AMRA FILES A FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TORT CLAIM AGAINST THE UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE.
On a cold January morning, a highly decorated retired military hero and his wife were panning in a small creek on their Federal mining claim. 50 yards downstream from them was another military veteran sitting with his feet in the creek, pan at his side enjoying the gold he’d just scraped out of a crack. The claim was just outside of Greeley Hill CA, a very small rural community on the road to Yosemite. The claim is situated along a well worn gravel road and was very well known for producing good gold during the gold rush days of the 1850’s.
What happened next is the biggest story AMRA has brought to you since our inception and has even received national TV news attention. Both parties were members of AMRA, and as such, are legal claim owners when joining the Association.
They parked both their vehicles along the road legally, had current tags on both trucks and the Federal mining claim sign was prominently posted on a tree nearby.
As they were working their claim, two young USFS LEO’s (Law Enforcement Officers) came trouncing along the creek towards them. Without saying hello or how are you, the opening statement set the stage for what was to follow. “We need your ID’s”. When this statement was boomed towards the three miners, it brought confusion as to why someone would just walk up, guns and tasers hanging from their belts, and ask them for their ID’s. When asked why, they replied “We need to know who is in OUR forest” replied the Capt of the LEO’s.
This brought even more confusion, why were they asking for ID when they had not, nor were doing anything wrong. They were on their Federal mining claim, panning was perfectly legal, they were parked legally and none had even had a parking ticket on their records. The man and his wife started to reach for their ID’s and when he produced his drivers license, they focused on his wife. She pulled out a laminated AMRA membership card, as that is all she had on her person at the time. She handed it to the female Capt. “This card is expired ma’am” she replied. “Oh, I’m sorry, I have renewed my membership, that is my old card, but my new card is in the truck” Patty replied. The Capt. then stated “Ma’am, I’m going to escort you to your truck so you can produce your valid ID, we don’t even know if you have the legal authority to mine on this claim, we want to make sure you’re not claim jumping. Do not make any sudden movements and keep your hands in plain sight”.
Let’s clear something up right now, the USFS has zero authority to enforce who mines on another person’s claim, zero. It is entirely a civil matter and of no concern to the USFS LEO’s.
Patty was escorted to the truck, thankfully making no sudden moves and produced the new, valid AMRA card to the LEO. Apparently satisfied now that she wasn’t some bank robber or drug dealer,or claim jumper, they returned to the creek.
The focus now shifted to Rick, the man sitting in the creek just downstream. “Come up here and bring me your ID” boomed the LEO. Rick, confused as to why these two LEO’s were demanding ID asked “why do I need to show you ID? I haven’t done anything wrong”. “We need to make sure you don’t have any warrants, now get up here”. Rick stated “I am not doing anything wrong, I am mining on my legal Federal mining claim and you are interrupting my mining operation”. Obviously perturbed at this lack of following their commands, the LEO again boomed “bring me your ID NOW”. Rick again stated “I have not done anything wrong and you are completely out of line in asking me for it”.
What happened next is nothing short of reprehensible and alarming.
The LEO’s immediately stomped down the creek bed, nearly stepping in his pan of gold. The female LEO, the Capt of all LEO’s in the Stanislaus NF, leaned over Rick and said “give me your ID now”. Rick, sitting with his feet in the water again stated “I am on my Federal mining claim and you have no right to ask me for my ID”. The LEO then pulled the Taser off her hip, and from a few feet away, pointed it squarely at Rick’s forehead. She stated “give me your F’ing ID now”.
We learned of this incident a few hours after it happened and were as alarmed as you reading this right now. We went live with this incident on our Facebook page and website and appealed to the public to see if anyone else had any issue’s with these LEO’s in the past. The response we got was astounding. We had over a dozen people come forward, none of them miners, and they gave us statements about the horrific encounters they had had with not just these two LEO’s but one additional one in this forest. There are a total of 3 LEO’s in the Stanislaus NF.
All of the additional statements from hikers, hunters, campers and just public land users were essentially the same. These three LEO’s would see a vehicle, any vehicle, driving on a public, well used gravel road, turn their government vehicle sideways to block the road, get out, walk up to the vehicle and tell the driver and passenger to get out, put their hands on the hood, don’t make any sudden moves and don’t talk. Then they would illegally search the vehicles.
No probable cause, no reason, no rights, no talking, no nothing. In some cases, there were small children in the vehicles, like the grandfather taking his 11 year old grandson out for his first time to shoot a .22. As the young boy was crying, asking his grandfather if they were going to jail, the LEO’s refused to answer why they were stopped and the vehicle was being searched.
There are Amendments to our Constitution, one of those is the 4th Amendment which protects against “illegal search and seizures”.
