NOT GUILTY: Twelve reasonable people, and how the state tried to ‘Aunt Sally’ Kate Kibby
“ These are dangerous days
To say what you feel is to dig your own grave
"Remember what I told you
If they hated me they will hate you"
-- Sinead O’Connor ‘Black Boys on Mopeds’
Our drama play continues: Act 2 Scene 1
As November pressed on into fall of 2009, a small and quiet trial was taking place in Austin, Texas where all of the state’s pageantry played out with the familiar actors: informants and government agents on one side and ‘anarchists’ and the rest of civil society on the other.
No doubt some are fatigued by burlesque plays of charlatans, fools and jokers (or even the foolishness of men who claim self importance) that represent the ‘justice’ arm of the state. But give me your ears for a moment, for I want to share the ongoing story—and really we all love good stories don’t we?
This is my personal report of the Federal trial--and tribulations--of a woman, Kate Kibby, who was recently found NOT GUILTY for an alleged threat against paid FBI informant, mole, and provocateur Brandon Darby (see original story for background: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/2009/08/24/0824kibby.html)
From the start this farce, that masqueraded as a trial—as all the political trials from the RNC have been--begged one simple question; was this really about recruiting another person to be an informant, justifying budgets and existence, or was it really about ‘justice’?
The state was led by a prosecutor who I thought was going to pop his red face out of the neck of his tight blue suited collar. He brought only three witnesses to rally the charges against Kate: Darby, FBI agent Tim Sellers (who has been Darby's ‘handler’ since he became an informant/ provocateur) and another FBI agent who tracked down the I.P. address for the emails' origination (this agent it appears is paid by the government to use the same sophisticated tools as the rest of us like Google, and MySpace to find and cross reference people).
The assassination of character by recreants of the state (1)
The prosecution fought vociferously to keep the focus of information on ONLY the fact that Kate sent an inflammatory email in retaliation to the arrests of David McKay and Brad Crowder in Minneapolis and nothing else. Nada. With their manipulative words they wanted to throw everything out that mattered and wanted to pack everything into this tiny neat little box with a clean bow of ‘justice’ on it. The state wanted a conviction based only on that very narrow view of some of the facts. In their argument nothing else mattered. Not history, context or reality. It was absurdity without context.
When the defense tried to bring up other facts and questions; like Darby’s history of being confrontational, untruthful and adversarial for years before--even within activist communities. The state would object. The context WAS important; was the email a real threat to Darby, or just another internet example of someone just blowing off steam or did he just want more the attention at any cost? The prosecutor, red faced, would object to any of this information and the judge would agree. Although the jury heard the words, the points would be excluded. We wondered would the jury see through the prosecutors manipulations?
The defense did finally prevail in bringing the wider context of Darby's long history of being confrontational and his ‘hero complex’ both in the public and private spheres. They were able to show the jury—which incidentally was stacked with a healthy contingent of white older men—that testimony from the state was not credible; Darby had published an inflammatory and self appreciating letter on a “leftist site” to cause more controversy amongst activists while trying to retain his ‘hero’ facade. Kibby’s Federal defense lawyer was direct in saying "if you stick a candy bar in an ant pile, you might get stung a few times.” The defense also did an excellent job of showing many examples of Darby’s contradictory statements in court and in the media over the last year in regards to his own beliefs and actions as well as in the case of David McKay.
Kibby’s lawyer presented PAGES of comments posted in response to stories about Darby—including his own poorly written letter-- from numerous blogs and news sites showing that there were literally hundreds of people who were upset about how the events had unfolded in Minneapolis during the RNC.
As the fog of denial lifted it became apparent through testimony that even the Feds, and specifically Darby’s handler Sellers, weren’t aware of all his statements and actions. He had gone Palin; he had gone rogue.
When Kibby took the stand her testimony was honest and blunt; she has always admitted to sending the email, but wanted to explain what she meant by its intent. She even expressed regret in sending it. But she had sent it and now we were all here in court. The jury listened. She held up well under cross examination and was clear in her statements.
Twenty years would be a long time for an electronic ‘thought crime’.
The jury deliberated for more than six hours after receiving second morning’s closing arguments as well as detailed instructions from the judge.
They came back with a just verdict of NOT GUILTY for Kate.
Arrests that are not arrests but about wearing masks of validity for concealment.
As the trial proceeded it became very apparent to those of us in the peanut gallery and to the jurors that this case wasn’t really just about the email itself.
