Thursday, March 29, 2012

Photos of “tortured” wolf draw death threat against Missoula anti-trapping group

467501_322236927831405_148235025231597_837264_533513780_o A Missoula-based anti-trapping organization said it received a threatening email this month after the group posted graphic photos on the Internet of a live Idaho wolf caught in a foot-hold trap.

Anja Heister, executive director of Footloose Montana, on March 22 posted a series of photos gleaned from an online trapping forum called on her personal and Footloose Montana Facebook sites.

Heister said she opened Footloose Montana’s email inbox on Monday and found what she believed to be a death threat directed at family members of the organization:

“I would like to donate (sic) a gun to your childs (sic) head to make sure you can watch it die slowly so I can have my picture taken with it’s (sic) bleeding dying screaming for mercy body. YOU WILL BE THE TARGET NEXT BITCHES!” the message read.

Heister said the email was in response to the group posting photos of a northern Idaho trapper’s March 18 wolf kill, which was detailed on the online trapping forum. Pinching

The photos show trapper Josh Bransford, a fire management officer for the Nez Perce National Forest, kneeling and smiling for the camera as a wolf he caught in a foot-hold trap stands behind him in a ring of blood-soaked snow. Another photo shows a close-up of the wolf’s paw caught in the trap. A third photo shows the trapper posing with his catch.

Heister said Footloose Montana, which is actively campaigning to ban trapping in Montana, has received plenty of hostile emails and phone calls since 2007 but never anything that rose to this level.

"It has a cumulative effect on your psyche," Heister said. "I’m not easily scared, but when I read this I got really concerned."

Heister said she reported the threatening email to local and federal law enforcement officials. Missoula Police Sgt. Travis Welch confirmed the department received the report of the malicious email and that it was assigned to an investigator, but he declined to comment further.

In an online blog on Earth Island Journal’s website, writer James William Gibson recounted what Bransford — who goes by the handle "Pinching" — wrote about the photos. Bransford’s post has since been removed.

“I got a call on Sunday morning from a FS (Forest Service) cop that I know. You got one up here,” the post said, and then continued, “there was a crowd forming. Several guys had stopped and taken a shot at him already,” the post read, according to Gibson.

According to Bransford the wolf was a 100-pound male with "no rub spots" making an "good wall hanger.”

Bransford did not return calls or emails seeking comment Thursday.

As of late Thursday the photos posted on Footloose Montana’s Facebook page had received nearly 900 comments. Online commenters on both the Earth Island Journal and the Footloose Montana Facebook page expressed outrage over the photos. Many viewers were angry Bransford posed for a portrait with the wounded wolf before killing it.

Dave Linkhart, spokesman for the National Trappers Association, said there’s nothing wrong with a trapper posing with his catch before killing the animal.

"You pose with a successful catch just like you do with a successful hunt," Linkhart said. "People make the problem of attributing human feelings and emotions to these animals."

Linkhart claimed trapped animals don’t suffer, so taking the time to shoot a photograph does not cross ethical boundaries.

458357_322237394498025_148235025231597_837267_1594147433_o "If you look at the trap — across the pad of the foot like that — if you were to release the animal it would walk away like nothing happened," Linkhart said.

Marc Bekoff is a former professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder and fellow of the Animal Behavior Society who has studied the social behavior of wolves and coyotes, among other animals.

"That wolf was suffering immeasurably. Not only physically by having his foot locked in a trap, but also being shot at," said Bekoff, the author of several books on animal psychology and emotion. "This was not hunting. This was having an animal having its foot smashed in trap and then shooting at it with bullets. This wolf was tortured."

Linkhart said if the wolf was shot at, that isn’t the trapper’s fault.

"Somebody else came up there and shot that animal first. That is illegal. What the trapper has done here is not," Linkhart said. "The problem was not the trap. It was the illegal activity of the hunters who shot at that wolf."

