Catherine Carlson Found Guilty On All Charges

It took the jury of five women and seven men one hour to come to a verdict, finding 56 year-old Catherine Carlson guilty of first degree arson, possessing a hoax destructive device and indecent exposure.

After the verdict Carlson’s attorney Phillip Heersink said that although he “was not overly surprised” he was still “disappointed” by the decision.

Against Heersink’s advice, Carlson took the stand as the only witness for the defense. Extremely thin and gaunt, the weathered looking Carlson began her testimony restrained and respectful. She responded to her attorney’s questions regarding the events leading up to her July 11, 2010 arrest.

During cross-examination Payette Country prosecutor Anne Marie Kelso’s, line of questioning agitated Carlson. It got particularly emotional during the following exchange between Carlson and Kelso. Continue reading

Catherine Carlson’s day in court
Advocates suggest a hospital is more appropriate than prison

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
NEWS FEATURE: Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Apr. 6, 2011

Catherine Carlson, Boise Weekly, Transgender, Prison, IdahoCatherine Carlson knows that when she steps into the Payette County courtroom on Tuesday, April 12, she faces the possibility of spending the rest of her days in prison. She also knows that she is her only defense witness. But she wants her day in court.

Carlson, a 53-year-old transsexual woman, is charged with three felonies: first-degree arson, unlawful possession of a bomb or destructive device, and usage of a hoax destructive device. She is also facing a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure. All told, she faces up to 35 years behind bars and a $120,000 fine.

On the morning of July 11, 2010, firefighters responded to a report of a blaze in a Payette trailer park. Tension quickly mounted when authorities discovered alleged pipe bombs rigged to a propane tank on the front porch of one of the trailers. Attached was a note warning that the home was booby-trapped. Law enforcement evacuated the area while bomb technicians defused the device.

Within an hour, firefighters received another call, this time for a car that had been set ablaze near a storage unit north of Payette. Emergency dispatchers received a third call shortly thereafter. Drivers on U.S. Highway 95 near Payette said they had seen a naked woman running down the highway. It was Carlson. Police said she owned the vehicle and the trailer home. Continue reading

Unions Rally at Statehouse, Call for Luna Recall

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Apr. 5, 2011

About 200 picketers outside the Statehouse joined protesters across Idaho Monday in solidarity with public sector workers, who have been under attack in what one legislator called a Republican “war on working people.”

The crowd roared when, in his opening remarks, Democratic Rep. Brian Cronin of Boise pointed at the Idaho Capitol and said, “It is such a relief to leave this building and come out and talk to some real people.

“We have really done a number on the teachers,” Cronin said. “Somehow these heroes of the classroom, the people who educate our children, are the villains in conservative ideology. I do not think it’s an exaggeration to call recent actions of various governors and legislatures a war on working people.”

We Are One Rally - Boise, Idaho April 4, 2011

Dave Whaley, rally organizer and president of the AFL-CIO of Idaho, told the crowd, “We cannot leave this Legislature and not forget what happened here this session. They’re stealing your rights.”

“Folks, it’s been said, but it bears repeating,” Cronin added. “If you are not angry right now, you are simply not paying attention!”

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant told Citydesk an effort to recall State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is under way. Continue reading

As I See It…PODCAST: On the Record with Constance McMillan

As I See It… Talks ON THE RECORD with Constance McMillan who, with the help of her local ACLU affiliate, sued her Fulton, Mississippi school district for barring her from taking her girlfriend to the senior prom. Constance visited Idaho last week as the keynote speaker for the ACLU of Idaho Bill of Rights fundraiser, Prom is for Everyone.

ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins and Constance McMillan

ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins (left) and Constance McMillan


Continue reading

Lesbian Teen Who Sued to Go to Prom is ACLU Keynote

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Mar. 25, 2011

Like most high school seniors, Constance McMillen wanted to go to her prom. One problem: she wanted to take her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo but her Fulton, Miss., high school’s policy required prom guests to “be of the opposite sex” and girls were required to wear dresses.

After McMillen’s failed attempt to get school officials to change the rule, the ACLU of Mississippi sent a letter on her behalf informing the school that their actions were illegal. The school ended up canceling the prom, keeping McMillen, her girlfriend and everyone else from attending. With the help of the ACLU, McMillen sued the school district and won.

“It was so bad,” McMillen told Citydesk today. “It got to the point where I had to change schools altogether because I was harassed on a daily basis. One girl wore a shirt to school that said ‘No Prom Thanks Constance.’ People were booing when I walked in the lunchroom. My best friend stopped talking to me completely.” Continue reading

Idaho Soldier Serving from the Closet. DADT Repeal Doesn’t Lift All Burdens

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Dec. 30, 2010

Despite the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy remains in effect for several more months at least, leaving an estimated 65,000 active duty military service members still vulnerable for discharge for being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

One Idaho soldier now serving in Afghanistan as a combat medic is risking more than her life for her country. She is risking discharge because she is also a lesbian.

To protect her identity Citydesk will refer to her only as “Savanna,” which is not her real name.

“My time in service has been rough,” said Savanna. “I was aware of the DADT policy, but I don’t believe now that any soldier who DADT directly affects really understands how difficult, mentally and emotionally, hiding their true identity will be until it’s too late to turn back.”

“During basic training,” Savanna recounted, “a small group of lesbians were unfairly blamed for being ‘too close’ to who was obviously a lesbian drill sergeant. I am thankful to have had a First Sergeant who stood for what he believed was right. He pulled each of the trainees facing the indiscretion aside and helped us to send home anything that could be perceived to be against the DADT policy (letters, pictures etc.) before the investigation began.”

