably closer to 15 dogs that are more protective than they are vicious.
- The children are victims of neglect:
Though they may not live in a family like yours, these kids are not behaving like neglected kids. These kids love each other, their deceased father, their mother and their home.
- Joann McGuckin spends her money on alcohol:
There is no evidence of this.
- The children are armed:
Benjamin said “go get the guns” to start this standoff. Since that time nobody has seen them brandishing any weapons. Benjamin, however, has allegedly admitted that there were five guns in the house.
- Joann McGuckin has mental problems and does not trust the government.:
Joann has lost her husband, she has been slipping into poverty for the last several years as her husband’s health deteriorated and has been in full knowledge that the loss of her home was imminent. Intrusive government has not attempted to help her, it has been attempted to remove her from the property by a variety of means. Then, charges of child neglect are fabricated, she is tricked by police into being arrested, she is thrown in jail and her kids decide to defend their home. How would you feel?
- The children must be taken into custody for their own protection because there is no place else for them to go:
A family friend of ten years whom the children trust and like, who lives 30 minutes away on a 140 acre ranch has offered to take the children in but the state will not allow them to because they are not “licensed.”
- Benjamin ‘gave himself up to authorities:’
Benjamin had apparently left the house on a recon mission two days previously. He was unable to cross the police line and his coming into police custody more closely resembles capture than a voluntary surrender. Since he was taken into custody, nobody but ‘authorities’ have had access to him.
- The bond reduction hearing was canceled because of a power outage in the courthouse:
The hearing was to take place at Bonner County Jail, not at the courthouse. There was a TV setup at the courthouse for media members who were going to watch the hearing from that location. There had been no power outage at the courthouse as of 4:20 p.m. when Ingri and I left. At 3:55 p.m. we learned that Judge Heise was still in the building and that Public Defender Bryce Powell was nowhere to be found.
- Ed Steele had his license to practice law in Idaho suspended:
Ed never mentioned such a thing and it does not stand to reason that he would volunteer to represent McGuckin in this high profile manner if he was going to be prevented from representing her in court. Steele said that he has not been informed that he is not longer licensed to practice law in Idaho.
- The children are unhealthy and malnourished:
There is no evidence to suggest this is true. The children appear to be healthy, vibrant and intelligent. Benjamin was given a physical after being taken into custody and is reportedly in excellent health. Benjamin reported that there is plenty of food and water in the house.
- The children have been home schooled and taught to be suspicious of the government:
Both of these things might be true, however the media spin is negative where I see nothing but positives. The children were smart enough to not be taken into custody by police who had tricked their mother into going to jail and had sold their property at auction when it appears that the foreclosure, seizure and sale of the property was conducted illegally. It would appear that being suspicious of government is a survival skill that all children should be taught. They are survivors, they are close-knit and they have proven to be more capable than most children who attend public school.
- The father died of malnutrition and dehydration:
This may be partially true, but persons who suffer for years from the ravages of degenerative disease may not feel like eating or drinking the last few days or weeks of their lives. It would be absurd to conclude that the last four years of his declining health was because he decided to starve himself and not drink water.
Steele withdraws from McGuckin case-for now
SANDPOINT, June 1, 2001-At 2:30 p.m. today Attorney Edgar Steele hand delivered a letter to public defender Bryce Powell and Joann McGuckin that announced his withdrawal from the case. Steele, who I must say is a personal friend of mine, has stated to me that he would rather not practice law in the courts of north Idaho because it has been his experience that law is not the most important part of the judicial equation here. The fact that he decided to try to help this woman and her six children was, in my estimation, a purely selfless and noble gesture on his part.
Steele had an excellent visit with McGuckin May 31. McGuckin thanked Steele for representing her without charge and definitely, according to Steele, wanted him to represent her and the children in matters not related to Robinson’s criminal complaint. He learned a lot and found that there were several areas that he could be of service to her because she and her family had been given a raw deal with regard to the loss of the property. Powell was representing her on the absurd criminal charges of felonious injury to children.
Steele was up until midnight researching and studying documents pertaining to the case and working out a strategy. The following morning he was unable to talk to her; she only wanted to communicate with Steele through written memoranda and a couple of people friendly to McGuckin were suddenly noncommunicative. Steele said that he cannot adequately represent her under these conditions. He did tell Ingri and I that he left the door open for her, though, and that if she was able to get her thoughts together when things calm down, he would be glad to reconsider.
Based upon what we can infer from the characters involved, the fact that Powell is a young attorney trying to make a living in a tightly controlled small town legal environment, that he is very likely in way over his head in this case and that he must listen to the local power clique to have a future practicing law in Bonner county.
