Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Christine goes to jail
. . . .

Christine goes to jail

Anne Stanton - February 1st, 2010
CHRISTINE Goes to Jail…How it feels to get on the wrong side
of the law
By Anne Stanton
If someone “accidentally” carries a loaded gun into an airport
screening area, they are completely stupid and deserve every bad thing that happens afterward. Right?
Well, before you jump to that easy conclusion, read the story of
Christine Blackledge and how this upstanding citizen of Traverse City paid for one of the dumbest mistakes in her life.

Blackledge is a mother of six, grandmother of seven, and owner of
Michigan Decorations, a company that gussies up downtowns throughout
the state with holiday decorations.
On November 5, she came home at 3:30 a.m., exhausted after a night of
working in Bay City with her crew. She did some bookkeeping and packed
a suitcase to get ready for a trip to New York to see her daughter
dance on stage. She could sleep on the plane, she told herself, and
all would be well.
That morning she took out of her purse the tools of her trade –
measuring tapes, screwdrivers, pliers, and wire cutters. Her purse
felt light, especially since she usually carries a 40-caliber handgun
for protection on the rough city streets (she has handled guns all her
After she folded her clothes, she packed her toiletries in quantities
small enough to meet airport requirements.
Blackledge arrived at the Cherry Capital Airport, feeling exhausted
from two straight days of working. She got into line, set her suitcase
and purse on the conveyer belt. Just as her purse hit the X-ray
machine, she smacked her head and yelled, “Oh no!” She realized she
had replaced her 40-caliber pistol with a lighter 9 millimeter gun,
and it was still in her purse. She had put it in a zippered
compartment and completely forgotten about it.
“My first thought was, my daughter was still in the parking lot. Is
there anybody who could take it to her? Which is really stupid. But I
just wanted to resolve it and get on to New York.”
Just as the TSA screener had noticed the gun, Blackledge’s daughter
came running up with cash that had been forgotten in the car. “It was
a three ring circus,” she said.
Blackledge was immediately pulled to the side where she was questioned
by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer and, later,
a Traverse City police officer. “I explained how it happened. I was
very sorry. They’re asking me, how many shells did it have. They take
a picture of it. The city officer runs a check on the gun and finds
out it’s been stolen.”
Someone had stolen the gun from her home seven years ago; it had been
recovered last summer in a downstate drug bust and returned to
Blackledge just a few weeks before. The TSA overheard the city
officer, and assumed she’d stolen the gun.
“It took forever to get through to TSA it’s my gun and it was stolen from me.”
After about 30 minutes, she was set free. She took the next flight out.

First thing Monday morning, she called the Grand Traverse County
prosecutor’s office to explain what happened. She was well acquainted
with the staff because she’d been a victim of a crime on September 7,
2008. That was the day Wayne Hutter, a long-time friend, had walked
into her unlocked home, angry and drunk. “I told him I didn’t want to
talk, and he pulled a gun, pointed it at my head, and said, ‘We will
talk.’ He held me hostage and screamed at me for 20 minutes.”
Judge Haley of the 86th District Court set a $25,000 bond, which
essentially allowed Hutter to walk the streets freely until his
conviction in mid-January, when his bond was revoked. During his four
months of freedom, Blackledge went on the run, staying with friends,
at hotels, and her sister’s house in Florida. “I will remember those
days for the rest of my life.”
She had possessed a concealed weapons permit for years, but after the
assault, she decided to carry a gun with her at all times (with the
exception of airports).
Blackledge is not afraid to speak out. She went to the media about
Haley’s bonding decision. She’s also been outspoken on the financial
irregularities on the Traverse City Housing Commission (she was right,
but was politely pushed off the board).
Now she has something to say about our judicial system.

The clerk at the Grand Traverse Prosecutor’s office told Blackledge
that she didn’t have a report yet. “She said, it could be two or three
weeks. I was thinking when the report did come, I would be asked to
come into the office. I did something wrong; I’m expecting to pay a
fine. I realize there are going to be repercussions, but never in my
wildest dreams did I ever expect what happened next.”
People had unknowingly brought weapons to the airport screening area
before, Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Al Schneider told the
In fact, just after 9/11, a retired police officer had forgotten to
take his gun out of his briefcase. He wasn’t charged, but Schneider
said it prompted him to meet with state law enforcement, TSA, and
federal justice officials. The consensus was there had to be “intent”
to bring a charge. There have been numerous instances at the airport
since then; Schneider couldn’t recall charging anyone.
But this time, an assistant prosecutor argued that negligence was
sufficient in the case of a loaded gun. The law wasn’t clear about
intent, and what if someone saw the gun in her purse and panicked?
The prosecutor issued a warrant for Blackledge’s arrest. A conviction
would mean up to one year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.

