Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hitpiece Interview Targets Newton Co, IN, Sheriff Hartman

I was checking out a website, Oath Keepers, and came across a link I found there: Indiana Sheriff: If We Need to Conduct RANDOM HOUSE to HOUSE Searches We Will. I posted the link to Facebook - one of many links I post.

Today, I did an internet search on this controversy, which I see is growing.

Almost all the links that turn up are to alternative media sites spreading this notion that Sheriff Don Hartman Sr., of rural Newton County, Indiana, wants to conduct warrantless house-to-house searches, and that he feels a recent Indiana Supreme Court ruling allows for this.

The allegation is spreading fast that Sheriff Hartman believes this; there is even a page on Facebook calling for Sheriff Hartman's removal: Remove Newton County Sheriff Don Hartman Sr.

However, it seems the allegation is being taken at face value, and is not being investigated. A cursory investigation yields substantial reason to suspect that Sheriff Hartman was (perhaps inadvertently) ambushed by a (perhaps overzealous) reporter.

First, the ruling in RICHARD L. BARNES v. STATE OF INDIANA summarizes:

A jury convicted Richard Barnes of Class A misdemeanor battery on a law enforcement officer, Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement, and Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Barnes contests that the trial court's failure to advise the jury on the right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers constituted reversible error and that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions. We hold that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers. We further hold that the evidence was sufficient and affirm Barnes's convictions.

The court ruling held "that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers."

This is having explosive ramifications, and explosions can be quite indiscriminate in the damage they do, as is the case with damage being done to the reputation of Sheriff Hartman.

The Newton County Sheriff's Office has a website; the explanation of what happened can be found there:

On May 16, 2011, I was contacted by a reporter of an internet radio station. Her question concerned a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision, allowing police officers to make random warrantless searches. I advised her that I was not clear on that particular ruling; she then asked how the Sheriff's Office conducted searches of residences. I informed her that searches were only conducted with a warrant, probable cause or when an officer is in hot pursuit. When questioned about the Supreme Court ruling, I advised her that as police officers, we enforce those laws set forth by our legislative branch. This reporter then asked about the violation of Constitutional Rights. This State Supreme Court ruling in my opinion cannot override our U.S. Constitutional Rights and I'm sure this state ruling will be revisited.

When I was asked about my thoughts on random searches and how people would react, I gave her the scenario of looking for a criminal or escapee. I advised her that if people were aware of this situation, they would gladly let you search a detached garage, outbuilding, etc., if it meant keeping them safe, but this would only be after securing permission.

This court ruling is just open for lawsuits if a police officer would attempt a random search without due cause. Somewhere in this conversation things were definitely taken out of context. I'm now quoted as saying the Sheriff's Office will be conducting random house to house searches.

I want the citizens of Newton County to rest assured that no member of the Newton County Sheriff's Office will enter the property of another person without first having a warrant or probable cause to do so. I strongly stand behind my oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, as well as that of the State of Indiana.

Sheriff Donald E. Hartman, Sr.

I do not know who the reporter was that started this, but this whole thing has a peculiar smell to it.

What I think happened is this:

- The Indiana Supreme Court made a bad call, looking perhaps at the peculiarities of one case, and perhaps not thinking enough about the broader ramifications. I agree with Sheriff Hartman that this ruling will be revisited.

- It appears Sheriff Hartman received a call from a reporter, and wanted to do the right thing by taking the call and trying to answer the questions; communication between law enforcement and the public is a good thing, even if it is occasionally misconstrued.

- I am assuming the ambush question was not deliberately misleading, but rather, that the internet reporter was, perhaps, some kind of citizen-journalist whose enthusiasm outweighs her skill and judgment. Perhaps her report itself was taken out of context?

Regardless of how it played out, the information on the internet is turning out to be a giant hitpiece.

Sheriff Hartman's position is correct: In the circumstances where there was a fugitive (perhaps from Chicago, parts of which are an hour's drive or so away from Newton County) believed to be in the area, many people, if asked by sheriff's deputies for permission to search some of their rural property, might gladly give the deputies permission to do so; no warrant would be necessary.

