COEUR d’ALENE – It’s a case about one North Idaho man’s challenge to government authority, and his use of a video camera in the courtroom. And it’s a bit about his getting Tasered when he tested the limits.
It all started in July when Robert W. Peterson, 22, was riding his BMX-style bicycle through Hayden at night and got stopped by Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies for not having a light. Peterson contends he got pulled over because he had a pistol strapped to his leg, spotted by the deputies when they pointed a spotlight at him.
“They drummed up that charge after 10 or 15 minutes of having me stand on the side of the road,” Peterson said Wednesday.
In August he got Tasered just outside a courtroom at the Kootenai County Courthouse when he made a court appearance for the bicycling infraction. That day he brought a video camera into the courtroom and was confronted by bailiffs who eventually Tasered him after he refused to stop recording.
Peterson, a former Lake City High School student, recorded the entire Taser incident and it’s widely available on the Internet. He was arrested and booked into the Kootenai County jail afterward, and eventually managed to post bail.
Peterson has said the bailiff that Tasered him was only getting high on his power.
Anyone who films in the courtroom must have the approval of the judge before doing so, and Peterson didn’t have it.
On Wednesday he entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor contempt-of-court charge for the courthouse incident, not technically admitting guilt, but acknowledging enough evidence exists that he could be convicted at trial.
“The way I look at it, I’m sparing myself the headache of having to go to trial on Friday,” Peterson said after the plea hearing.
He was scheduled for trial on Friday for the contempt charge along with three assault charges. The assault charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Peterson said the video shows he never assaulted the bailiffs or anyone at the courthouse, so he was confident that at trial he would have been found innocent of those charges.
Judge O. Lynn Brower sentenced Peterson to 180 days in jail, but gave him credit for 26 days already served and suspended the remaining days.
Brower placed Peterson on a year of probation and ordered him to pay court costs of $150. Peterson was given six months to pay up, as he currently doesn’t have a job.
Brower nearly had to throw Peterson in jail again for contempt of court, this time for five days, when Peterson refused to stand as Brower entered the courtroom Wednesday.
Peterson’s political belief is that he’s not subject to local, state and federal laws, unless he’s injured another person. He spoke some about his beliefs in court, but declined after the hearing to explain them further.
Peterson said a default judgment was entered in the bicycle case because it was determined by the court that he failed to show up for his hearing. He was getting Tasered and arrested, so he asked a judge to re-open the case.
Peterson has had plenty of contact with law enforcement in the past.
“I always avoid contact, but they always contact me,” he said. “They really like screwing with me. I get pulled over too much.”
So what is it about him?
“They just don’t like me,” he said. “I don’t let them search my car. I don’t let them do anything.”