Presuming that there is a copy of the United States Constitution somewhere in the Payette County Courthouse, someone may want to look at it before Wednesday, Dec. 10, the scheduled start of Alma Hasse's jury trial.
Article One, Section 9 of the Constitution states: "The writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." Latin for "you have the body," a writ of habeas corpus orders the court to prove why it has the lawful authority to detain any prisoner. But when Hasse was led away in handcuffs from an Oct. 9 Payette County Planning and Zoning public meeting, she was not processed into the county jail. Yet she was put inside Line Cell No. 3, isolated from the rest of the inmate population, and denied basic rights such as visitation and using the telephone.
"I kept saying, 'I want to talk to my attorney,'" Hasse told Boise Weekly. "Over and over again, I said, 'I want to talk to my attorney,' and they kept saying, 'Give us your name,' which is a bit ridiculous because everybody there knows my name."
Right down the hall from the jail, Hasse had signed her name and address to a public sign-in sheet at the very P&Z meeting at which she was arrested. What's more, police officers, the county magistrate and the very P&Z commissioners who had her arrested all called her by her name, as captured on video. Yet, Hasse was not processed as an inmate when she was taken to the jail and told that she would not have the privilege of having visitors or making a phone call until she spoke her name.
The episode was repeated throughout the night, again on the next day and for the following five days. She wouldn't see the light of the day until a full week had passed.
"I've never seen a case like hers," said attorney Michael Bartlett. "I spoke with [fellow attorney] Tom McCabe—and he has 30 years' experience or more—and he couldn't recall a time when someone hadn't been processed over an issue like this.
"In order for Alma to participate in that P&Z hearing, she would have had to sign in," Bartlett added. "I'm told that they referred to her as Alma. It seems that what happened here was not a lack of information, but some form of retaliation."
That's why Boise-based attorneys Bartlett and McCabe have decided to represent Hasse.
"I can tell you that a lot of Idaho attorneys heard about this, and they were so upset that they, too, have volunteered their services," Bartlett told BW. "So many people have come forward to say, 'Let me help. This is wrong.'"
Boise Weekly has seen Alma Hasse in action many times over the years; and to be clear, there are very few people at the Payette County Courthouse who don't know her and her environmental advocacy. She's a particular thorn in the side of the oil and gas industry, which, for the past several years, has made Payette County ground zero in its exploration efforts. Hasse has been there throughout, railing against Bridge Resources, the first gas exploration company to make inroads in Payette County, and which fell like a house of cards in 2011; plans for a massive gas dehydration facility; the creation of man-made earthquakes to help identify gas-rich resources; or the new breed of gas explorers, including Alta Mesa. Hasse has showed up, time and again, to voice her displeasure about what she calls sweetheart deals from public officials who have too many personal interests to make impartial decisions.
"It's public record. All three Payette County commissioners have land or mineral leases with the companies," Hasse told BW. "And yes, a number of those P&Z commissioners also have personal leases with the companies."
So it was on Oct. 9, when Hasse once again stood before P&Z commissioners in an effort, she said, to insist on more transparency. But when the public testimony portion of the meeting was closed, things took a turn. That's when P&Z Commissioner Peter Morgan decided to challenge Hasse's testimony—not to her face, but during a "closed" session, in spite of the fact that it played out in front of the public (and was captured on video that thousands of BW readers have witnessed at boiseweekly.com).
"I don't want these meetings to get to the point where somebody can show up and tell a big whopper," said Morgan.
Hasse, sitting in the gallery, was incensed that she was being called a liar.
"Point of order," Hasse said loudly. "If somebody is going to accuse me of giving bad information, I would like a name."
"Alma, you need to leave," ordered P&Z Commission Chair Chad Henggeler.
Representatives from the oil and gas industry sat silently nearby.
"I'm not going to leave," responded Hasse.
"Can we have a sergeant at arms?" asked Henggeler, prompting two Payette County sheriff's deputies and a Payette police officer to enter the room.