Lowdown EXTRA: This is video “Pinching” posted to showing a bobcat stepping into a foot-hold trap:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Former GOP election chief back on the ballot

Former Secretary of State Brad Johnson is back on the June 5 primary ballot after a computer glitch threatened his candidacy for most of the day Wednesday.

Johnson, who is running in a four-way Republican primary to challenge current Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, failed to turn his D-1 business disclosure form to the Commissioner of Political Practices by the March 20, 5 p.m. deadline.

According to state law: "the name of a candidate may not be printed on the official ballot for an election if the candidate or treasurer for a candidate fails to file any statement or report as required by this chapter."

However, lawyer contracted by the commissioner's office later determined that the D-1 form in question was not specifically required under the statute.

"We had attorney look at the statute regarding certification, and because there was a question as to whether the D-1 fit under that requirement we went ahead and certified the four candidates who were missing the D-1 form," said Mary Baker, program supervisor for the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Baker had previously sent a letter to McCulloch Tuesday informing the secretary that nine candidates, including Johnson, failed to submit all the necessary paperwork to the commissioner's office and thus would be ineligible for the primary election ballot.

The Secretary of State's Office then removed Johnson and eight other candidates from the ballot.

Johnson maintained all along that he attempted to file the D-1 form through the CPP's online system and that he thought he had done so successfully. It wasn't until he was contacted by a reporter Wednesday that he realized the CPP office never received the form.

According to Johnson, an investigation by Commissioner of Political Practices Jim Murry and CPP investigator Julie Steab later confirmed that Johnson's computer and Internet browser appeared to be incompatible with the online software used by the commissioner's office.

"We walked through the process that I went through yesterday when I thought I had successfully filed the form," Johnson said. "Sure enough, the submit button at the bottom of the form flashes, there was no error message and no reason to believe it didn't go through properly."

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Linda McCulloch confirmed that the commissioner's office sent a second letter after business hours Wednesday retracting the names of four candidates who had not filed the D-1 form.

Johnson, who spent much of Wednesday wondering whether his candidacy was in jeopardy, praised Murry and the staff in the commissioner's office for working to correct the snafu.

"The commissioner went out of his way to meet with me and then they were out at my house the same day and they were here working through the actual process I engaged in yesterday," Johnson said. "The commissioner made a very real good-faith effort to resolve this in an expedited matter."

Johnson said the incident highlights the fact that the commissioner's office is in need of additional funding and resources and tools to improve the online filing system.

"I'm not talking about commissioner or his staff's performance. They were great today and went out of their way to expedite this," Johnson said. "The Legislature needs to assign a much higher priority for staffing and funding for that office."

Former SOS fails to file required paperwork for June 2012 primary ballot

Former Republican Secretary of State Brad Johnson was removed from the June primary ballot after failing to submit required paperwork to the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Johnson was running for his old job as Secretary of State.

Brad JohnsonJohnson, who served one term as Secretary of State before losing to Democrat Linda McCulloch in 2008, failed to file a D-1 business disclosure form before the March 20, 5 p.m. deadline. He was set to compete in a four-way Republican primary but will now have to sit out the 2012 elections instead.

Commissioner of Political Practices program supervisor Mary Baker, who certifies to the Secretary of State that candidates have filed the necessary disclosure paperwork by the statutory deadline, said Johnson claimed to have sent it via email prior to the deadline but no records of the email could be found.

"He says he submitted it as a PDF form. We went through all the emails, all the folders, the trash folder and we can't find any record of it ever being received," Baker said.

Baker said Johnson stopped by the commissioner's office earlier in the day Wednesday and she told him that if he could find the sent receipt in his email program she would accept it as proof that he filed by the deadline. Baker said Johnson called her a few minutes after leaving the office and informed her that he could not find any record of sending the file.

Johnson was meeting with Commissioner of Political Practices Jim Murry Wednesday afternoon and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cebull delivered a prophetic commencement address, warned grads about the perils of email

Embattled Montana Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull last year warned law school graduates about the perils of electronic communication.

