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Eye on Boise: North Idaho lawmaker continues pushing federal appeal to have guns

Rep. Neil Anderson, left, looks on as Rep. John Green, right, asks a question  Feb. 21, 2019, at the Idaho State Capitol. Green attests in a legal filing with the federal court that the courts are restricting him from gun possession. (Brian Myrick / Idaho Press)
Rep. Neil Anderson, left, looks on as Rep. John Green, right, asks a question Feb. 21, 2019, at the Idaho State Capitol. Green attests in a legal filing with the federal court that the courts are restricting him from gun possession. (Brian Myrick / Idaho Press)
By Betsy Russell Idaho Press

An Idaho state representative who is under federal indictment in Texas is continuing to press his appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of a court order that he not possess firearms while he’s free on bond.

Rep. John Green, R-Post Falls, in his latest legal filing with the federal court, charged that the courts are restricting him from gun possession “as a means of abasing Green for having said something the government dislikes.”

He is charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, for allowing a Texas couple to park proceeds from the sale of their gold coins in a bank account that Green controlled “in order to evade paying their federal income taxes,” according to a news release issued by federal prosecutors. The couple, Thomas and Michelle Selgas, longtime clients and friends of Green’s, are charged with tax evasion and conspiracy.

If convicted, Green, a first-term state representative, faces up to five years in federal prison. He’s free on bond pending his twice-delayed trial, which now is scheduled for Sept. 23; the delays came in part because of his service in the Idaho Legislature. Green strenuously protested the condition that he not possess guns while out on bond; when a federal judge refused to reconsider that decision, he filed the appeal.

In an appeal brief filed in Texas, Green’s lawyer, Michael Louis Minns, noted that government lawyers cited statements by Green that he has “no respect for the federal government” and comparing the federal government to “1940s Germany” among their reasons for opposing restoring his gun rights while he’s out on bond.

“Surely, the government does not contend that the First Amendment does not protect statements critical of its governance,” Minns wrote. “Why should anyone take umbrage at the statements listed?”

Minns also cited a 2017 Vanity Fair article in which Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire founder of Blackstone, compared President Obama to Hitler. Schwarzman, however, isn’t under federal indictment.

“The exercise of free speech, as a general rule, whether in good taste or bad taste, is not grounds for repression of other constitutional rights,” Minns wrote.

In earlier court filings, federal prosecutors noted that agents must make unannounced visits to Green’s Rathdrum home, as support for removal of his gun rights while out on bond. Green argued that wild animals in the area, including bears, necessitated his continuing to have guns for self-defense.

Green also submitted a “friend of the court” brief from the Idaho State Rifle & Pistol Association, a nonprofit formed in 1962 with nearly 500 members, arguing that Green shouldn’t lose his gun rights while out on bond.

“ISRPA takes no position on the underlying criminal charges in this case,” the group’s attorney, Matthew W. Faulks of Caldwell, wrote in the brief. “The sole purpose of ISRPA in this case is to advance legal authorities and argument in support of recognition of the rights of individuals to keep and bear arms.

“Rep. Green has no prior criminal history or history of violence,” Faulks wrote. “There has been no evidence presented that he is a threat to the public.

“The mere condition of being charged with a non-violent crime does not justify elimination of the fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” Faulks wrote. “Arguably, such a restriction on firearms possession during pretrial release frequently serves only to vex a defendant and deprive him of protection while providing no meaningful, reliable protection to society.”

The appeals court for the Northern District of Texas has set oral arguments on Green’s gun-rights appeal for Sept. 2.

Green was among the attorneys who defended tax-protesting former North Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart on federal tax evasion charges; Hart’s Athol home eventually was sold at auction to cover his unpaid federal income taxes. Green now holds Hart’s former seat.

Idaho has law like North Dakota one being challenged

One of America’s leading medical organizations has filed a lawsuit to block a North Dakota abortion law requiring doctors to tell women that a medication-induced abortion can be “reversed,” an assertion medical experts say is scientifically unsound, the Washington Post reported. Idaho has a similar law; it passed in 2018 on straight party-line votes in both the House and Senate, with all Republicans voting “yes” and all Democrats voting “no,” and was signed into law by then-Gov. Butch Otter.

The American Medical Association charges that the law violates doctors’ constitutional rights to free speech by forcing them to lie to patients.

New UI president says he’s ‘coming home’

More than 600 turned out to welcome the University of Idaho’s 19th and newest president, Scott Green, for a barbecue and meet-and-greet last week, according to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. A third-generation Vandal and former UI student body president, Green said he couldn’t have asked for a better homecoming.

“It is really coming home,” Green said.

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