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  1. Why the Bundys and Their Heavily Armed Supporters Keep Getting Away with It
  2. The Sheriff's Wife
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Wilbur Sanders took advantage of this singular testimony to convince those who still had doubts about Plummer's guilt after the four vigilantes had brought the news of Yeager's testimony and Dutch John had confirmed it. Langford says Tilden's testimony was the clincher: "And when it was determined on the afternoon of January 10, , that Plummer should be hanged, Tilden was sent for and related his story in detail, which convinced all who heard it, of Plummer's guilt. Wilbur Sanders confessed that he was at first disinclined to believe that Tilden's identification of Plummer was indeed correct.

Sanders's disbelief is easy to understand. Who would want to rob Henry Tilden since he had no money? Tilden could not have been mistaken for part of the Langford-Hauser party because he was riding toward Bannack rather than away from it. Even if someone had attempted to rob the boy, it was not likely to be Plummer, who had ridden off earlier that day in the opposite direction, with Sanders following him on the mule, and had returned from the same direction in which he left, the east side of town, not the south, where Tilden was accosted.

Also, of what use would it be to Plummer to have an entire band of men under his direction, as Sanders suspected, if he had to participate in the holdups himself, thus risking being recognized? But Sanders eventually disregarded such objections and accepted Tilden's word because "the young man was of undoubted integrity. It was the only way to fit Plummer's departure and return into Tilden's story. Sanders warned Mattie, Lucia, and Tilden not to tell anyone that Plummer had been recognized or their lives would not be safe.

Tilden felt the weight of the fear, as did all of the Edgerton clan. Langford however remained fearless. At camp the first night, Langford claimed to have seen the same three robbers Tilden saw, first from a distance of about four hundred feet. One of them had been holding the horses -- four in number -- while the others were taking observations of our camp. After a brief consultation, they hurriedly mounted their horses and rode rapidly off towards Bannack.

Mattie credited Langford with a lively imagination. The night of 14 November reads like a scene from Midsummer Night's Dream, with Sanders, Plummer, Langford, and Tilden wandering through the mists, bumping into each other, or at least trying to, but despite all the fears, accidents, and accusations, no robberies took place that night.

Nothing was stolen from Tilden nor from Langford and Hauser, who continued on their five-hundred mile trek unmolested, reaching Salt Lake City with their gold intact, even though Plummer had stashed it for them the night before and knew their trip plans. We have no reason to doubt Sanders's judgment of the boy's honesty.

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Tilden was a timid adolescent, reportedly sick with consumption and separated from his family. He had come to a new land with people who did not take him into their home but had no qualms about using him to run unpleasant errands. The entire Edgerton group had been deeply impressed at their first meeting with Plummer, the only figure of authority in the strange country, who seemed so likable but was actually a "bad man.

When Sanders sent the boy out alone on a stormy night to accomplish an impossible mission, he had given up and returned, meeting three men who pointed guns at him and searched him; the face Tilden saw, masked or not, was that of Henry Plummer. After that traumatic night there were days of silent fear for Tilden, until at last he told the vigilantes who had robbed him and ran to the Edgerton house for rope to end the life that threatened his. We have no report of what Tilden told the vigilante group, but considering his fear of Plummer, he would not have wanted to live in the same town with the accused after having revealed his secret.

His testimony would determine whether Plummer lived or was immediately hanged, and Tilden convinced those assembled that he had been able to identify Plummer that night.

Why the Bundys and Their Heavily Armed Supporters Keep Getting Away with It

The validity of his story is quite another matter. If the men were not masked, it may have been only Tilden's fear at being out alone on a dark night that caused him to interpret an encounter with armed men as an attempted robbery, even after being told by the men that they did not want his money.

On the other hand, if the men were masked, as the majority opinion seems to be, identifying any of them after P. Though it is likely Tilden would connect any assailant with Plummer, the first "bad man" he had known, and the gun might appear to be the same one picked up at the express office two days before, it would not have been possible to distinguish one gun from another, see the lining of a coat that a man was wearing, or perceive its color as red in the darkness. For all of these reasons -- the boy's distraught emotional state, the disguises, and the darkness -- positive identification would have been impossible.

Plummer was neither informed of Tilden's accusation against him nor asked of his whereabouts on the night in question, but had he been given the opportunity, he could have explained that he and about a dozen other well-known residents of the area spent the time rounding up a herd of horses that they feared the Indians planned to drive to the other side of the mountain.