Two weeks later, Blackledge came home from another job at 4 a.m. She
was exhausted.
“Around 8 a.m., I’ve got doorbells ringing, telephones ringing, people
pounding at my door. I think it’s my crew of guys. I come down the
stairway, half asleep, and there are police officers at my backdoor. I
recognize Officer Bosner from the assault. He protected me at Hutter’s
trial. He told me, ‘there are police officers at the front door with
warrants for your arrest and we need to let them in.’
“He follows me in the house, I unlock the front door; there are two
officers there, and a police car down the street… What the heck! They
told me, ‘we have a warrant for your arrest for carrying a gun at the
airport.’ I’m stunned. I ask, ‘Can I get dressed? Put some jeans on?’
‘There’s no reason to do that. You’ll have to change at the jail.’ So
they told me, ‘just take your driver’s license. ‘How about my
concealed weapons permit?’  ‘That makes sense.’”
Fortunately, Blackledge had already thrown on a pair of sweatpants and
a t-shirt. Unfortunately, she had a severe chest and head cold. The
officer accompanied Blackledge upstairs while she put on a sweatshirt,
handcuffed her and led her out to the police car.
“He tells me to put my head down and pushes me in. He’s trying to be
cool about it.”
Problems at the jail quickly arose. Blackledge was constantly hacking.
A guard, fearing she had the swine flu, told her she was too sick to
fingerprint. Her attorney arrived to post bond money but was told to
come back because she hadn’t been booked yet.
Blackledge was told to sit on the bench. A guard noticed her
sweatpants had a string. “They told me to take the string off. They’ll
fall down if I do that, so they made me put on jail clothes. The guard
stood outside the door while I undressed and dressed. It was very

“At this point, I haven’t had anything to drink, nothing to eat. They
gave me a mask, and I can hardly breathe. I’m cold and miserable. I’m
on the bench. I ask a guard, ‘Can I please have a drink of water?  I
can’t stop coughing.’ She told me, ‘We don’t have glasses. You have to
buy a jail kit. I have no money, my attorney showed up to pay bond.
But yes, I’ll buy the jail kit. It’s got toothpaste, a comb, a
toothbrush, gargle, and a plastic cup. The guard empties it out and
gives me a glass. It costs $12. I have to pay $12 to get a glass of
water. That’s the only way you can get a sip of water. So she lets me
go across the hall to the faucet. And I’m sipping on water.” [Grand
Traverse Sheriff’s Captain Bob Hall, who oversees the jail, said that
everyone has to pay $12 for a booking fee; the jail kit is free.]
A nurse came by, and offered help. “The guard wouldn’t even let the
nurse look at me!I’m coughing and hacking and this other woman who’s
in jail said, ‘Why did they let you in here? Are they trying to make
us all sick? Do you have the swine flu? We think you’re in here as a
plot!’ Now the prisoners think I’m a bad person!”
So the guard put Blackledge into a glass-encased cell. Sick and
exhausted, Blackledge curled up in a fetal position on a steel bed.
“I’m freezing. I’m right across from the desk, other people are coming
in. Mostly males, and they’re sitting on the bench.”
Blackledge had to go to the bathroom. There was a stainless steel
toilet in the cell, but she didn’t want people to watch her. So she
taps on the jail door.
“The officer finally comes, the one who wouldn’t fingerprint me. ‘Can
I please go to the bathroom? Please.’  He doesn’t say anything, but
just points to the toilet.  I thought, ‘I’ll pee my pants before I
pull down my britches in front of these people. There’s no way I’ll do
that.’” [Hall said there’s a half wall in front of the toilet, so
although you can see the person’s head as they’re sitting on the
toilet, you can’t see their bottom.]
Meanwhile, Blackledge is hungry; she saw lunch getting handed out just
before her magistrate’s hearing, but thought it was for inmates, and
no one offered her lunch. [Hall said a sergeant reported she declined