“I am willing to die for my country. Who I go home to at night and who I love should hold no substance,” she said. Continue reading

Rally Against Anti-Gay Bullying

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Nov. 18, 2010

About 300 braved the cold night air Nov. 16 on the steps of the Statehouse for a rally and candlelight vigil to draw attention to the increasing epidemic of youth suicide brought brought on by anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender bullying in schools in Idaho and across the nation.

Casey Dempsey said he witnesses bullying “almost every day” at Centennial High.

“One day I was in the hall minding my own business and someone spat on me. There is nothing worse in my mind than feeling worthless and being spat on,” said Dempsey. “One day you are straight and everyone thinks you’re the coolest person, the next you’re not straight and they stop talking to you and all of a sudden you’re getting bullied by people who you were friends with just days before.”

BSU student Justin Baxter described the years of bullying and taunting he endured in both middle and high school in Sandpoint, Idaho. Walking home one day after a bullying incident in his gym class locker-room, Baxter was struck in the head with a glass bottle. He fell unconscious to the grown breaking his nose as his attackers kicked him.

“People do no understand what it is like to be in that kind of darkness,” said Baxter. Continue reading

Free Speech Draws Criticism from Constitutional Defender

This morning the following comment was posted on piece I wrote almost two months ago:

Lee Arthur Rice II November 10th, 2010 at 11:06 am

“The name is Lee Arthur II of the Shines-Rice family. Unfortunately, the reporter is sadly mistaken about my actions. Had he taken the time to ask and speak with properly and in a professional manner he would have discovered the true regarding my drawing and actions. It is hypocritical and unethical to claim to be a reporter and not understand how to be or act like one. Much love and God bless.”

Mr. Rice’s comment was in response to the following image and caption about his art work. The story was a commentary piece on the re-launch of Bryan Fisher’s Idaho Values Alliance with new president Gary L. Brown. The publicized media event was sponsored by the conservative Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Idaho Values Alliance Press Conference Obama Swastika
God led African American artist Lee Arthur Rice II, (left above center) from voting for Obama to making him out to be a Nazi. At a public event where the media was invited to cover events taking place on State property, Rice exercises his Constitutional First Amendment right to free speech through displaying his art and handing out marketing materials. This staunch defender of the Constitutional Freedoms and Liberty that made this country great, hypocritically attempted to prevent this member of the press from taking a close-up of the swastikas Rice drew in Obama’s eyes.

Lee Arthur Rice II, Barack Obama, Nazi, Swastikas, Artist

Artist Lee Author Rice II handed out this double sided sales flier at a public media event Sept. 19, 2010 Constitution Day, promoting his art work of President Barack Obama with swastikas in his eyes. The other side is dedicated to promoting his right-wing conservative political group, Son's of the Republic.

Mr. Rice – First of all I, the reporter, am a woman not a man. Secondly, your art work was on display at a publicized event, on public property and the media was invited, making your attendance and display fair game for editorial use.

I vividly recall noticing your framed art piece leaning up against the large replica of the U.S. Constitution, I was intrigued. My first thought was, “Wow that is really good, great likeness.” My second thought, “What’s an Obama supporter doing here?” It seemed incongruent with the event’s Tea Party-esk message. Approaching closer to investigate I discovered the swastikas, it was shocking.

Before I had a chance to snap a photo, you handed me your flier. When I went to take the shot you said I could not take a picture because it was copy written. I told you it was a public media event on public property, and so I took the photo.

The images were news worthy then and are still. I did not see you keep other media from filming or photographing you or your work. However, you tried to stop me and I think we both know why. That, Mr. Rice, told me all I needed to know. There was nothing about my conduct that was unethical, unprofessional or hypocritical as you claim.

Like so many of your political ilk, there is a fundamentalist reverence for the U.S. Constitution. Yet, for those who do not pass the religious conservative litmus test, the Constitution gets conveniently tossed aside. Your selective application of the First Amendment on the steps of the Statehouse on of all days, Constitution Day is rich with hypocrisy.

Your flier, posted to the right, told me the meaning of your drawing. The other side of your pitch to sell your Obama-is-a-Nazi art work is all about the “Sovereign” group God led you to, that apparently moved you to draw swastikas in the eyes of an, otherwise beautiful portrait, of President Obama. Readers can decide for themselves.

Mr. Rice, you will notice on the top of the piece you commented on it says “COMMENTARY” which means, “critique,” “description,” “observation” or “review.” (thesaurus.com). I simply described what I observed as opinion.

Despite your distorted version of the facts and questioning my integrity, I have left your comment as a dissenting viewpoint on this very website, something your friends at the Idaho Values Alliance will not do.

We live in a country where I get to say what I want, and so do you. That is what freedom and liberty are all about. As a Jew whose family immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island escaping the Czarist Pogroms of 1905, I have a deeply personal understanding of what is, and is not, a Nazi. Obama is NOT a Nazi by any stretch of the imagination.

Although I find your art work extremely offensive and inflammatory, as an American, I wholeheartedly defend your right to display it loud and proud as a piece of provocative art and your expression of free speech.

Mr. Rice, if you truly feel I have misrepresented you or your work, then I invite you to sit down with me for a one-on-one, on-the-record interview, so you can explain why you felt compelled to draw swastikas in the eyes of a drawing of our first African American president and why you have a problem with me reporting my opinion about it at a public news event.

I promise you, and my readers, to ask fair and reasonable questions, to listen respectfully and accurately report your answers. All you have to do is send me an email to schedule it and show up.