Alright, so, in previous posts, we established a core set of facts:
1. I, Justin Freeman, am a minister, a pro-grade educator, and an intelligent, rational, and descent (if goofy) human being.
2. On one day in 2014, I had a mild conflict with my pastor, which certainly didn't rise to the level of a crime, and in which I didn't even break the rules of the church (even if I may have been rude).
3. Thereafter, I was arrested under suspicious and particularly rough circumstances.
4. Both the police and the pastor agree that it was the police, not the church, who wanted me arrested, and in fact, I was still a church member in good-standing after the arrest.
5. There is a natural tendency for police to dislike people who hold Christian political views like mine.
So on those grounds, I'm leveling an accusation here: my supposed middle-finger and the incident at the church had little or nothing to do with my arrest. Rather, I was arrested for my religious beliefs and the wholesome normative political activities that proceeded from them. When the police were looking for a reason to arrest me, they couldn't find a single thing wrong with me, and just as was done with prophets like Daniel, they said to themselves "We will never find any basis for charges against this man... unless it has something to do with the law of his God." So they went into the church searching for something, and all they found was one guy who didn't like my protected speech against the public education system. Seeing that this was the worst possible thing to be found about me, they ran with it.
Now that story best explains the set of facts that you've been given, but it probably still seems unlikely (and maybe a bit "nutty conspiracy-theorist" to you because there's still a missing piece to the puzzle: the police may have a tendency to dislike a strict biblical interpretation of Christianity, but that doesn't give them a reason to come after me, Justin Freeman, specifically. So why would they be so interested in me? Why not go after someone else? Isn't the middle finger in church the thing that started all this?
And the answer to that last question is "No." The missing piece here is that I wasn't just an upstanding family-man and church leader. I was also heavily involved and respected in local politics.
Consider the following:
From 2012-2014 I was a precinct chairman in the Hall County Republican Party, and in 2012 and 2013 I was voted in by my community to represent Hall County as a delegate to the Georgia Republican Party's State Convention You can see videos of me making waves at the conventions here and here.
And man, I had a lot more hair back then, huh?
And I wasn't just a GOP leader. In 2013 I was also elected the chairman for the 9th District in the Republican Liberty Caucus. A fitting position for a libertarian-leaning conservative Christian.
I was also an active member of the local Tea Party. In 2013 and 2014 I served as Master of Ceremonies for their annual Tax-day rally (see me posing for a photo with the family after MC-ing the rally in 2014, just a few months before my
So, you can see why I might have a target on my back: I was a conservative Christian (which Gerald Couch decidedly is not), and I was one of the movers-and-shakers in local politics. That kind of person who represents no harm, but who could be an immediate political threat to a person like Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch.
And you'll also notice that everywhere I went people were appointing me to leadership positions. It's almost like I was a pillar of the community or something.
But the relationship to the Sheriff's office gets more personal than all that. Couch and I had known each other for years (even before he was Sheriff). I didn't see that we got along badly at first, but my ideals of limited government started to grate against his ideals of bigger funding and more power for local police. In 2013, Couch made an appearance at the local Tea Party in which we really butted heads. At issue was the Second Amendment (a classic conservative sticking point).
Fears were high at that time that Obama would start issuing new gun regulations. Couch had - at the Tea Party's request - made a public response which (through clever wording) had convinced them that he wouldn't enforce any new gun regulations. I, however, saw through the letter's double talk, and challenged Couch to clarify his position at a town-hall style meeting. It was ultimately shown that when pressed, Couch wasn't willing to choose the Second Amendment over speculative future Obama-era regulations. Those regulations never came, but Couch (though exceptionally good at dodging questions he doesn't want to answer) was publicly embarrassed. You can watch the meeting between Freeman and Couch yourself here.
In 2014 the Tea Party - recognizing my heavy emphasis on Christian morality and scripture - appointed me to be the Tea Party's liason to churches. They were of the belief (as am I) that Christian leaders are hamstringing both their faith and the political realm by refusing to involve themselves in politics (and for a pittance of tax-relief no less). Not much happened with that liason position (I'm not even really sure if it was still a thing by the time I was arrested), but it did spawn the creation of a politics-focused Bible study, which I conducted once monthly in Gainesville, and, due to my perception of corruption in Couch's office, the study often touched on issues with law-enforcement (and Couch in particular).