Finally, a young officer cracked the door of her cell and told her he
was trying hard to get her paperwork through, but she’d have to see
the magistrate via a video conference at 1 p.m. Fortunately,
Blackledge was the second in line, the hearing was short, and the
magistrate said she could be released on her own recognizance.
But she continued to sit. For nearly three hours she sat.
“I kept thinking, I’ve already been let out on my recognizance and I
still can’t get out.”
Finally just before 4 p.m., a young looking teen comes in, yelling
profanities, saying he wanted to talk to his grandfather.
“He’s a handful, scared to death. I was scared to death. I didn’t know
if I wanted to start screaming and yelling or break down crying.
There’s a horrible feeling, nothing you can do. I could understand his
panic. I felt sorry for him. The guard said, ‘Guess we’ll be letting
you out, we’ll need the cell for problem child here. Here’s your box.
Put your clothes on, and go out the door,’” she said.
Blackledge’s day ended as quickly as it began.
“I got my clothes on … It’s 4:30 by now, misting.  I walk home. I felt
like Alice in Wonderland. What just happened?”

Hall initially said, without knowing the full story, that Blackledge
wasn’t fingerprinted or photographed because the jail staff feared she
had the swine flu and wanted to get her out quickly. “Everyone was
masked up,” he said.
In a later interview, he explained that “sometimes we don’t
(fingerprint or photograph) due to the nature of the charge or if a
person has a subsequent court hearing.”
Releases started at 2 p.m.—the jail staff must first receive signed
papers from the magistrate. Blackledge—despite  being too sick to
fingerprint—had to wait in line behind the others who came in before
her, a jail policy.  “She was by herself. She wasn’t infecting
anyone,” Hall explained.
When someone new shows up, the single jail staffer must stop the
release process to do the intake paperwork. Things would go much
faster if he had more staff, he said.
“We live with these people,” he said. “We understand their circumstances.”
Jail is most unpleasant, but it must be safe; others have said the
jail runs more smoothly than most, he said.

After getting jailed, Blackledge received a letter from the TSA, with
a fine of $3,000, but only $1,500 if it was paid within 30 days.
Blackledge called the 800 number, as instructed,  and eventually had a
long conversation with TSA’s attorney, Scott Klippel.
She told him the story of her arrest. He was surprised that a cadre of
police officers would come to her door, shut off the street, and
handcuff her—for a misdemeanor. He wrote a follow-up email to her,
saying that the home arrest was “unnecessary” and, in his opinion as a
former prosecutor and defense attorney, “a total waste of scarce law
enforcement resources.”
Does the Traverse City Police Department send a handful of police
officers for every misdemeanor?
Traverse City Police Chief Mike Warren said no.
Some people get an appearance ticket, in which they come in unescorted
for the booking. “Carrying a gun into a sterile zone of the airport
isn’t one of those instances.”
Blackledge ultimately had to hire an expensive lawyer who advised her
to plead guilty on charges of bringing a gun into the sterile area of
the airport.
Meanwhile, Blackledge was written up in a local paper for a
three-month trip she planned to take in February—a humanitarian
mission to Africa where she would teach villagers how to irrigate
their land, make solar cookers, and run a tiny business.
The article didn’t mention that she had been ordered to appear in
court seven days after she was scheduled to fly out. The prosecutor
had actually dropped the charges on January 19, but she didn’t find
out until last week, when the Express gave her the news. Schneider
explained to Express that his office decided the TSA fine was
sufficient punishment.
Blackledge still must cut her trip two months short, though, because
13th Circuit Judge Tom Power refused to allow a rescheduling of her
civil trial against Hutter; her lawyer forgot to mention her African
trip in his rescheduling request, only mentioning his scheduled hip
Blackledge said she knows she must pay for her mistake (her fine was
ultimately reduced to $350), but wonders about the waste of police,
jail and prosecutorial staff on a misdemeanor case that had a simple
explanation. How many times does this happen, she wondered. She urged
common sense.
Always being on the “good side” of the law—helping with the
prosecution of Hutter, as well as the man who stole her gun—didn’t
seem to matter this time, she said. This experience humbled her.
“I once went on a jail tour with the Grand Traverse Leadership Group.
You eat the jail food, you tour the rooms. But I tell you, it’s
nothing like the reality.”

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