Sheriff Hartman and his deputies have taken an oath to uphold the laws, the most important of which is the United States Constitution; I see no reason to suspect they will fail to uphold that oath to the best of their ability.

If we were in Newton County, and our lives were in danger, Sheriff Hartman and his deputies would hurry in, risking their lives as necessary, to save us. If we were in Newton County, and our civil rights were being trampled upon, Sheriff Hartman and his deputies would defend our civil rights, risking their lives if necessary - even if they disagreed with what we were saying; even if we were falsely accusing them of seeking to infringe those rights.

Do we owe them nothing in return?

If you want to support law enforcement, you can start by giving Sheriff Hartman the benefit of the doubt on this one.


Afternoon update on this story.


  1. Apparently, the author of this article didn't read Sheriff Hartman's statement very well. Let's see what Hartman did say. Notice how, at the end of the official statement, the Sheriff lists two reasons why he and his deputies will enter a property. One is a warrant and the other is probable cause. One is Constitutional. The other is a violation of the constitution. The definition and use of probable cause, as Sheriff Hartman uses it, is a perversion in the modern police state. Constitutionally, probable cause isn't at the discretion of peace officers. This disecretion is in the hands of judges and grand juries. Probable cause applies only to legal proceedings to obtain search and seizure warrants and grand jury indictments and nothing else. For a cop to conduct a search and seizure, not to mention entry, based upon his own determination of probable cause is criminal usurpation. In fact such usurpation allows cops to do whatever they want and make up excuses later. This is indeed what has been happening in our collapsing society. Instead of countering Allison Bricker's report, we can see that the Sheriff has written a carefully crafted deception to make the citizens of his county believe that he will never enter their homes without a warrant while simultaneously saying that he will do just that. The Sheriff has confirmed everything that Allison Bricker has said.

  2. Probable cause and hot pursuit are standard in police work today. I see your point regarding their Constitutionality, but I am not sure I agree with you, and I am not looking to debate that here.

    Police power is easy to abuse, and there are cops who abuse it. However, even probable cause and hot pursuit would have to be terribly and systematically abused, beyond any abuses I have heard of, before they would approach random house-to-house searches.

    I think Sheriff Hartman's explanation affirms that his office will do police work within standard, accepted interpretations of the Constitution (which, as you point out, may be erroneous), but that the Sheriff does not agree with the recent Indiana Supreme Court decision.

    In a way, your comment illustrates how all of this may have gotten started: Different people meaning and understanding different things with the same words.

    Our government at various levels is getting out of control; I just don't think Sheriff Hartman is the problem.

  3. Beating and arresting citizens for video recording is now also a standard in police work, but this doesn't render such actions lawful. Neither does standardization render unconstitutional usurpation of probable cause and subsequent entry by cops as constitutional or acceptable.

    I respect your desire to not debate the issue of probable cause, but it's a perplexing desire as probable cause is at the very heart of the recent Indiana Supreme Court issue. Sheriff Hartman is savvy enough to know this. Which is why his very carefully crafted piece of deception specifically mentioned it. Cops in the modern police state use the mantra of probable cause to conduct searches, seize property and make arrests anytime they wish and create the excuse later.

    There's only one clear understanding of the fourth amendment. The discretion of probable cause is forbidden to anyone but judges and grand juries. No warrant = no search, seizure, or arrest. If the 4th amendment wasn't clearly written to be easily understood by everyone, it would be legally void for vagueness.

    Sheriff Hartman swore an oath to obey and defend the constitution come h*ll or high water. Standardization be d*mned. The fact that he then promised to usurp probable cause in violation of the constitution is proof of the crime of perjury and proof that he intends to do exactly as Allison Bricker reported.

    You mention that Sheriff Hartman isn't the problem. If a sheriff swears an oath to obey and defend the constitution and then promises to violate it in writing, I think that qualifies as a problem.

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  5. Thomas, please take your spam elsewhere.