Idaho Thought Crime Trial Postponed Yet Again 

By Edgar J. Steele 

September 29, 2001

At the last minute, the judge in Lonny Rae's case this past week changed his mind and granted us a change of venue after all.  So, the trial set to start in two days, on October 1, has been delayed yet again.

 
Remember Lonny Rae?   He's the fellow facing five years in prison for slinging the N-word at the black guy who had just mauled his wife.  She was a reporter, on assignment for the local newspaper, who took a picture of one of the referees following a high school football game last October.  Kenneth Manley, the referee who appears in the following picture, didn't like it and grabbed her around the neck as she walked away, in an attempt to take the camera from her.
 
 
 
     This is the snapshot
     of Kenneth Manley
     that started it all.
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because of the change in venue, Lonny doesn't have to submit to the judgment of members of the small community in central Idaho (Council) where he is held in such low esteem for "gittin' the football team in trouble," as so eloquently put by the town ruffian that then proceeded to break Lonny's ankle in a fistfight one cold evening after the referees' association had placed the Council High School on probation for "fan harassment."
 
The harassment?  Well, after Manley let go of Lonney's wife and disappeared into the red brick fieldhouse to shower and change clothes, Lonny got a good look at the injury to his wife's neck and went ballistic.  He turned and shouted into the building: "Tell that nigger to get out here, 'cuz I'm a gonna kick his butt."
 

 
 
 
    The red rash that Lonny's wife
    received when Manley held her
    while trying to take her camera.
    (Photo taken by investigating officer.)
 
 
 
 

 
 
   This door was open that cold night
   last October when Lonny Rae stood
   just outside and vented his anger.
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

 
     The stairwell down which Lonny Rae
     flung his challenge. The locker room
     where Manley was at the time is through
     the left opening at the base of the stairs 
     and down the hall, well out of sight.
 
 
There are other reasons why Lonny couldn't get a fair trial in Council, where the incident took place.  When the referee was never charged with assault and battery (and still has never been so charged by the authorities), yet Lonny was booked for a violation of Idaho's Malicious Harassment statute (the hate crime law), the media from nearby Boise went into an orgy, covering the "racist" Lonny Rae both in print and on TV.  Lonny never again got work in the area.
 
Even the local newspaper got in on the act, eventually referring to Lonny's wife as "the antichrist."  Yes, that is the same newspaper that had assigned her to cover the football game in the first place.  And, yes that is the same newspaper that let her go when advertisers threatened to pull their ads if she remained on staff.  Suggests a whole new meaning for the phrase, "freedom of the press," doesn't it?
 
And Kim had annoyed members of the local school board with her newspaper accounts of their shenanigans in the past.  The school board slapped a one-year suspension on both Lonny and Kim when they learned of the referees' association action, saying that neither could come on school grounds during the coming year.  This proved a loud justification for local condemnation of both Lonny and Kim, since the high school football program is so important to Council a perennial contender for state championship honors. 
 
They claim it was just coincidental that Lonny got charged only a day or so after the referees' association placed the football program on probation.  Feelings were running pretty high; high enough such that Lonny and Kim got accosted by that local ruffian one night, as recounted above.  Lonny mixed it up with the fellow because the object of his ire was actually Kim.  Ironically, Lonny once again took it on the chin (shin, actually) while defending her honor.
 
There is a strong suggestion that this prosecution of Lonny Rae is politically motivated and in retribution for things having nothing to do with what Lonny said that night last October.
 
Judge Steven Drescher rides the circuit and hears cases in Council infrequently, so it was easy for him to reconsider his earlier denial of a change of venue for Lonny's "hate-crime" trial.  Judge Drescher simply decided to bring it home to Payette County, where he normally holds court.  The date has not been finalized, but is expected to be set between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
 
However, the judge ruled against Lonny's companion motion this past week for outright dismissal on a number of counts, the centerpiece of which was a constitutional challenge to Idaho's "hate crime" law on equal protection grounds.  We argued that the law, the language of which applies equally to all citizens, is employed only against white people, thereby elevating minorities to a special class, which denies white people equal protection under the law.  The judge disagreed.  Apparently he hasn't heard about all the other cases around the country, all of which involve some sort of genuine injury inflicted - and all of which have white men as the defendant. 
 
Remember the Seattle "Mardis Gras" riots a few months ago?  Remember the gangs of marauding blacks who did so much damage and assaulted so many white people?  Remember the woman being held down and sexually assaulted by one such gang?  Remember the white guy who came to her aid and was killed for his trouble?  Know how many "hate crime" prosecutions resulted from that night's orgy of crime?  Exactly one.  Guess what color the defendant is.....yep - he's white. 
 
My oldest daughter was actually told in her Sandpoint High School Social Studies class a couple of years ago that only white people can be guilty of hate crimes, since white people are the ones who have oppressed minorities for so long.  That's not the way the laws read, but that sure is the way they are applied.  Just ask Lonny Rae.
 
Though Lonny and his wife easily meet the definition of indigent for purposes of qualifying for court-paid lawyers, trial expenses and experts, Judge Drescher also denied Lonny's motion to be advanced costs to hire the experts he needs.  Lonny, his wife and their two daughters lost their home after they both were put out of work over this affair.  Lonny has since found employment at a low-paying job in northern Idaho, but is barely able to provide his family's modest basic needs.   This family has proudly refused to resort to public assistance.
 
Lonny needs to line up a psychiatrist to testify that he was at the mercy of powerful emotions when he said what he did, thus should not be held accountable - a sort of "temporary insanity."  We also need to retain the services of a sociologist who will advise the jury that the word "nigger" has gone into the vernacular to such a degree that its usage is commonplace virtually everyplace except central Idaho, apparently. 
 
However, thanks to the generosity of several kind individuals, many of whom could ill afford to send anything at all, we have so far collected a little over $3,000 to cover trial expenses.  Many thanks to those generous people, who have now made it possible to cover the cost of professional trial exhibits, deposition transcripts and at least some of my travel costs. 
 
I am providing my services to Lonny Rae pro bono (for free), because I see this case as being so vitally important to all of us, particularly in the current climate of dwindling personal liberty.  This is one of the first cases I have seen that I would put in the category of being a pure thought crime, a la George Orwell's classic novel 1984.  Sure he said it.  So what?  The First Amendment should protect anybody who wishes to engage in such admittedly dreadful behavior, and who should be free of the fear of doing hard time for saying what's on his mind.
 
Donations may be made to the Rae Defense Fund, PO Box 1255, Sagle, Idaho 83860.  Credit card donations may be made by logging on to www.PayPal.com (joining is free) and sending funds to donate@pclu.org  with "Rae Defense Fund" noted in the distribution directions.
 
I'll keep you posted on developments.


-ed

"I didn't say it would be easy.  I just said it would be the truth."
            - Morpheus

Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002

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