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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Followup on K8JSM

The more I looked into the story of Joseph Sean McVey, K8JSM, the more intriguing a story this became.

Because, according to the airport police in Asheville, NC, this is the face of domestic terrorism:

That's right, folks, this mugshot represents a much bigger threat than Iran obtaining nukes, the Taliban, or even outsourcing to China...This 23-year-old amateur radio buff, civic-minded person who has no criminal background (other than run-ins with Ohio authorities) is threatening our livelihood.

I must admit at first I thought it was a case of some whacker trying to impersonate a police officer with his strobes flashing, brandishing a sidearm, wearing an earpiece and "talking into it", etc.

Then I began to read more and more about this person, and what was developing was more a case of overzealous law enforcement rather than an overzealous ham radio operator trying to impress anyone within sight, showing off that he was in emergency communications.

It also was another flagrant display by the media to quickly demonize and criminalize whomever might threaten President Obama without stepping back and fully assessing the entire situation with some form of objectivity. Even though there was nothing political about the situation, a quick rush has been made by some media to portray McVey as a right-wing extremist lunatic with fantasies of snipers and sadistic thoughts of extremist conservatism coursing through his twisted, sick, feeble mind...

Seriously, both McVey and the authorities at the airport are to blame, in my opinion, and here's why...

First, let's look at Sean. Honor student in school, bright kid, loves music, radios, and target shooting. Is this the profiling of a monster? If anything, he's a nerd. I should know, I was one. Still am.

Now, in the last few days since his arrest we've found, thanks to the monster-making media that he's had issues with law enforcement in the past. He's also been ticketed for having blue flashing lights on his car in 2006. And now we find he *gasp* was critical of President Obama on his Facebook page!!!

So NOW it begins with the media. Demonize McVey as a right-wing extremist who probably is a member of some secret militia in the bible belt. More on that later.

So back to Sean. Yes, he can be over-the-top on wanting to help when help is not asked for. As I posted previously, I've dealt with folks like him in the past, wanting to be Dudley Do-right. They have the best of intentions, and their hearts are in the right place. But sometimes, instead of helping, they hinder the situation, or in some cases escalate it because law enforcement may not know what the person's intentions truly are, other than being a nuisance and getting in the way. To some degree, that's what's happened here.

If he had his strobes flashing, sidearm brandished, and was telling people to get back or was directing traffic, yeah, that could be cause for some concern with law enforcement. But if all he did was park his car, get out and watch Air Force One taxi, minding his own business, listening to the radio traffic on his scanner with an earpiece so as not to disturb others, then, other than having the sidearm, there's no serious cause for concern?

Regarding the sidearm, although I support the right to have a gun, and believe strongly in the 2nd amendment, even if it is legal what Sean did, showing up at an area where the President of the United States was (or is) is not what I consider the smartest move to make. That alone is probably what triggered the officers at the airport into action. Bad move on Sean's part.

And speaking of the police, I'll just go on record as saying, again my opinion, the police acted appropriately...to a point.

There was a time years ago when I was the ARES emergency coordinator for Knox County here in Tennessee. Big responsibility. I dealt with overreacting hams and those just waiting ever-so-impatiently for the next big emergency. Not unlike McVey, really. I've also dealt with law enforcement and government officials who didn't care for ham operators. One official whose name I won't mention (because I don't remember his name) thought they were the scourge of communications "experts" everywhere, and despite my reminding him I was a ham and trying to inform him the positives of recent events such as a tornado taking out all other reliable communications in one remote area of East Tennessee except for ham radio, he refused to be swayed otherwise. He let one bad encounter ruin it for the whole hobby in his mind, and I had better things to do than to persuade him otherwise.

The Airport Police stopped McVey and questioned him, but even though he was legally allowed to carry the weapon (both as a sidearm and concealed) they continued to pursue the issue and find some sort of excuse to make an example out of McVey. When they finally pulled said excuse out of some book they probably had to blow the dust off in order to open, that gave them Carte Blanche to rifle through his car under the guise of "probable cause". And lo, what do they find but formulas and calculations for bullet trajectories...clearly they have a dangerous man on their hands. Look again at that mugshot above...

I tend to think the arresting officers probably knew he was a ham and had it in their mind that, just like the county official I referenced, this kid was part of a hobby they detested, and felt they needed to make an example to all hams as to what would happen if any hams got in their way. Yeah, it's probably a bit much for a conspiracy theory, but considering what craziness has come from this whole situation so far, you never know, really.

The airport police claimed they ran his driver's license number through the database and it came back invalid. I find it deliciously odd that only after he was detained, booked, photographed, and charged, that they then magically found that they entered his information into the computer incorrectly...

So this charge of "going armed to the terror of the public", has anyone ever even heard of such a charge? Then, in order to make an example out of McVey, they set bond at $100,000? For a misdemeanor? Then they say that, even if he posted bond he might still remain in jail??? Is that even legal?

The airport police chief even said he did nothing wrong "individually"...
Taken individually, none of things McVey did was against the law, including carrying the gun, Airport Police Chief Jeff Augram said. It was the combination of McVey’s behavior and the things he had that drew the charge, Augram said.
So if I understand correctly, he didn't do anything wrong, but because of his behavior and his ham radios and scanners, he got arrested?

I'm so seriously tempted to head over the mountain 90 miles away to the Asheville Regional Airport/Hair Care/Tire Change & 30-min Lube/Discount Cigarette Outlet/Fireworks Warehouse (tm) and take my handheld Yaesu FT-530, Radio Shack scanner, a listing of frequencies for the airport, a bottle of water over 16oz, and a picket sign that states:
and just stand there in front of the Airport's Police Station/Mobile Home. Wonder what will happen...hmmm...maybe individually, with the radios, the sign, and the water, I'm in the clear, but put them together...

I myself probably did more research than the media in finding out about who McVey really was. Why was he in North Carolina? His mom lives there. He even posted this fact online last year. Only now is the media catching on. Why did he have all these radios? He's a ham. Looking at his Ohio license plate would have answered that question immediately. Why did he have a gun? He was licensed to.

Almost immediately the media were trying to put this kid in the electric chair without so much as a peep of fact, just innuendo. After all, here was some lunatic from out of town with rifle formulas, police scanners, and carrying a gun wanting to see the President...

Only after the media starts doing their JOB does the truth come to light. He's just a harmless kid with a fascination for radios who wanted to see Air Force One.

Coshocton REACT reacts (video)

In the end, I think that McVey will not serve any more time other than what he served after being arrested. He'll probably get a lecture from the judge but nothing more...

If anything, McVey has a golden opportunity to sell his story to one of the news channels (probably Larry King Live) or a magazine publication. I'd love to talk to him for a TWIAR exclusive, but we can't afford what he'd probably be asking.

Still, I wonder two things: What effect it will have on McVey's civic-minded activities (will he continue to be an overzealous and anxious kid filled with piss and vinegar and wanting to save the world?) and what effect this whole incident will have on ham radio.

God forbid this incident inspires the feds into trying to micromanage ham radio more than they already do, or even worse levy restrictions on civil agencies like RACES, ARES, and SKYWARN. Hopefully the Obama administration won't launch their media dogs into a smear campaign of ham radio, either. The last thing amateur radio needs to be is a foul talking point on the news channels.