Friday, September 29, 2023

Campaign To Turn Sheriffs Comes To Cherokee County


A national right-wing group which thinks sheriffs are agents of originalist power who don't have to enforce certain laws if they don't believe in them -- the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) -- brought their founder and star philosopher of originalist doctrine, Richard Mark, a former Arizona sheriff, to the town of Murphy in Cherokee County to proselytize North Carolina sheriffs to his brand of macho -- the belief that local county sheriffs are the last lines of defense against the Federal government itself, that they're more powerful than the president. Only two NC county sheriffs showed up, the sheriff of Cherokee County, Dustin Smith (who brought a half-dozen deputies with him), and the sheriff of Yadkin attended, with about 75 other people. (According to reporter Jessica Pishko, everyone paid $70 for the privilege of hearing Sheriff Mack. Mack also offers a 6-week online class for $195.)

Dustin Smith,
Sheriff of Cherokee County

According to reporter Pishko, this crowd is still steamed primarily about having to wear masks during the pandemic. And about gun laws:

Mack was the sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, from 1988 to 1996, but rose to national attention in 1994 as a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging part of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act requiring local law enforcement to conduct background checks.

Mack formed CSPOA in 2011 and was quickly tight with Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the militia group Oath Keepers, now serving 18 years in prison.

Mack’s effort grew out of a movement known as Posse Comitatus—or “power of the county” in Latin—founded by William Potter Gale in the 1970s. Gale’s group attracted white, Christian men who formed “posses” that subjected public officials to “treason trials.” In 1983, one of the group’s leaders killed two federal marshals and a deputy sheriff in Arkansas, which largely ended the movement.

[Another outbreak of "posse comitatus" in neighboring Haywood County in 2022 led to the eventual conviction of Darris Moody for threatening public officials. She's now serving time in a Federal prison.]

The local Cherokee County Sheriff Dustin Smith, who came in for much praise for taking the Richard Mack training course on how sheriffs should think of themselves, is only two years into his first term. He was elected in 2022 with no Democratic opposition, and since his election he has been, according to Pishko, a lightning rod for controversy. There's evidence that he's a liar.  Last June, a botched raid on a totally bogus tip led to an innocent man's being shot multiple times, but Sheriff Smith claimed he wasn't present at the raid, distancing himself from the victim's lawsuit. However, video footage showed that Smith had been there during the raid, which the Smoky Mountain News also confirmed via public records. Meanwhile, Smith wants to bulldoze the Cherokee County Commission into giving him a SWAT unit. 

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