Cebull addressCebull, who last month made national headlines when the Tribune first reported the judge sent a racist, misogynistic email about President Barack Obama’s mom from his federal courthouse computer, is facing a judicial inquiry.  Leading Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have called for a congressional hearing into Cebull’s conduct, and nearly 3,000 people have signed the Montana Human Rights Network’s petition seeking Cebull’s resignation.

Perhaps if Cebull had heeded the advice he gave to law school graduates less than a year ago he wouldn’t be in this situation.

Cebull -- lamenting the “old days” when attorneys met face to face instead of sending hasty, angry emails -- told the 2011 graduating class at the University of Montana School of Law to think twice before clicking the send button on certain emails.

“In the old days I'd dictate a scathing letter to opposing counsel who deserved it, let it sit on my desk for a day or two. That was before I'd consider signing the letter or sending it off. Each time that occurred I never signed the letter and it was never sent.

Why? Because I had the opportunity to think about it.

In the present day, and I know this just from the volumes of emails that I receive in support of various motions, the lawyer sits at a computer, furiously types out an email, and then without thinking about it he moves the curser up to send, hits a button and off it goes.

What's wrong with that scenario? You didn't give yourself time to reflect on the comments and the statements you made in your email. Probably the biggest problem is you can't take it back.”

Not only can you not take it back, but as Cebull is now keenly aware, electronic communication can go viral in flash, and you can’t control how wide or how far it will spread.

Here’s the audio of the entire address. The warning about emails starts about 15:30.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Right-wing blogger sues newly appointed Commissioner of Political Practices

A self-described advocate for “small and transparent government” filed a lawsuit against the newly appointed Commissioner of Political Practices seeking records related to the former commissioner's activities while in that office.

Edwin Berry, an atmospheric physicist and right-wing blogger from Bigfork, is asking the court to force political practices commissioner Jim Murry to turn over records related to former commissioner Dave Gallik’s alleged misconduct.

Gallik resigned in January after the staff in the office accused him of falsifying his state time sheet and doing private practice attorney work from his state office. Gallik denied the charges and said the commissioner’s fabricated the allegations to force him out because they didn't like his management style.

Matthew Monforton, Berry's Bozeman-based attorney, said his client filed the lawsuit because he has an interest in getting to the bottom of the allegations made against Gallik.

"If commissioner Gallik was performing or working on behalf of private clients and using state time and state resources to perform that work, that than would create very serious and perhaps criminal problems," Monforton said. "If the allegations are true that Mr. Gallik falsified time records, then that could potentially be theft of public funds."

The lawsuit asks the court to force Murry to turn over documents. Murry declined a public records request Berry made on Feb. 21 seeking records because of an ongoing ethics complaint Berry filed against Gallik last fall. Berry filed the complaint because Gallik was still listed as the treasurer for the Democratic Legislators Alumni Association political action committee while serving as commissioner.

Murry wrote in a Feb. 23 letter to Berry that because Berry's complaint was pending before a hearing examiner, Murry was unable to provide the document.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BREAKING: Conyers calls for Judiciary hearing on Cebull

The ranking Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are calling on committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to hold a congressional hearing into the actions of Montana U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull.

Cebull, the chief judge for the District of Montana, last month sent a racist and misogynistic email about President Barak Obama's mother from his courthouse chambers using his official email address.

News of the incident sparked national outrage, with human rights and government watchdog groups circulating petitions demanding Cebull's resignation.

Cebull apologized to the president and asked the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals to review the incident, but many Democrats say Cebull, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001, should voluntarily resign.

In a letter to Smith Tuesday ranking judiciary committee member John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., asked smith to allow the committee "to consider the full ramifications of Judge Cebull's conduct on integrity of the federal judiciary" and to consider whether  further action by the committee is warranted, "including further investigation or possible legislative action."

"At minimum, forwarding this e-mail illustrates poor judgment and of conduct that was unbecoming of a federal judge," the Democrats wrote. "The Committee has an obligation to consider the ramifications of the public disclosure of Judge Cebull's conduct, particularly as long as he remains on the bench."