The First Amendment Warfare In Biddeford, Maine
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California October 24, 2001What you are about to read is both humorous and serious. There is a saying that if you are not having fun, you're not doing it right, and these folks are "doing it right!"The below incident provoked a Maine newspaper reporter to write an article centering on the First Amendment, presenting a picture of a City Council getting their butt's kicked and now licking their wounds.The newspaper, however, printed an error in stating 'Wednesday evening's "Maine Forum" featured two guys from New York who founded "Jail4Judges," a small but vocal bunch...' J.A.I.L. may ask the newspaper to print a correctional statement regarding the founder that will also afford J.A.I.L. the opportunity to set forth that J.A.I.L. is not a 'small but local bunch.' Now enjoy the humor.The First Amendment Warfare in Biddeford, MaineWe had been in contact for some time with two JAILers, Dottie LaFortune and Phil Castora, up in Biddeford, Maine. You may remember that Dottie has her own Public access TV show called Maine Forum and Bill Gage [NY JAILer-In-Chief] was a guest on the show a couple of months ago. It turns out that Phil is retired and was a detective for 30 years (see www.www.geocities.com/maineforum, click on "Government Corruption." Also, you can see more info under "Archives.") AND... a City Councilman in Biddeford.It seems that Dottie has been creating quite a stir since she started Maine Forum on local Public Access TV in April. Back in July she aired a tape produced by Phil about local politics, local banks, and local corruption. As a result, the Mayor of the City of Biddeford requested the Public Access Committee to review the tape for improper content, slander, and violations of law. The report from The Committee that the tape complied with the provisions of the public access television laws simply was not acceptable to the Mayor. Using what the Mayor defined as her discretionary power as "Chief Magistrate" of the City of Biddeford, she ordered Dottie not to again air the Castora "tape as previously shown." Dottie aired a small portion of it and hell broke lose. The Mayor issued an Order banning Dottie from Public Access TV and warned that she be arrested is she steps a foot in the TV station.Dottie, being a Red-Blooded American Patriot who was facing the Guillotine of local politics, was not about to back down. Dottie and her lawyer had filed a First Amendment Complaint against the City in United States District Court in Portland and also asked for a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) against the City.When the Mayor found out the federal Judge refused to grant the TRO on the basis that Dottie had not yet been damaged, the city considered it a victory. A vote of the City Council upholding the Mayor's Order against Dottie was placed on the agenda of the Counsel meeting on Tuesday, October the 16th.Tuesday evening Bill Gage and Ron Loeber attended the Biddeford City Council meeting along with Dottie, her lawyer, and many friends and other concerned citizens. What we witnessed was a disgrace to the people of Biddeford, Maine and confirmed what Dottie and Phil had already told us. As we watched the Mayor preside over this public meeting, we realized that she was running the meeting like a dictatorial tyrant in a despotic court proceeding the likes of which caused our ancestors to take up arms against the Crown. Even though the Council policy allowed the public to comment on the orders (Resolutions) in front of them, the Mayor slammed down the gavel if SHE thought the public was not precisely on point.Everyone was allowed to speak and ask questions for exactly 5 minutes. After exactly 4.5 minutes, the Mayor would interrupt with, "you have 30 seconds left, sir." Interestingly, the Council never answered a single question. Bill Gage and Ron Loeber, wearing the Key to J.A.I.L. as a medallion, spoke at the City Council meeting as a"Friend of the Council" much like one would appear in court as a "Friend of the Court". Among other things, Bill and Ron told the Mayor that since Ditto's lawyer just informed the Council of the many violations of law in the City's actions against Dottie, we believed we had a duty, as a "Friend of the Council", to warn them. We believed, because they now have knowledge of serious questions of law, any further actions on the part of the City would be deemed "willful"... resulting in the piercing of the corporate Veil of Immunity and leaving the Mayor and Council members personally liable as well. It was like a Sprint Commercial. You could hear a pin drop.One of the Council Members gave a long and passionate speech against the actions of the Mayor. At the end of his speech, all the people observing the meeting applauded and the Mayor's gavel came crashing down again... several times. The Mayor warned all at the meeting that if another such "outburst" occurred, we would be removed from the meeting by the