"I'm not leaving," said Hasse. "It's a public meeting."
In short order, Hasse was handcuffed and taken to jail.
"If you watch that video which you uploaded to Boise Weekly, you can see that she was referenced by her name," said Bartlett. "It's clear that even those P&Z people knew who she was. It seems to be quite an intellectual feat for everyone to forget her name just a few minutes later."
Yet, Hasse was asked repeatedly to give her name, as sheriff's deputies attempted to process her into the jail.
"This went on for two-and-a-half hours. But I kept saying, 'I want to talk to my attorney,'" said Hasse.
It turns out that all of Hasse's personal details, including her fingerprints, were just a few feet away because she had previously applied for and received a concealed carry permit through the same sheriff's office—housed in the same building where the P&Z commission meeting was held and home to the county jail..
"This event is something that every Idahoan should be very concerned about," said Leo Morales, ACLU of Idaho interim executive director. "It's extremely troubling that a government has this much authority to hold someone indefinitely with no access to the phone or other rights."
Hasse was handed a green-and-white-striped prison uniform, an orange sweatshirt that she said "resembled a rag more than a piece of clothing," and prison sandals that she said were "more like a man's size," and escorted to Line Cell No. 3.
"It was disgusting. It looked like someone had taken a dump on the floor. They hadn't cleaned the cell, so I had to ask to clean it myself. They brought me a rag and a bottle of cleaner but wouldn't give me any gloves," she said.
The next morning, a breakfast tray was slid into the cell, but Hasse said she was still in a "pissed-off" mood and refused to eat. Meanwhile, something else had been slid through the slot onto the floor of her cell: a copy of a formal citation, listing her married name—Alma Plucinski—and full details of her violations: trespassing and obstructing and delaying a police officer. It was becoming very clear that in spite of what they were saying, law enforcement officials knew exactly who they were dealing with. Additionally, her case appeared on the state judicial repository within 24 hours of her arrest.
"But they kept taking me down to booking and asking me my name, and I kept saying, 'I want to talk to my attorney.' Refusing to eat was my only way of standing on principle. This cat and mouse game continued about a dozen times," she told BW. "When I would ask for visitors or to use the phone, they kept saying that I couldn't have those privileges until I was processed. I felt like my civil rights were being beaten to hell."
'Men with guns who put her in a cage'
Hasse was escorted before 3rd Judicial District Magistrate Brian Lee on two occasions, the first on Oct. 10 (the courtroom is in the same building as the jail and P&Z hearing room). During her first appearance, Lee even acknowledged Hasse by both her maiden and married name.
"But he told me, 'You have to be booked,'" said Hasse. "I said, 'You know who I am. I've been asking to talk to my attorney. I don't even have any parking tickets for crying out loud.'"
By then Hasse said she had finally dissolved into tears as she was led back to her jail cell. She continued to refuse food. Her husband would call the sheriff's office, which acknowledged that she was in jail, but insisted that she could not receive visitors.
"And I was denied access to purchase things through the jail commissary. I desperately needed clean underwear," she said.
On Tuesday, Oct. 14, Hasse was again brought before Judge Lee, who this time increased her bail to $10,000, saying she was a possible flight risk. Later that day, she finally relented, giving law enforcement her name, which triggered her transfer to the female inmate section of the jail. Facing a $10,000 bail, she had little means to secure her release. It wasn't until Oct. 15 that Judge Lee agreed she could be released on her own recognizance. She left the jail on Oct. 16—a full week after she was handcuffed and led away from the P&Z hearing.
"I have a jury trial set for Wednesday, Dec. 10," said Hasse, who was busy trying to re-create a timeline for her attorneys.
"Think, for a moment, about what those P&Z commissioners did. They controlled their meeting by waiting until closing the public comment session," said Bartlett, "but then they made direct reference of Alma and faulted her for her prior comments. It doesn't take a lot of forethought to conclude that she would want the opportunity to respond. And when she did respond, what did they do? They used men with guns to put her in a cage."