The Attorney General of Oregon, Ellen Rosenblum, has filed suit in her capacity as Attorney General, on behalf of citizens of Oregon, against the United States Department of Homeland Security, United States Marshall’s Service, United States Federal Protective Service, and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, alleging conduct by 10 or more unknown federal agents that violated the constitutional rights of Oregon citizens by enforcement of federal law by those agencies.
The civil complaint alleges violations of the rights of Oregon citizens under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
The allegations of the complaint are that unidentified federal agents, not wearing insignias or other markings indicating who they are or what agency they work for, and while driving unmarked vehicles, are arresting Oregon citizens off the streets without probable cause, and without advising the citizens why they are being arrested.
The complaint sets forth one specific claim involving a named individual. The complaint alleges that an individual named Mark Pettibone was walking down the street when federal agents in an unmarked vehicle stopped him, placed him under arrest, placed him in the vehicle, and drove him away. He claims he was taken to the Hatfield Federal Building in Portland where he was placed into a cell and read his Miranda rights, but never told what he why he was arrested nor provided a lawyer. He was later released without being cited, charged, or there being any other record of his arrest. The complaint alleges that the Washington Post reported that the Customs & Border Protection Service took responsibility for Pettibone’s arrest.
The complaint also alleges the following, in very peculiar language in my opinion:
“On information and belief unidentified federal officers … have likewise detained other citizens off the Portland streets, without warning or explanation, without a warrant, and without any way to determine who is directing this action.
The phrasing is odd here because the allegation is based “on information and belief.” Generally, that means that the Oregon AG doesn’t possess any actual evidence this has happened, but has been told it has happened and has no reason to doubt the veracity of the information.
The other oddity in the language is the claim that the feds have “detained other citizens off the Portland streets.” The use of the word “detained”, rather than “arrested” is interesting. It is lawful to “detain” someone as part of an investigation without engaging in an arrest. Stopping someone on the street based on a “reasonable suspicion” is a permissible “detention.” The fact that the Oregon AG used this term to describe what is supposedly happening suggests they don’t have any information of people being arrested without a warrant or probable cause. She doesn’t allege that the people “detained” are put into unmarked cars and transported to a different location. Detentions happen every day, in every city across the country, when police are called to the scene of suspected criminal activity, and they are engaged in a preliminary investigation to see if any laws were broken.
Everything about this looks to be a PR move. I don’t think the facts on the ground are going to back up the claims made on “information and belief.” I think we are going to find that the Feds have undercover agents among the crowd, and the people being “detained” or even “arrested” have been specifically targeted in connection with their protest activities. There’s plenty of violence taking place every night at the Portland federal courthouse. It’s a “target-rich” environment for federal law enforcement agents looking for federal criminal law violations. There is no reason to conduct operations targeting people involved only in “peaceful” protesting.
Ellen Rosenblum is a Democrat in a state run by liberal democrats. She has no reason to move out of lock-step with the Oregon Governor and Portland Mayor. The all support continuing protests and violence to the extent it undermines the Trump Administration.
Six out of ten district court judges are appointees of Democrat Presidents. But this case was filed in Portland — and four of the seven district court judges in Portland were appointed by GOP Presidents.
It will be interesting to see how the assignment of the case impacts what Oregon tries to do next.