authorities. Ron Loeber was unable to contain himself. Standing up and addressing the Mayor, Ron said that if the citizens are prohibited from the Natural Expression of their appreciation for the eloquent and impassioned words of a Red-Blooded American Patriot who is a member of government, he doesn't have to be removed from the meeting because he was voluntarily leaving... and did so with flair.A vote was taken. One of the council members had already left. The outcome was a tie vote of 4 to 4, giving the Mayor the opportunity to cast the deciding vote. Bolstered by her "win" in United States District Court the previous day, we don't have to tell you how she voted.At 3 PM the next afternoon (Wednesday), Dottie and her lawyer were back in United States District Court on a renewed motion for the TRO. Bill Gage and Ron Loeber we there... quietly sitting in the back of the courtroom, finely dressed in their NYJAIL4Judges T-shirts and both wearing their Key to J.A.I.L. again.The District Court Judge listened to the oral arguments of Dottie's lawyer and Biddeford's lawyer and interrogated both of them. This time it was different. When the judge was satisfied, he told the lawyers that long before the court resolved any questions pertaining to the 1st Amendment, there were serious violations of state law which should be decided first. He actually questioned the validity and authority of the Biddeford City Council in this whole matter of Biddeford Public Access TV.He asked the two lawyers if they would like the court to take a five minute recess BEFORE he made his Decision to see if they couldn't work out an agreement. The City's lawyer disappeared to find a pay phone. Five minutes later court reconvened and the judge immediately reminded the City's lawyer that he was in federal court and asked if he had the "authority to bind his client." It was agreed that the City of Biddeford would NOT enforce the Mayor's order or the 5 to 4 Resolution of the City Council while Dottie's 1st Amendment Civil Rights Complaint went forward. The Maine Forum was back on the air. And we have received word that Dottie's Civil Rights Trial is scheduled for June of 2002. Stay tuned.It is proper we give positive comment about the Hon. D. Brock Hornby, US District Court. It is our opinion that the people of Maine are fortunate to have a federal judge who demonstrated wisdom and skill on that day. He could have signed the TRO and given the City the opportunity to spend countless public dollars on endless appeals which Dottie would have been incapable of defending for lack of funds.At seven PM on Wednesday, The Maine Forum ran a special live two hour call-in talk show with Bill Gage and Ron Loeber as guests. The phone line rang constantly. Bill was in rare form... even referring to the Mayor as acting like "Hitler's goose-stepping niece." Most people called in to congratulate Dottie on her 1st Amendment victory. But a couple of callers were vindictive. One caller suggested that the rights of a citizen were based on paying taxes. Bill actually lost his cool on that one. He flew into orbit like we have never seen him do before.After the show he attempted to apologize to the Director of Public Access TV. His attempted apology was refused with, "...we need more guys like you on Public Access. When are you coming back?" After the show, supporters showed up at Dottie's home for a celebration. Even the local state representative came. Everyone seemed to appreciate Bill's outrage.It was announced on the show that Dottie, Bill and Ron would be having breakfast at the Golden Rooster at 10 AM on Thursday and anyone who wanted to talk about forming a MEJAIL4Judges was invited. This even is recounted in the newspaper article below. MEJAIL4Judges will hold its first organizing meeting on January 12, 2002. Stay tuned for location and details.Several questions have come to mind as a result of the proceedings in federal court. We wonder from whom the City's lawyer garnered this authority to reverse a legislative action of the City Council. Could it perhaps be that lawyers in Maine share in the Divine Right of Kings with the judges? Did the Mayor, during the five minute recess of the federal court, convene a special meeting of the City council and take another vote... without public notice? Or did the Mayor exercise Emergency Powers and override the vote of the City Council? If so, did the Mayor declare a State of Emergency? Doesn't the pile just seem to get deeper and deeper?Bill GAGE,NYJAILer-IN-Chief, Associate Commander-In-Chief J.A.I.L.Ron Loeber, Lt. NYJAILer-In-ChiefBelow is the newspaper story by the reporter from the PRESS HERALD who joined us at the Golden Rooster on Thursday morning.PRESS HERALD ~ Friday, October 19, 2001 ~ COLUMN: Bill NemitzFree speech gets workout in BiddefordCopyright © 2001 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.They filled the back of the Golden Rooster Restaurant in Saco on Thursday morning, feasting on bacon, eggs and a healthy slice of the First Amendment.
