Our Founding Fathers knew that corruption amongst Public Officials has been a problem since the beginning of time.

The majority if not all of the Bill of Rights were written to protect the people from the government.  Freedom of press, speech, assembly, to petition; prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure, right of due process, right to a speedy trial, protection against excessive bail and protection against cruel and unusual punishment- these rights were all spelled out to protect The People from The Government.  But due to a new interpretation of an Idaho Statue, the citizens of Idaho have less rights than they did before.

In Chapter 13 of Title 18  of Idaho Statues under the heading of “Bribery and Corruption” you  will find a  less known statute: 18-1353 “Threats and Other Improper Influence in Official and Political Matters”.  In conjunction with anti-bribery laws, this statute was designed to prevent individuals from threatening unlawful harm to a Public Official to try and get that official to make a decision they believe to be wrong, such as section C:

(c)  threatens harm to any public servant or party official with purpose to influence him to violate his known legal duty;

However due to a new interpretation of this law allowed by Judge Steven Hippler, this law has now been broadened to include any kind of threat, lawful or unlawful, for any reason, lawful or unlawful, made to a public official.  Previously Idaho Statue 18-1353 was applied to an individual making a threat of physical harm or unlawful harm against a public official to persuade them to alter a decision.  For example- “If you don’t award me the contract I am going to burn your house down” or “If you find me guilty, I am going to attack you and your family”.  Recently this law was applied to Brian Ray McClure of Boise Idaho where he was charged for stating in a letter he was going to kill Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers and his family. He was sentenced to 33 months in prison.

However when Byron Sanchez of Ada County sent a demanding letter to Gem County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Thomson, the situation was much different.  No specific physical treats were made, and he didn’t state that he was trying to force him to “violate his known legal duty”.  When this letter was presented to Magistrate Judge Tyler D. Smith of Gem County, he dismissed the idea in court saying that there wasn’t any unlawful threat in the letter.  So in order to charge Sanchez under this law, the letter was then presented to Judge Steven Hippler of Ada County where rather than charging him with “Threats against State Official” (18-1353A), they charged him with “Improperly influencing a Public Official”(18-1353).  It the process Hippler broadened this law to include threading any type of harm and to influence an official in any way.

See, in order to charge some one with “Threats against State Official” (18-1353A), the law is clear,  you have to make specific unlawful or violent threats like in the case of Brian Ray McClure.  However Sanchez did not.   The prosecution could have charged him with Assault (18-901). However in order to do that you have to show that you have some ability to or have made some attempt to actually carry it out. Which they had neither. If he had made even a vague threat more than once they could have charged him with Malicious Harassment (18-7906) whether he had the ability to do it or not. But he only sent one letter.  So in order to charge Sanchez they broadened the scope of (18-1353) to include threatening any type of harm (lawful or unlawful) to influence an official in any way.

This new interpretation of Idaho Statue 18-1353 has a big impact on our first amendment rights.  For instance, if you threatened to expose a lazy public official for all of the vacation trips he is making to Hawaii, unless he quits making those trips and starts doing his job, you could be charged under this new interpretation.  If a member of the press threatened to write an article about an official unfairly awarding million dollar contracts to his family members, unless he agreed to quit awarding million dollar contracts to his family members, he could be charged as well.  Attorney Marco DeAngelo made several objections in Sanchez’s trial to the constitutionality of this new interpretation and plans to file appeals based on how it can erode our first amendment rights.

Having these types of lawful threats available is what keeps us free from tyranny.

Our Bill of Rights has many protections for us in many types of situations.  But the primary reason the Founding Fathers gave us these rights was to protect The People from The Government.  Having the ability to not only represent ourselves in court without an attorney, but also being able to freely negotiate with the prosecution without the fear of receiving additional charges is our last defense against a failing public defense system.  Our voices should influence Public Officials when they aren’t representing us.  The threat of the Freedom of Press should influence Public Officials to do their jobs.  The threat of exposing Public Officials should most definitely influence their actions.

Having these types of lawful threats available is what keeps us free from tyranny.

We The People have to stand up for these rights because the government definitely will not.  So get involved. If you are concerned Idahoan contact your senator, congressman, Governor’s office or the Idaho ACLU.

CASE UPDATE: Byron Sanchez was convicted of “Improperly influencing a Public Official” (18-1353).  The Ada County Prosecutor is pushing for the maximum sentence of 5 years.

CASE UPDATE: Byron Sanchez was sentenced to 5 years in State Penitentiary.

Click HERE to download Sanchez’s motion to dismiss.