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Shawn Vestal: Republicans, it’s time to defend Ozzie Knezovich against Matt Shea’s ‘slimes and slanders’

Shawn Vestal (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Shawn Vestal (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Dear Republicans: It’s time to support your local sheriff.

Past time, actually.

The local GOP’s mafia-like code of silence regarding the slimes and slanders of Matt Shea has become pathological. Rather than come to the defense of one of their most widely popular elected officials, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, local Republicans are providing tacit support through silence for Shea, their most ridiculous, divisive and dangerous one. This is not new – many local Republicans will sling thunderous condemnations of Shea privately, and then quail in terror at the prospect of saying a word publicly.

He’s got a base, after all, and it must be pandered to.

Shea’s latest offense is his incredibly irresponsible attempt to tie Knezovich, a deputy and the sheriff’s office to a triple murder, based on a false rumor. It was an act of spectacular sliminess, even for Shea, and the fact that none of Knezovich’s fellow GOPers will call him on it speaks volumes. S-R reporters seeking comment on the situation last week gathered a full basket of “no comments” from local county commissioners and state legislators and others. I have had a similar experience repeatedly over the past several years.

And yet, Knezovich says almost all the local GOP “electeds” are supporting him behind the scenes.

You know, like you do when you’re hanging someone out to dry.

“It’s 98 percent that are appalled by what Matt’s done,” he said. “It’s a little discouraging – they’re elected leaders and they’re not standing up for the very principles we have.”

In a podcast last month, Shea – a man who dons the showy robes of the devout Christian at every opportunity – tried to connect the sheriff’s office to a triple murder, saying a gun in the possession of the suspect, Roy Murry, traced back to Deputy Travis Pendell.

“That is unbelievable, folks,” Shea said in the podcast. “Somebody that’s in jail right now charged with a triple homicide, the gun traces back to a sheriff’s deputy and substantiating at least some of the rumors anyway that there is a connection between Ozzie Knezovich, the Sheriff’s Department and Roy Murry.”

This little report was billed feverishly as a “BOMBSHELL,” but it was just a sloppy mess of innuendo and suggestion. Shea sorta, kinda corrected it later, in a way meant to keep the questions alive. Knezovich called it an egregious lie, and he and Pendell have explained the circumstances surrounding some gun transfers from Murry to Pendell – not the other way around. I believe them, in part because I have been the subject of a similar BOMBSHELL on the Shea podcast, and it too was full of egregious lies.

Shea claimed that he had found evidence that I aided and abetted the Muslim Brotherhood and the Communist Party. Muslims and Communists – a conspiracy double whammy! He made this claim based on the completely false assertion that I have donated money to PJALS, the local anti-war group, which he then attached to Muslims and Communists via a circuitous and ridiculous application of Redoubt Logic. I did once serve as a moderator at a PJALS panel discussion at the group’s invitation, but that was the extent of my aiding and abetting.

In the grand scheme of things, being called a Muslim or a Communist sympathizer by Shea is run-of-the-mill. Makes you feel like you’re on the right path. But Shea’s innuendos about Pendell and the sheriff are something much worse – darkly hinting, without a shred of evidence, at criminal acts of conspiracy among law enforcement. It is despicable for an elected official to do this, and made more so because this is a pattern for Shea and his fellow travelers in the overheated world of Knezovich haters.

Shea has been after the sheriff – and as a result, vice versa – for years now. People in his party have chosen to look the other way, viewing it as a feud. Red flags rise continually about Shea – from his arrest for grabbing a gun in a road-rage incident to his creepy stalking of a political opponent on Facebook – and people in his party look the other way.

As a rising figure in the American Redoubt movement and leader of wingnutterati, he intervened in the Bundy standoff in Oregon, ignoring local law enforcement, relaying information to occupiers, and enlisting the aid of a man with a history of bizarre and threatening confrontations both inside and outside the world of right-wing extremists to go there and help provide “security.” Shea recently presented this man, Anthony Bosworth, with the Patriot of the Year award for 2016, and humbly claimed credit himself for saving the lives of the bird-refuge Bundys from an assault by murderous government agents.

Crickets from other Republicans.

It goes on and on. He accuses the BLM of terrorism. He peddles false and inflammatory tales about Muslim children rapists in Idaho. He forwards conspiracy theories about FEMA camps. He fosters fantasies of armed insurrection. He supports the worst of the worst, in terms of dangerous Western conspiratorial thinking – the kind of anti-government, paranoid Armageddon dreams that have fueled violent conflicts repeatedly in our region, and which Shea seems to want to fuel again and again. He lies constantly or has lost his ability to recognize truth.

Crickets.

Knezovich is calling on local and state GOP officials, as well as the House leadership, to censure Shea. Let’s not hold our breath. As he correctly points out, it boils down to a very simple political equation: people, inexplicably, vote for Shea, and lots of local officials who need those same voters are unwilling to stand against him.

At some point, though, decency requires hauling yourself from your comfy chair and being counted.

We passed that point a long time ago.

“Do I feel a little betrayed by the party, both the electeds and the infrastructure?” Knezovich asked. “Yeah. I do.”

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@comcast.net. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.