They spoke of how across the river in Biddeford, the local government "incinerates" public records, how there would have been no Sept. 11 if it weren't for corrupt judges, how people who consider it their civic duty to pay taxes must be, to put it kindly, from another planet.
Then the gathering grew quiet and Dorothy LaFortune, the woman of the hour, put down her steaming coffee and spoke.
"If the citizens do not vote these people out of office, Barnum & Bailey stays in town," LaFortune proclaimed, kicking off a wave of head-nodding from one booth to the next. "I mean it! If these people don't go, Barnum & Bailey stays!"
OK, so it wasn't exactly Lincoln-Douglass rhetoric. Nor was LaFortune's the only murky metaphor that made this freewheeling breakfast hard to digest without a side order of skepticism. But if you find it hard to listen to those who take their politics with a dash of paranoia, consider the alternative.
Try shutting them up.
"This is not censorship!" insisted Biddeford Mayor Donna Dion when asked later in the day if she's had enough in her ill-fated quest to keep LaFortune & Co. off the city's public-access channel. "Maybe the court will find that our rule should not have been in existence. But right now it is in existence and it is the rule!"
And this, of course, is Biddeford - where freedom of speech (coherent or not) is more than just a lofty ideal perched high atop the Bill of Rights. Around here, speaking your mind is considered a blood sport.
The latest war of words pits LaFortune, who hosts a weekly public-access gabfest known as "Maine Forum," against Dion and a gang of four city councilors who tried and failed this week to boot LaFortune off the local cable channel.
The complicated chronology boils down to this: Last July, LaFortune's show aired allegations that city and local bank officials had illegally conspired to foreclose on her mother's house. Fast forward to Tuesday, when Dion and the council ruled that LaFortune had failed to obtain a "release" from a local auctioneer named in the show, failed to stop re-running the program even after they told her to put a lid on it, and was therefore banned from Channel 2 for not following the rules.
The gavel had barely fallen on that landmark decision when, less than 24 hours later, U.S. District Court Judge Brock Hornby persuaded the city to stand down while he weighed its all-but-transparent public-access rule book against the much heftier U.S. Constitution.
In other words, for now and most likely for as long as she wants, LaFortune's show will go on. Wednesday evening's "Maine Forum" featured two guys from New York who founded "Jail4Judges," a small but vocal bunch who think judges (except for Hornby) are all tyrants who "willfully violate their oaths of office."
"We're hoping to start a chapter in Maine," said Bill Gage, who wears a big brass key around his neck, has a business card identifying him as "JAILer-in-Chief" and came to the Golden Rooster on Thursday morning trolling for recruits. He even had T-shirts.
Go ahead and chuckle . . . or groan. But then take a moment to reflect on what's really going on here: Biddeford, as usual, is full of people making noise. And lo and behold, the harder city officials try to quiet things down, the louder that noise seems to get.
"But this isn't about censorship!" protested Dion, who doesn't even get cable, for the umpteenth time when told of the rumble down at the Golden Rooster. Rule-breaking aside, Dion claimed, she has no problem at all with LaFortune's show.
"It's food for thought!" Dion said. "It plants seeds! God bless her!"
Amen, Madam Mayor.
And, if He can get a word in edgewise, God bless Biddeford.
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: bnemitz@...
Dottie may be reached at pcastora@..., Bill Gage at gageserve@..., and Ron Loeber at valortoo@.... Let's give these fine folks our letters of encouragement. -Ron BransonJ.A.I.L. is the new means of a peaceful revolution in this country.
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