Criminal charges have been filed against Steven Anderson, a local pastor we wrote about yesterday who claims he was brutalized at an Interstate 8 checkpoint. Anderson, however, says he's the victim and that he plans to sue the authorities involved in the incident.
His family's personal Web site now includes a box for the collection of legal fees in addition to updates about Anderson's situation. (It says he's pulled in $680 as of 3 p.m.)
We checked in with Anderson this morning by phone. Today's arraignment in Yuma has been postponed, but will take place at some point. The Yuma County Attorney's Office confirms Anderson has been charged with two criminal counts. Anderson's wife, Zsuzsanna, says the misdemeanor charges are for refusing to obey a lawful order and blocking a public highway.
Steven Anderson says he's hired local attorney Mark Victor and that "of course" he plans a lawsuit.
"Are you kidding? Who's going to pay for my windows, for my medical fees?" he says.
Anderson tells New Times he's been doing a lot of traveling in recent years through California, Arizona and Texas, and passed through Border Patrol checkpoints "hundreds" of times without any trouble. But about a year and a half ago, he says, he made the decision he would no longer answer any questions at the checkpoints.
"I decided, 'You know what? I have the right to travel without being searched and without being questioned,'" he says.
Until this week, agents at the checkpoints never made too big of a deal over his passive resistance.
"Usually they let me go after I refused -- that happened many times. Once they held me for 20 minutes," he says.
We asked why, once he realized cops were going to break his vehicle windows, did he not roll down the windows and end the game?
"I was protecting my vehicle from an unlawful inspection," he says.
A blog post critical of Anderson on the Daily Kos today links to several other videos the pastor has made of his anti-checkpoint activism. Writer Henry Porter opines:
Ok... now I'm starting to think this is no casual encounter. Especially given the category: Non-profits and Activism. I'm also less inclined to believe this was an over reaction by authorities seeking to create a situation. I'm thinking we have someone with missionary zeal seeking to stir the pot.
Porter also emphasizes the Andersons' extreme right-wing views. But what the Andersons think of homosexuals or Obama isn't the issue at hand. What matters is whether or not law officers crossed the line in dealing with Anderson.
"Why was I bent over with my face in my hands, being Tased repeatedly, and having my head shoved into broken glass?" Anderson wails.
Although a state Department of Public Safety trooper helped smash the windows, it was Border Patrol agents who treated him the worst, slamming his face into the broken glass, Anderson says.
"A Border Patrol agent stepped on my head -- stood on my head -- while they continued to Tase me," he says. "I think they have a hair trigger on that Taser."
The Border Patrol has not yet returned a call made yesterday by New Times. DPS issued the following statement today:
- For Immediate Release -
Friday, April 17, 2009
Arizona Department of Public Safety Statement Concerning the Arrest of Steven L. Anderson
Arrest took place Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at a U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint
The U.S. Border Patrol asked the Arizona Department of Public Safety to assist their Officers with a combative motorist who refused to cooperate at a checkpoint in the westbound lanes of Interstate 8. Steven L. Anderson, the combative motorist, was arrested by a DPS Officer for resisting a lawful order during the incident and booked into the Yuma County Jail.
Mr. Anderson never filed a complaint with DPS concerning his arrest but instead made a You-Tube video that featured his version of the events of that day.
An investigation by the Arizona Department of Public Safety's Professional Standards Bureau is underway. DPS is looking at current agency policies and procedures that officers must comply with when requested by any agency to respond to checkpoints.
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In this particular instance DPS will look at our Officer's response and actions. We will offer no further comment on this incident until the investigation has been concluded.
*It should be noted that in 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Federal checkpoints near border areas to enforce laws prohibiting illegal immigration. This U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint along Interstate 8 is in compliance with federal law.*
As mentioned in yesterday's post, we covered checkpoints and the laws that allow them in a February 2008 article.
Whether Anderson's got a legal leg to stand on remains to be seen.