There were some unknown pieces that were revealed. Had they built an Aunt Sally case to force her to become a spy?( 2)
It seems the Feds had offered Kibby two deals on two occasions after her arrest. One, a standard plea deal to avoid a trial for lesser time (up to four years) –remember she was facing up to 20 years. And the second deal, to turn informant on the anarchists in Austin and New York--among other places--and gather information for the Feds. They questioned her about a list of people within Austin and New York they had compiled. They seem obsessed with people who hide in plain sight. They wanted her to travel to gather information on people she didn’t even know. Kibby like any strong willed and reasonable person simply said no. A ruse is a ruse and she could see it—even if she was scared.
Is the bad government out to justify budgets by racking up arrests and convictions of low hanging fruit or are they that confused about the anarchist movements across this continent and intent on a COINTELPRO style derailment
of what is being built?
If I remember correctly anarchists have been a pain in the ass on many fronts, but it has been right-wingers and conspiracy nuts that have gone postal over and over in recent memory killing innocent people. Or is it because many anarchist have never valued corporate or state property and the state is going to protect those interests no matter the costs? Who are the real terrorist?
It only takes twelve reasonable people.
Although the Federal prosecutor was vehement and quite vociferous in his closing arguments—in all truth his head did stay attached thanks to the tight collar--in the final analysis, the trial came down to the credibility of the witnesses and it seems Darby and the FBI lost. With all their money and resources they couldn’t sway 12 reasonable people to swallow their fables and distortions.
In agent Sellers’ own testimony he said that Darby was “no longer useful” to the FBI, after he published his letter. Now whether this is true or not didn’t matter; the jury heard it. This coupled with the contradictions mentioned earlier didn’t bode well on this trial adventure. The prosecutor sheepishly hung Darby out to dry by not standing up for his character in this case in his own closing remarks. In both of the closing statements Darby looked like a 'loose cannon' who wouldn't even listen to the FBI on the matters at hand.
The Feds’ boat of credibility went down like the RMS Lusitanian in about 18 minutes, while Kibby and her defense team steered the course of honesty and clarity to the end of the trial.
So this act ends... but the play goes on?
“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
Will the credibility of Darby and Sellers as charlatans and fools of the state affect the upcoming trial of the RNC 8? In our long little drama of many acts some of the state’s actors have, well, forgotten their lines (Sellers and other local, state and federal agents), fallen off the stage unceremoniously (ala informant and provocateur Andrew Darst) or just proven not to be good actors (Darby).
Will Darby go the way of the panda, the nickname of Andrew Darst who was the other ‘notorious’ informant on the FBI payroll from Minneapolis who was removed from the upcoming RNC 8 trial due to multiple felonious crimes committed AFTER the RNC convention was over?
When the curtains rise, what will we see?
Will the state continue to let their informants to fly in the cold windy air?
Or will they try to maintain the sham of credibility? What does it say that anyone can be an informant if they are just willing, or want the money? It seems like a low bar of entry.
Time will tell us when the trials for the RNC 8 begin in 2010 and beyond when
these injustices are illuminated by the restless crowds and the stage lights.
Although my words have contained much jest, the issues and concerns are
serious and I watched with admiration as someone unknown to me took a principled stand against the state. Kate, thank you for your resolve in this overblown drama play.
These days will eventually end and will be seen as the modern McCarthy era
for the next generation. But if I could say again: our resolve is stronger, and our
love for better worlds will outlive any institutions they use to try to stop it. All of their money, all of their resources, all of their fallacies cannot stop flowers from coming up in the concrete. Where there are cracks we will always thrive; where there are fields we will grow, and our dreams as well as our work for change will affect the world in ways they cannot imagine or ever control.
Still a proud jackass humbly and joyfully kicking dust at the state.
from the Gulf Coast Basin
A quick timeline—as it relates to this case:
*Darby published his ‘open’ letter outing himself as an informant on December 30, 2008, originally on Houston Indymedia. (Unbeknownst to the FBI)
*Kibby sent her email to him on Jan. 10, 2009
*Darby replied to her with a snarky email back and informed the Feds (Sellers) that day.
*Agent Sellers didn’t reply for over a week. (Was he not that concerned?)
*The Feds don’t arrest her; instead they convened a secret grand jury and in
March 2009 they indicted her in absentia.
*Finally in June—six months later--they arrested her in full dramatic FBI style while
she was walking her dog in Austin. (Big white van swooping in and agents
falling out like Keystone Kops where she was picked up on the street.) A
terrifying and overblown sight for anyone I am sure.
The term 'Aunt Sally' is in limited use as a political idiom, indicating a false adversary or straw man, set up for the sole purpose of attracting negative attention and wasting an opponent's energy.