Both Sanders and Edgerton saw the party depart and return, and in a direction opposite from Horse Prairie. It was with good reason that Sanders doubted the truth of Henry Tilden's claim to have recognized Plummer among his assailants. While Tilden received credit for first associating Plummer with a robbery, Yeager was the first to claim personal knowledge that crime in the area was organized and Henry Plummer the organizer.

Dimsdale quoted Yeager as saying, "I know all about the gang. Brown begged for mercy and died praying.

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Yager shook hands with us and his last words were: 'Good-bye. God bless you. You are on a good undertaking. The Bannack vigilantes may have needed Henry Tilden as a second witness before they were convinced of Plummer's guilt, but not Beidler; he was apparently satisfied with only one accuser. In regards to this small amount of proof the vigilantes required, George Bruffey, in his reminiscences, claimed that Carter and three others were hanged even before Yeager had confessed they were members of a gang.

Perhaps Bruffey has only tangled the sequence, but his charge brings up a relevant point: the activities of the vigilantes were secret; we do not know when the individual hangings took place nor what men said before they were hanged. We know only what the vigilantes chose to report afterwards. In the vigilante account of the big breakthrough, that is, the discovery that a gang existed, there is something rather bizarre about Yeager's reported behavior.

In Alexander Davis's account, Yeager breaks down completely during interrogation, but Beidler and Dimsdale staunchly insist on Yeager's courage and calmness up to the end, which tends to lend more credibility to his confession. Still there seems to be some inconsistency of behavior in Beidler's account when Yeager claims he was not a murderer but a messenger, yet he good-naturedly accepts the death penalty, shaking hands all around with his killers and asking a blessing on them.

Yeager was apparently trying to ingratiate himself with his captors: "I agree to it all," he said when they preached to him about the lawlessness in the area. Then when Brown begged for mercy, Yeager commented, "Brown, if you had thought of this three years ago, you would not be here now, or give these boys this trouble.

I don't want to get off. According to Beidler, Yeager claimed there was a gang and named twenty-four members, not one hundred thirty-nine as Toponce recorded. Beidler did not list the assigned duties of each member, the childish offices Dimsdale earnestly reported -- a stool pigeon, a spy, a fence, a horsethief, and as secretary, George Brown, though we are told of only one letter he composed in this official capacity: "Get up and dust, and lie low for black ducks," the message that foiled the vigilantes, though it is so brief it hardly needed to be committed to paper.

Yeager should have been able to remember the essence of the message on his own. Neither did Beidler mention the robber band having a code of dress, an oath, or a password, the famous "innocent" appearing to have been of Dimsdale's origin. And Dimsdale put the password to good use in his book, explaining away any victim's last insistence of innocence as being nothing more than the password. As for wearing moustache and chin whiskers for mutual identification, the pencil sketch of the hanging of Plummer, Stinson, and Ray shows all three clean shaven, and Mollie Sheehan also described George Ives as "smooth shaven.

Assuming Beidler's account of Yeager's confession is true though we would not be the first to call Beidler a liar -- Alva Noyes's grandmother did , there are still several problems with the testimony. First, it is not in Yeager's words; however, assuming that Beidler and Dimsdale captured the general meaning, we still do not know if what he said was true, or if he even believed it was true. It would have been possible that the lawless element of the community counted on Sheriff Plummer's sympathy in the event they should be caught.

After all, he was a man with a record himself, and circulating rumors of his supposed support of contemplated robberies would help to bolster timid accomplices enlisted to do the dirty work. In other words, it would have been possible for Yeager to repeat such a rumor, either because he believed it himself or because he thought it would save his life. What we really need to know from Yeager and what Beidler does not tell us is whether he witnessed Plummer operating as the chief of the road agents or whether it was something he had only heard.

Without knowing which was the case, we cannot determine the value of his information.

The Sheriff's Wife

However, if the vigilantes actually had in their possession a witness who could give concrete details of the sheriff planning and directing crime in his own district, it is likely this living proof of the corruption of the existing justice system, from top to bottom, would have been paraded before the entire community like a trophy. Instead, the witness was immediately destroyed.

