An incredible story is developing in Idaho. It is a story of corruption, back room deals, huge amounts of taxpayer money hidden away from public view, a 41-year-old rape case just coming to light, and the character assassination of a State Representative who has attempted to break federal control over local law enforcement.

IT ALL SURROUNDS GUN RIGHTS

The story begins in the last Idaho legislative session during 2013 when State Representative Mark Patterson put a simple four-paragraph bill before the legislature. House Bill 219 blocks Idaho sheriffs and police from participating in firearms seizures by federal agents. The text of the bill is simple: if Idaho law enforcement assist federal agents in seizing lawfully owned firearms from residents of Idaho, those sheriffs and police will be guilty of a misdemeanor crime, resulting in a small fine and jail time.

State Representative Mark Patterson

State Representative Mark Patterson

Patterson says the bill was drafted at the request of law enforcement officers who wanted protection against any Federal order for firearm confiscation. In fact, 40 of the 44 sheriffs in the state of Idaho put their support behind the bill, as did the NRA, Larry Pratt's Gun Owners of America, and the Idaho Fraternal Order of Police. However, the Idaho Sheriffs' Association (ISA) did not support the bill. Again, 40 of the state's 44 sheriffs supported the bill. Among those who did not was Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, who happens to be the President of the Idaho Sheriffs' Association.

PROTECTING FEDERAL DOLLARS

President of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association Sheriff Gary Raney

President of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association Sheriff Gary Raney

During the legislative session, while Sheriff Raney publicly expressed his disagreement with House Bill 219, he was reportedly told by many other sheriffs not to use the ISA to try to stop 219 from becoming law. Sheriff Raney seemingly listened, and the ISA officially retained a "neutral" position on House Bill 219. However, while the ISA officially retained that position, Mike Kane, the lobbyist for the ISA, and Vaughn Killeen, the former Sheriff of Ada County and Executive Director of ISA, began lobbying the legislature to vote against 219. They did so while failing to comply with Idaho lobbying disclosure laws. Secretary of State Ben Ysursa required Killeen to register as a lobbyist (he had not been), and Kane was twice forced to amend his lobbying report, which originally contained no mention of 219.

WHY THE OPPOSITION TO 219?

According to what Kane and Killeen were reportedly telling lawmakers, if Idaho were to pass this law, it could negatively affect the state's relationship with the Feds. According to what State Rep. Judy Boyle told the Idaho Statesman, Sheriff Raney himself complained "that the bill would dismantle local-federal cooperation and would cost local law enforcement valuable revenue under asset forfeiture laws for drug and gang cases."

And so the lobbying was underway. It was State Rep. Patterson who exposed the illegal lobbying effort, but Patterson did not leave the issue there. After proving that illegal lobbying was taking place, he went a step further and demanded details on who paid for that lobbying.

WERE TAXPAYERS SUBSIDIZING LOBBYING EFFORTS?

The issue of taxpayer money is intriguing. According to an IRS 990 report, the Idaho Sheriffs' Association is a non-profit, 501c3 organization that took in nearly $900,000 in revenue last year. Rep. Patterson wants to know how much of that money is public money and how much is private. But getting those numbers is very difficult because the organization is not required to publicly disclose that information.

"They funnel millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars and they refuse to tell anyone what they do. They don't have to reveal publicly what they do with that money, but it is taxpayer money. There is no transparency and no accountability," says Rep. Patterson, who spoke to me by telephone.

Clearly, the lines between public and private money here are blurred. For instance, each of the 44 sheriff's departments in Idaho has a line item in their budgets that helps to support the ISA. That money is taxpayer money. In addition, the DEA and other federal law enforcement contribute public money to the organization, which is treated as a private non-profit.

Now, multiple organizations take in and use a mix of public/private dollars. For example, there is the Idaho Association of Counties, with revenue of $1.8 million dollars in 2010; or the Association of Idaho Cities; or the Idaho Association of Highway Districts; as well as non-profits that represent county commissioners, prosecutors, school boards, etc. The lobbying against House Bill 219 raised questions for Rep. Patterson about how taxpayer money is being used in Idaho, but it raises bigger questions for the US. Every state in our country has organizations similar to those in Idaho, but few people realize these are private non-profits that are using public money to support themselves, using a combination of public/private money to pay salaries, and even lobbying state legislatures in ways the public might not want.

On May 22, 2013 Rep. Patterson sent a letter to the ISA and Sheriff Raney, demanding to see a list of what money was public and what money was private. On the very same day, Rep. Patterson was notified that the sheriff was looking into allegations that Patterson lied on his concealed carry permit application in 2007, and again during his renewal in 2012, by not disclosing a 41-year-old sexual assault case in which Patterson had been charged. This case was detailed in an Idaho Statesman news article on Sunday.