In order for LEO’s to stop US citizens and search vehicles, they must have probable cause. In other words, they must have a reason to stop, and search anyone. They did not.
These LEO’s did not care about the constitution, amendments or rights.
Another egregious example is of a man who owned over a hundred acres in the area burned by the rim fire just north of Yosemite. The property is fenced and he was fortunate that it was not burned during the fire as he had a large herd of cattle running on the remote, isolated property. After the rim fire, the entire area was closed off and the roads were “special permit use only”. Apparently, some of his cows had got out of their fencing and were wandering around in the burned out area surrounding the property. USFS called the property owner, informed him his cows had gotten out and gave him a special use permit so he could go retrieve his animals thus allowing him to drive on the closed road to his property. On his way to the property with his young son, a friend and his girlfriend, he noticed one of the LEO’s following him about a mile from his property. The female LEO turned on her lights and pulled the man over. She asked why he was in the closed area and the property owner stated “you guys called me to come get my cows as they have gotten out of my fence”. The LEO saw he had a rifle in a case in the back of the truck and asked “why are you hunting in a closed area”. The property owner stated “I’m not hunting, I keep the gun in case I have to protect my cows from a cougar or bear and it’s not illegal to carry a gun in the back of my truck”. The LEO stated I’m going to cite you for hunting in a closed hunting area”. The property owner stated “I have a permit, here it is, you guys called me and told me to come get my cows”. The LEO stated “I don’t care, and I don’t even want to see that. I am citing you for hunting in a closed hunting area”. She cited the property owner.
AMRA helped this man in court and the case was immediately dismissed, but is yet another stunning example of just how these three LEO’s completely disregard the law, the rights of individuals and went rogue.
AMRA filed formal complaints against all three LEO’s, made several of these people available to the USFS so they could investigate the allegations and worked with the Commander of the LEO’s to get to the bottom of these LEO’s behavior.
After a month, the Commander wrote us a letter back saying the LEO’s had a right to ask for ID on mining claims, that it is a part of the PoO (Plan of Operations) process and refused to address the numerous examples of randomly stopped and searched vehicles and people. For those which don’t know, the PoO process is the District Rangers responsibility, not the LEO’s.
We want to remind everyone that not all of the USFS is bad, far from it. We have many in the USFS which we respect, and even admire. The firefighters are some of the toughest, bravest men and women we know. We work closely with some of the Rangers and have profound respect for many of them. Part of the problem is many years ago, Politicians changed the reporting standards of the LEO’s. They don’t answer to the Supervisor of the particular forest anymore, they answer to some person sitting in an office far away from where these incidents happen. The Supervisor of the forest has no say in their actions, we know, we met with the Supervisor personally.
When we provided the factual information and statements to Mariposa County Sheriff Doug Binnewies, he removed the State law enforcement capacity from these LEO’s, and rightfully so. We applaud Sheriff Binnewies for listening to, and responding to the people whom were gravely affected by the actions of these rogue LEO’s.
This post is to let everyone know, our followers, the victims of these incidents and even the USFS (in case some haven’t heard yet), AMRA has filed a 7 figure Federal Government Tort Claim against the USFS on behalf of these people. The USFS was just served with the claim a few days ago.
The USFS was put on notice many, many times by several of the people mentioned here, but failed to do anything to stop the illegal behavior. They failed to investigate and hold the LEO’s accountable. They failed to protect the public from further violations of their civil rights. The Commander did not investigate these incidents, and when provided with facts, and live testimony, ignored them. Then swept it under the rug.
We are not going to tolerate this.
AMRA is paying for this lawsuit and as most of you know, we operate solely on donations. We ask that you please consider making a donation to help fund this litigation if you believe they should be held accountable for their actions.
We also have a live raffle with the GPAA where you don’t even need to be present to win. The raffle will be broadcast on Facebook Live during the gold show in Pleasanton CA Feb. 11th and 12th. Thousands of dollars in prizes will be given away…..and again, you do not need to be present to win. Tickets can be purchased right now by calling (209) 266-2844, operators are live any time, 24 hours a day.
AMRA also offers memberships which provide access to our mining claims in 5 states for your entire family for a small tax-deductible donation if you are interested in gaining access to the claims. This entitles your family (and you can even bring a friend) to unlimited access to the proven, quality claims we have in AZ, OR, WA, CA and ID. If you don’t mine, you can still make a tax-deductible donation to the legal fund, or pick up some tickets for the live raffle. One of the grand prizes is a brand new 4″ Proline dredge valued at nearly $5,000.00!
We hope you believe this type of behavior should not be tolerated and these people should be held accountable. We do, so please click on share and assist us in getting justice for the people affected by the horrific actions of these rogue LEO’s and the USFS.