HomeTop StoriesMembers of the Patriot Front sentenced to three days in prison

Members of the Patriot Front sentenced to three days in prison

Jul.21 – Five members of the Patriot Front will spend the weekend in jail after a judge convicted the men on Friday morning of conspiracy to disrupt a Pride celebration in downtown Coeur d’Alene last year.

Devin Center, James J. Johnson, Forrest Rankin, Robert Whitted and Derek Smith were led from Judge James Stow’s courtroom in handcuffs after Stow sentenced each of them to five days in jail with two days served, one year of unsupervised probation and $1,000 in fines. He also banned the men from coming within 2 miles of the Kootenai County Courthouse.

The restricted area includes the parks and businesses affected by the defendants’ crime, said Wes Somerton, deputy chief prosecutor.

The five defendants were the first members of the white nationalist group to stand trial for conspiracy, for which a jury convicted them on Thursday.

Another member, Alexander Sisenstein, settled his case when he was sentenced in November to two years of unsupervised probation and a $500 fine after pleading guilty to disturbing the peace.

Twenty-five men, including Patriot Front founder Thomas Rousseau, are awaiting trial.

Somerton told The Spokesman-Review that he had never dealt with so many defendants as a result of one incident. He said he does not know how this process will affect the Patriot Front’s future business on its slate.

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The five men approached Stow on Friday and asked him to impose withheld sentences, which Stow agreed to. The verdict means the men can ask the court to dismiss their conviction once they have met their sentencing requirements.

The defendants said they respected the jury’s decision, but maintained their innocence and said they intended to protest peacefully.

“I maintain that I am completely innocent of the allegations,” Johnson said.

Johnson, of Concrete, Washington, said he has worked and lived in Idaho and loves the state. It was never his intention to go to Coeur d’Alene to violate anyone’s rights and disturb the peace, he said.

Center said the Patriot Front’s plans were to peacefully gather and protest peacefully in City Park, display their beliefs to large crowds, before departing.

However, the group never made it to the park.

The 31 men, dressed in blue shirts, khaki pants and white face masks and piled into a U-Haul truck, were pulled over on Northwest Boulevard.

Police confiscated metal shields, a smoke bomb, shin guards, walkie-talkies, megaphones and an operation plan from the members and in the truck.

Many of the defendants spoke of the hardships they have faced as a result of their actions on June 11, 2022. They include job loss, failure to graduate, a keyed car, social media threats, legal fees, and travel expenses.

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Smith said one person came to his apartment with an AR-15.

“It’s impacted our lives quite severely in many cases,” Center said.

They also talked about how they and other Patriot Front members participated in food campaigns and helped areas affected by natural disasters.

“Those actions have been very rewarding,” Center said.

Robert Sargent, the defendants’ attorney, called his clients respectful, likeable and memorable, and said he enjoyed defending them.

“I was actually happy to do this case,” he said. “I was excited to do it.”

Sargent said he felt they were likely judged for their clothing and the content of their message.

“I do believe they would protest peacefully,” Sargent said.

Somerton disagreed.

“This was not a case of ideology,” he said. “This was a case about behavior.”

He argued that members believe in an orderly society, but their practices on June 11 undermined that belief.

“One person’s First Amendment rights stop when it violates another’s First Amendment rights,” Somerton said.

He described the group’s protest approach as “flash mob style.”

Ryan Hunter, deputy city attorney, told the court Thursday that the masked men, carrying shields and flagpoles, planned to storm out of the U-Haul outside the park, possibly inflicting smoke and using a megaphone. They planned to engage in a “tumultuous manner” with Pride visitors trying to enjoy the park, he said.

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Somerton said Friday that other protesters downtown that day did not have Patriot Front shin guards and other gear. Some people in City Park did carry firearms and ballistic vests.

Somerton asked Stow to serve a 10-day prison sentence, 40 hours of community service, two years of unsupervised probation, and fines. The maximum penalty for the offense is one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Stow said he believed the jury based its verdict on the equipment members who had similar face masks, shields and a smoke bomb, rather than their clothing and beliefs, as Sargent indicated.

Stow said he wanted to send a message to the defendants that people exercising their rights should still respect the laws.

“We don’t know what the outcome would have been,” Stow said had the group not been apprehended.

The men will be released from Kootenai County Jail on Sunday.

Sargent told The Spokesman-Review it was a fair trial, but said he was disappointed with Somerton’s conviction and request for a conviction, which Sargent said seemed like “retaliation”.

“This was a right to free speech and assembly versus if you disturb the peace, and I do believe it had to be in a courtroom,” Sargent said.

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