Perhaps Yeager was not preserved because his testimony consisted mainly of words put into his mouth, or his so-called confession may have been no more than saying "yes" to questions put to him. There is reason to believe that Sanders was looking for an aye-sayer from the time of the Ives trial. A biographer of the colonel states that Ives secretly informed Sanders after the trial that Plummer was the head of the gang. However, the rumor was spread and can be found in the writings of others; it may be the result of Sanders's search for just such a statement as that attributed to Yeager, to set in motion the removal of Plummer.

Spara som favorit. Skickas inom vardagar. In , historical figure Electa Bryan comes to a remote Indian Agency in what is now Western Montana to teach native children. Instead she finds deprivation and lonelinessuntil she meets suave, handsome Henry Plummer and falls hopelessly in love. Rejecting her sisters warning, she marries this stranger and moves to Bannack City. There, they pursue their vision of turning a primitive territory filled with greed, murder and mayhem into a civilized state, with Henry as governor.

As sheriff, he is away from home most of the time enforcing the law, searching for a mysterious silver lode, or in the saloons. A few turned violent. Posse members assaulted an I. In , authorities in North Dakota tried to arrest a Posse acolyte named Gordon Kahl, a mechanic who had violated probation in a tax-evasion case, and two U.

Kahl went into hiding for four months, and then was killed in a second gun battle, in Arkansas, along with a local sheriff. Although some Posse members rebranded themselves Christian Patriots, it was too late. A few years later, Gale was convicted of mailing death threats to a judge and to I. When he died, in , the movement was fading from prominence. His vision of sheriff supremacy, however, persisted.

He had no problem with guns; he hunted gators, deer, turkeys, and squirrels. But he suspected that Finch was doing a political favor. When I met Mark Mallory, a former lieutenant at the office, he handed me paperwork from four incidents that he believed Finch had mishandled. Hoagland started looking for another job, and two months after the Parrish incident a nearby fire department offered him full-time work. Three days later, he travelled to F. Eleven days later, a friend tipped Finch off that his arrest was imminent.

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  4. When he got back to the office, F. An inspector read him Executive Order , in which Rick Scott, the Republican governor, suspended him from office. Shortly after the arrest, Finch got a phone call from Richard Mack, who had followed news of the arrest from his Arizona home. In Finch, he saw a fellow-patriot, and he wanted to help. One day last fall, Mack bounded to the front of a school lecture hall in suburban Phoenix. At sixty-four, he has dark hair and a grandfatherly charm.

    The person who takes the oath decides. In the eighties and nineties, Mack served two terms as the sheriff of Graham County, Arizona.

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    One of his influences was the Salt Lake City police chief and author W. In , Mack and a Montana sheriff named Jay Printz sued the federal government over a provision of the Brady Bill, a gun-control measure that would have temporarily required sheriffs to run background checks on gun buyers. As the case worked its way to the U.

    Supreme Court, Mack became a hero of the burgeoning militia movement, a collection of anti-government paramilitary groups that descended from Posse ideology. United States, in He worked as the public-relations director of Gun Owners of America, the N. He also sold cars, ran for the U. By this time, sheriff supremacy had cross-pollinated with other kinds of right-wing thought, resulting, for example, in the county-supremacy movement, in which dozens of counties adopted ordinances claiming control over federal land.

    This is how fringe ideas work. In a recent study published in the journal Political Behavior , participants were given a list of ways to address a divisive policy issue, such as immigration. Participants whose lists included either radically conservative positions ban immigrants entirely or radically liberal positions accept all immigrants were more likely to recalibrate their view of what the centrist stance was.

    When Mack launched the C. Mack told me that he has spoken at more than a hundred and twenty-five rallies. They portray officers as arbiters of morality and justice. Mack personally disavows discrimination and infuses his lectures with the language of the civil-rights era.

    Yet, according to his ideology, a sheriff could, for example, reject the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted citizenship and rights to former slaves. No matter what they told you all Courts and judges cannot make law The case law method has a fatal flaw Because courts cannot make law. Amid the flurry of coverage, a radio host named Burnie Thompson invited Finch on his afternoon show, on Talk Radio Thompson prided himself on his independent thinking.

    Antonacci repeatedly told him that there was no legal precedent for this theory. In addition to official misconduct, a third-degree felony, Finch was charged with falsifying public records, a misdemeanor. If you want to stop enforcing a law, O.