It would appear that Powell convinced McGuckin to dissuade Steele, an extremely competant attorney who cannot be controlled by the local power clique, from digging into the injustices that have been done to the McGuckins.
After delivering the letter to McGuckin through her jailers, Steele was stopped by the news media to give on camera interviews. In anticipation of the bond reduction hearing scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. (it was at this time 3 p.m.) there were several local and national news teams and two satelite trucks waiting around in the Bonner County Sheriff’s Department parking lot.
Steele very eloquently and accurately said several things to the news media that would have made all concerned Americans very proud. When asked what he thought would be the best resolution of this matter, Steele said that McGuckin should be let out of jail immediately so she can go home to her kids and the police should go home to their families. He also indicated that it was his belief that Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson’s charges of child abuse were unfounded and demonstrably false.
Bond reduction hearing delayed
SANDPOINT, June 1, 2001-A bond reduction hearing for Joann McGuckin that had been scheduled to take place at the Bonner County Jail at 4 p.m. here today in the court of Magistrate Judge Heise has been postponed until Monday, June 4 because public defender Bryce Powell was nowhere to be found. McGuckin, 45, was arrested through deception by the Bonner County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday after Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson filed a complaint against McGuckin for felonious injury to children. McGuckin is being held on $100,000 bond though most of the charges Robinson alleged against McGuckin have been demonstrated to be false.
Bond is a mechanism that is used to protect the community from the accused if they are at risk for fleeing prosecution or pose a danger to the community. McGuckin is not a danger to the community and the likelihood that she would flee the area and leave her children behind is so remote as to be absurd to contemplate. Therefore it would appear that $100,000 bond is excessive and put in place to keep her in jail so that she does not have the opportunity to speak to the press, have unmonitored access to legal counsel or have contact with her children.
Local and national media with satelite uplinks were positioned at the jail and Court room 2 at the Bonner County Courthouse in anticipation of the hearing. Ingri and I were with several other reporters in the courthouse at 3:30 p.m. when it was learned that Judge Heise was still on site because Powell was nowhere to be found though he was well aware of the hearing time, date and location. It was learned later that he had been out attempting to talk the children into giving themselves up.
I believe that he was there doing that, but that it was an excuse to not be present at the bond reduction hearing at the jail. I believe that his controllers, the county that appointed him to represent McGuckin in this case, arranged his not being present for the hearing so that they could continue the hearing to Monday. I think they wanted a couple days to think, hoping that something magical would bring the standoff to an end before Monday. The more conspiratorial side of me is concerned that she will be psychologically manipulated into saying things that will compromise public perception of her in a negative way.
The kids (are) Kathryn, 16, Banjamin, 14, Mary, 13, James, 11, Fred, 9 and Jane, 8. I have heard several people say that the kids, though sometimes a little dirty, are nice, a little shy, but polite, intelligent and well spoken. It sounds like these children should be used as poster children for the benefits of home schooling rather than being labeled as outcasts unfit to function in polite society. I for one, am proud of the McGuckin children and hope to meet them some day and tell them so.
Conclusions to date
This is a land grab case not a child abuse case. The kids are fine except that their father is dead and the police tricked their mom into being arrested on charges of felonious injury to children that are either bold faced lies or baseless accusations. In either event there is no evidence to support the charges against Joann McGuckin, there is no reason for her to be in jail and there is no justification of $100,000 bond as she is not s flight risk or a danger to society.
The McGuckin property, which has a homestead exemption and is worth nearly $500,000, was seized for $5,000 in back taxes and sold at auction for $50,000. It appears that the McGuckins have been under attack for at least four years and the intent was to steal their property. I personally believe the attack was subtle, and conducted with the use of sophisticated technologies that to most people are the stuff of science fiction. They became increasingly reclusive, I think, because nobody would believe them if they told them what was going on and they were afraid that people would think they were crazy.
So, the two components of this surrealistic scene is the provably illegal seizure and disposal of their property and the provably fabricated charges of child abuse and neglect. The veneer is so thin that when this thing begins to unravel, the corruption and arrogance behind this property theft will become obvious. I was a disappointed that though there are millions of people talking about this, the public was not represented at the jail or the courthouse. The only people on hand were media types. I guess people wish to be angered by the events by understanding the issue through the eyes of the dominant media.
Copies of the complaint of child neglect filed by Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson (CR-01-01116) can be obtained by calling the Bonner County Courthouse at: (208) 265-1432. The Idaho Observer will FAX a copy. Call (208) 255-2307.
Don Harkins is the editor of The Idaho Observer, a monthy tabloid-sized, 24-page newspaper that seeks to report the truth of events that are shaping the socio/political, spiritual and economic demise of our our once free nation.
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