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Opinion >  Column

Shawn Vestal: ‘Constitutionalist’ attorney takes up the cause of fired football coach

The name of the attorney on the news release announcing the latest legal threat from the Good Ship Rolovich might ring a bell.

Patriot “constitutionalist” KrisAnne Hall – a key figure in the Malheur standoff and a regular on the far-right festivals-and-podcasts circuit – is speaking up for Mark Weber, one of the Washington State University assistant football coaches who chose to lose his job rather than get a lifesaving vaccine.

Hall issued a news release recently threatening legal action on Weber’s behalf and saying he would stand beside his former boss, Nick Rolovich, though it remains to be seen if she will actually represent Weber in a lawsuit. She is an attorney, but the schedule and activities listed on her web site include a lot more appearances at patriot events and on conspiracy podcasts than representing clients in courtrooms.

Still, we’ll see. Rolovich has recorded his intention to file a lawsuit, claiming to be a victim of tragic religious persecution, and he has a real-world attorney from the West Side, who also represents three other assistants – but not, apparently, Weber. Weber’s news release suggests he’ll follow suit legally, but hasn’t yet.

However this goes, we’re nowhere near hearing the last from the gang that threw away their shot over a shot.

The involvement of Hall, along with fascinating revelations last week about the efforts of a WSU virologist to answer the conspiratorial questions Rolovich had about the vaccine, are further suggestions that the coaches’ objections came more from the anti-vaxxer misinformation-sphere than the pulpit.

Hall hails from Florida, where her law firm, Liberty First Legal, advises people on how to reject vaccinations and fight mask mandates, among other far-right causes. You may recall her as a key figure at the Malheur standoff, giving liberty speeches in Burns, Oregon, during the occupation and spending time on the phone – in ways that struck many as self-promotional and tone-deaf – with the final holdout as he sadly and desperately considered ending his own life.

A Washington legislative investigation into her fellow traveler, former state representative and child-soldier trainer Matt Shea, identified Hall as one of the code-named inner circle of Shea’s militaristic planning emails before the occupation. She was also listed as legal counsel for the hilariously acronymed COWS – the Coalition of Western States, a group of far-right state legislators in the West.

The investigators concluded she probably co-authored, with Shea, the “Redress of Grievances” letter delivered to the local sheriff before the takeover.

You may have also noticed her name at various constitutionalist-style festivals, where she speaks alongside other American Redoubt luminaries, and where she is hailed as a constitutional expert. Legal scholars cast a gimlet eye on her theories – such as the notion that sheriffs are the ultimate constitutional authority and that nearly all activities of the federal government are unconstitutional.

She has been, it goes without saying, a stalwart in the pandemic-denial game and a Jan. 6 apologist, as well. Shea has posted on social media that she’s coming to the Valley in November for a couple of events “teaching on how to fight back.”

As you know, Rolovich and his assistants were fired for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The precise reason for the firing was not initially clear and remains murky.

It could have been the result of their requests for religious exemptions being denied by a blind committee that reviewed the applications. It could also have been that their religious exemptions were granted, but the university decided it could not safely accommodate those exemptions.

In Hall’s news release, she suggests WSU would not accommodate Weber, suggesting his religious exemption was granted. Rolovich’s attorney, Brian Fahling, has indicated that his application for a religious exemption as a Catholic was denied. Given the fact that the position of the church is supportive of vaccination, to put it mildly, this would not be a shock. Neither attorney returned messages seeking comment last week.

Rolovich’s lawsuit and Hall’s news release go on at great length to blame athletic director Pat Chun for the firing. If Rolovich’s exemption was denied, however, it wasn’t Chun that denied it, according to the way the university has described the process. (It’s interesting to note that, according to published reports, Chun is a Catholic .)

An illuminating new report from ESPN reveals that WSU officials arranged for Rolovich to meet with a distinguished professor of infectious diseases at the school, Guy Palmer. Rolovich’s concerns, Palmer said, were the standard range of social media conspiracies about side effects and safety, potential changes to the DNA from the shots, and the supposed involvement of Bill Gates.

In other words, real KrisAnne Hall territory. In her news release about Weber, she wrote, “No one should be expected to abandon their most fundamental rights to keep a paycheck, especially in America.”

It’s a peculiar idea about employment – I can do whatever I want without consequence! – but one that Hall came by honestly.

In 2010, she was fired as a prosecutor in Florida when she refused to stop giving anti-government speeches at tea party rallies. As her boss put it at the time, “I advised her from my first learning of her activity that she was free to say and do whatever she desired within the law, but she could not do so while assistant counsel for the state.”

Hall went on to join the far-right grift as a martyr, but she lost that job – as sometimes happens when you thumb your nose at the boss.

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