Jailed Because Gun Ownership Trumps Free Speech

Online talk show host Pete Santilli, who reported on the stand-off at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, will stay in federal custody until his trial. Arrested January 26 in Burns, federal prosecutors say he was a part of the conspiracy of threats and intimidation preventing federal employees from doing their jobs during the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Santilli used his Internet radio talk show to rail against government conspiracies and injustices. As a journalist, and all the reporting, interviewing and face-to-face confrontations he did during the takeover and occupation of the wildlife refuge falls under free-speech protections in the First Amendment.

Santilli spent nearly two months in Harney County supporting the wildlife refuge occupiers’ cause, but also expressing disagreement with the takeover and occupation. He’s the only journalist arrested in connection with the stand-off, even though several reporters, photographers, bloggers and freelancer writers came to Harney County to report on the situation.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman said that Santilli’s history “does not favor detention and that the weight of the evidence cuts in his favor,” he does believes the reporters admission to owning several registered and unregistered guns poses a risk to law enforcement. Mosman claimed that he did not consider Santilli — who lives in Ohio — to be a flight risk, but admission about the guns was enough to sway the decision.

Surprisingly, the ACLU of Oregon has come to Santilli’s defense:

“While many people might disagree with statements made by those involved in the Malheur takeover, Americans have a fundamental right to freedom of speech,” wrote Mat dos Santos, the legal director for the ACLU of Oregon, in statement posted to the group’s website.

So — whose next — and why isn’t the media up in arms over this?

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