THE SEX ASSAULT CASE

It was 1974 when a 20-year-old Mark Patterson was charged in Tampa, Florida with assault and forcible rape. Patterson had allegedly forced a 46-year-old mother of five from her car and into his apartment where he threatened to sic his Doberman pinscher on her if she did not yield to his sexual assault.

Patterson was arrested, charged, and held in jail on the charges. After a short time in jail, Patterson took a plea deal for the lesser charge of assault with intent to commit rape in exchange for no jail time and no fine. It is called a "withheld judgment," which means that, under Florida law, the judge "withheld guilt" and Patterson was allowed to the leave the state with his father while serving five years probation. Two years into that probation, however, Patterson claims a private investigator was able to prove that the woman in question was lying about the incident. That is why after only two years, the probation came to an end.

Patterson explains:

We presented this new evidence to the judge, Harry Lee Coe, and he ordered the case dismissed. My probation was terminated on my birthday, in July of 1976. It is important for the people of Idaho to know that Judge Coe was no liberal or soft on criminals. In fact, during this [sic] 22 years on the bench he was known as 'Hanging Harry' Coe. But in my case, Judge Coe ordered that I be released from further probation.

Three years later, there was another incident, this time in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Patterson was again charged with rape "by means of forcibly choking and threatening." Patterson went to court in September of 1977; after a brief trial, the judge threw out the case. Patterson was acquitted of those charges.

WHAT DO THESE CHARGES HAVE TO DO WITH GUN RIGHTS?

So what, if anything, do these stories have to do with House Bill 219? Again, the day Rep. Patterson sent the letter to Sheriff Raney demanding to know about the use of public money by the ISA, he was told an investigation was taking place to determine whether he lied on that concealed carry application.

Idaho's license application clearly asks, "Have you ever had an entry of a withheld judgment for a criminal offense which would disqualify you from obtaining a concealed weapons license?" In 2007, when Patterson filled out that application, he did not disclose his withheld judgment from the 1974 case.

He says:

My original Concealed Weapons Permit was issued in 2007. It was renewed without question in 2012. Yet in the middle of 2013, Sheriff Raney launched an irregular review of my permit. The purported basis for Raney's action was his claim that I should have disclosed the Florida incident on my application. I challenged his claim in the appeal hearing and I challenge his action today. I do not believe that I was, or am, required to disclose that sordid incident, as it was vacated by the judge. And that incident should not imperil my constitutional right to own and bear arms.

Sheriff Raney does not see it that way, telling the Idaho Statesman reporter that Rep. Patterson violated the law by not disclosing the withheld judgment:

"'The questions that Mr. Patterson raises and the allegations he makes are irrelevant to the fact that he lied on his initial application and his renewal application,' Raney said. 'That, and only that, is the reason for our actions. … As to any retaliation, it is simply false and I presume an attempt to deflect the truth of the matter.'"

DID THE SHERIFF BREAK IDAHO LAW BY TELLING A REPORTER?

Sheriff Raney is now working to have Rep. Patterson's concealed carry license taken away, but is the revoking of Patterson's concealed carry license really worthy of a front-page story in the Sunday edition of the Idaho Statesman? Well, yes and no. Patterson's situation is between him and the Sheriff; however, it is not a public issue under Idaho law. In fact, state law in Idaho makes this issue a strictly private one. According to Idaho law, any information gathered in a concealed carry permit application process is under seal. It is, by state law, entirely private.

According to Idaho Code 18-3302 (1) (n),

"Information relating to an applicant or licensee received or maintained pursuant to this section by the sheriff or Idaho State Police is confidential and exempt from disclosure under section 9-338, Idaho Code"

Rep. Patterson says the violation of law may not end there:

"In addition, portions of my private and confidential FBI file were leaked to reporter Dan Popkey by an alleged informant sometime in late October. That person may have committed a federal crime."

AND IT ALL COMES BACK TO GUN RIGHTS?

The release of this story to the Idaho Statesman seems to have clear political implications. To label the 61-year-old Patterson as a rapist, regardless of the fact that he has never been convicted of any crime, damages his career, his family, and his reputation.

In May of 2014, Patterson will face a primary challenge. Patrick E. McDonald is running to replace Patterson in West Boise's District 15. McDonald is a former law enforcement agent, a friend of Vaughn Killeen, the Executive Director of ISA, and is critical of House Bill 219. McDonald told the Idaho Statesman, "What I hate to see is something that may well be detrimental to a good working relationship."

If Patterson's political career survives, he plans to revive House Bill 219. At the end of the day, that appears to be what this entire issue is actually all about.

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