The primary practical point that we focused on in our discussion of local law enforcement was police officers violating traffic laws. Nowadays people are prone to think that there's a literal war on against police. You'd probably be surprised to learn though that the number one cause of police deaths is traffic accidents. As it turns out, flying 100 miles an hour down I-985 without blue lights on is very dangerous, and represents a huge threat to the officers, the public, and taxpayers' wallets. It's not just that though - the Christian principles we discussed before (and which we were studying in Bible study) really grind against our current traffic law situation. In that situation, the police are above the law, and we are below it. If we roll through a stop sign, we're made to pay through the nose, even if no one is hurt. If a police officer in a non-emergency situation runs a red light to pop an illegal U-turn and causes a crash, there'll be a note about it in his file and those of us who pay taxes will ultimately be on the hook for the damage. It isn't right, and I was pushing for reform.
And I wasn't asking for anything unreasonable either - I was just asking for some common-sense oversight in the Sheriff's office. I documented something like a dozen serious speeding complaints in six months just driving to and from work. I'd see officers driving at speeds that had to be over 90 miles an hour, I'd catch them speeding through school zones while the school safety lights were flashing. I'd see them flying on days when there was snow on the ground - even over icy bridges. And NONE of them had blue lights flashing. These weren't emergencies - it was just cops being reckless because they aren't accountable to the laws, and it represented a real threat of danger to people like me who are just trying to get to work. These are the kind of complaints which, if made by a police officer against you, would cost you hundreds of dollars, and maybe even your license. And if you drove for a living they'd put you out of a job.
So I presented this information to the Sheriff with a simple request: identify the officers in these complaints (as Officer A, Officer B, etc.) and tell us what disciplinary steps you will take against them. Then consider putting a GPS system into the police cars so someone can monitor for super-speeders in the police ranks. For six months, Couch stopped answering our emails, refused to come to our meetings, and started behaving like a pretty sorry "public servant."
So now it wasn't just that I was a well-known political leader with ideals that opposed corrupt officials like the Sheriff - I was actively pointing our his hypocrisy in a way that made him publicly embarrassed and presented a possibility of eventually upsetting his base and potentially even unseating him. So you may not think that a law-man would stoop to attacking a person just because of his beliefs, but you had better bet the farm that he'll go after someone whose preaching represents a meaningful threat to his power.
In late July 2014, I brought the issue to the attention of the Tea Party leadership meeting, and also wrote about it to the Gainesville Times and local radio station WDUN.
Less than a week later, my home was raided by a SWAT team.
So I guess you can say that this was all about a middle finger, but that story just wouldn't make sense. The story that fits the facts much better is this:
My Christian morality (and nature as a stickler for the rules) had become a thorn in the side of a corrupt Sheriff, so he told his officers, without any cause, that I was a sovereign citizen and sent them to my church looking for dirt. They came armed with propagandist flyers and goaded a dope of a pastor into thinking I was some kind of wild-eyed trouble-maker. When they could find no wrong-doing, they ran with what they had - a stupid story about how showing a middle finger might just be a dangerous threat - but obviously that story doesn't fly in any legitimate court.
And by the way, the police have basically admitted that's exactly what happened. Let's look at the trial transcript, shall we? In it, we'll find that Cameron Parker (the officer who "investigated" with Jason Berry at the church and also snatched me out of my front door), is hesitant but ultimately forced to admit that he was sent by his superiors to hunt me down as a "sovereign citizen," even if he couldn't give an explanation as to why.
So there you have it - undeniable evidence of a police conspiracy. The Sheriff had a motivation to get me. He handed out a flyer to his patrol and falsely claimed to them that I was a sovereign citizen. No one, in over three years, has ever been able to present a single scrap of evidence to support the claim. The patrol claimed to have no immediate knowledge that I had caused any problems, aside from what they were told by their superiors. Berry ultimately denied under oath on the stand that I had extreme political views. The fact is that a leading member of the local Republican party can't be a sovereign citizen - as far as I know the two are mutually exclusive.
Couch made up a story about me being escorted away from the Sheriff's office (which was subsequently told to Jason Berry before he made his report), but I, the person who was found not guilty, am here to tell you that it never happened. It's a bold-faced lie. Seeing that the Hall County Sheriff's Office was begging for reasons to arrest me, and ended up pressing charges over a raised middle finger, it's obvious that they would arrest me for anything. But if I was committing criminal trespass and/or disorderly conduct at the Sheriff's Office, why didn't they just arrest me then? Here's a hint: it never happened. The patrol was told that I was some kind of dangerous extremist, and they gladly convinced Jason Berry of it before they even took a report - a report that (as you will recall) Officer Parker clearly tried to sway into the realm of "crazy," "evil," and "politically abnormal".
A police conspiracy to shut down a political opponent, and only that, can possibly explain why a SWAT team showed up on my doorstep on August 3rd, 2014.
And we haven't even gotten to the worst abuse yet.