Guest post by Michael Strickland.
Before Michael Forest Reinoehl shot Aaron Danielson. Before Kyle Rittenhouse. Before Marquise Love punted Adam Haner’s head into the ground. Before the McCloskeys. Before Jake Gardner in Omaha. Before the Albequerqe guy shot people shouting they were going to kill him.
Before Andy Ngo was attacked. Before Joey Gibson and Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys. Before riots were commonplace in Portland. Before everyone and their mother were accused of being white supremacists. Before “antifa” was a household term. Before Trump was even the nominee for President.
There was me.
My name is Michael Strickland. Some of you may remember me from my stints at TGP affiliated site Progressives Today and my YouTube channel Laughing At Liberals. I used to film political events around the Portland area and report on them. What started off as a hobby blossomed into my actual job in 2015 after “documentarian” Skye Fitzgerald, who was caught lying to the mother of a disabled kid and the family of a shooting victim for a very biased documentary project on guns, stole two video cameras from me and body slammed onto the pavement, shattering my arm and leaving me too disabled to go back to my old line of work.
Since covering political events in the area had now become my job, I began covering more and more events. I was basically just filming wackjob leftists in the area saying and doing the things they say and do. Several of my videos and stories started going viral. News networks started buying my footage. International news distributors starting hiring me to cover local events. My videos were getting played on FOX news, MSNBC, and several local news broadcasts. I was becoming a serious problem for the left simply because I showed the world what they were all about.
This all came to a head on July 7th, 2016, when I was filming a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Portland. This was before one could assume that violence and destruction were going to happen. I was just standing there, holding a video camera on a monopod, filming the speakers on the steps of the Justice Center. I wasn’t there to argue with anyone or instigate anything, as I preferred a fly-on-the-wall style of filming protests.
A gang of antifa thugs made the conscious and deliberate decision to stage a physical altercation with me. They made a b-line right for me and started attacking me. I tried to get away, they kept coming after me, and with no police around, I eventually drew down on them with my legally carried Glock 27. Fortunately they all stopped coming at me at that moment, they ceased to be threats, and I reholstered, without firing a shot. Every move I made was in reaction to what other people were doing to me. Had I waited another second or two, until their bodies were on top of me, there would not have been that buffer zone, and there’s a significant chance that I would have had to do the unthinkable. I’m very thankful they all finally stopped and backed away from me at the point that I drew, and that that was the amount of force necessary to prevent them from doing further harm to me.
I reholstered after having my gun out for 7 seconds, just enough time to neutralize the threats. I was in a bit of a state of shock. I couldn’t believe I was in that predicament and I had to draw.
I continued to retreat up the block until police eventually showed up. To arrest me.
I attempted to explain that I had been attacked and that my actions were in self defense and that I had a Concealed Handgun License, but they didn’t care about anything I had to say. They didn’t even want to watch the video of it on my camera. They threw me in jail.
Deputy District Attorney Kate Molina then cited a false police report at my arraignment involving a completely separate matter, and used it as justification for charging me with felonies and keeping me in jail on $250,000 bond.
Fortunately enough people were up in arms over all of this that enough funds were raised to pay for attorneys and bail me out (only 10% was needed for the actual cash amount).
While I was out on bail, pre trial release officer Chelsea Fonua ordered that I be banned from blogging, banned from talking to the media, banned from posting videos, banned from twitter, banned from even going to political events. I couldn’t make my own case publicly. Had I done any of those things I would have been thrown back in jail, forfeited bail, and been on the hook for the full $250,000. I was effectively banned from working.
My own first-person video, which is the only angle that showed the initial attack by the mob, was ordered as sealed evidence by Judge Thomas Ryan. Also part of the sealed evidence was video taken from the Hatfield Courthouse surveillance cameras that shows the gang huddling up, formulating their attack on me, masking up, and moving in to get me in an organized fashion. All the public got to see was what the news cameras picked up, which was the seven seconds I had the gun, yelling “Everyone needs to get the hell back! Get the hell back!” with no context.
After a trial in February of 2017, where many pieces of exculpatory evidence were ruled inadmissible and many due process rights violations were committed against me, I was found guilty of 21 counts, including 10 felonies of “Unlawful Use Of A Weapon”, all for not harming so much as a fly and trying to get away to avoid an altercation. The violent thugs who started the fight are considered to be the innocent victims.
I was sentenced to 40 days in jail, 240 hours of community service, and 3 years of probation. I was banned from filming political events or anything at the local colleges. Had I done that, it would have been a violation of my probation and I would have been thrown in prison.
I was kicked out of my apartment, been declined various different jobs, car insurance doubled, I was forced to pay $45 monthly probation fees, along with $3100 in fines. Sometimes I wonder, should I have just taken the beating instead? Should I have let them pummel me into the pavement, possibly rendering me even more disabled, possibly killing me, likely robbing me of my camera gear, computer gear, and gun? Would I have been better off?
Of course I’m banned from owning guns, or even being near one that isn’t in the control of someone else. If I’m visiting someone’s house, and a they have a gun in separate room that I don’t know about, that could be construed as a “felon in possession” since the gun would be accessible to me. The judge specifically said I can’t touch anything more dangerous than a butter knife. If I’m at a restaurant (which is rare because I can’t afford to eat out), and someone across from me is having a steak, and they put their steak knife down in the middle of the table, that’s technically a weapon that is accessible to me, and I could go to jail for that.
Since this incident, violence and riots have been common in Portland. A short time after this we saw the election week riots. Then the inauguration week riots. Then more May Day riots. Then the dueling protests between antifa and Trump supporters. Then the antifa and BLM gangs patrolling the streets, directing people around, smashing up cars when someone takes offense. Then the 120 days of nightly riots this summer. My case set the standard for legalized mob violence, while also invalidating the 1st and 2nd Amendment. The gangs of terrorists know they have the legal authority to attack whomever they want in the street, and not only face no consequences for it, but the person they target is the one who goes to jail for fighting back. Violence is now incentivized.
I immediately appealed the ruling, citing a variety of due process errors that occurred throughout the spectacle, and because my actions were solely in self defense.
Three years later, spring of 2020, the state appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling, saying that all of the things Judge Thomas Ryan ruled on, and all of the shady antics pulled by DA’s Kate Molina and Todd Jackson were all perfectly acceptable. The appeals court did this relying on several erroneous things that they referred to as “undisputed facts” that were in fact heavily disputed throughout the trial. They denied me a re-review after I politely corrected them. The state supreme court also denied reviewing the case.
Much of what I have been appealing on involved my state of mind at the moment of the incident, as it relates to mens rea and culpable knowledge that someone is committing a crime. You see, many pieces of evidence that pointed to my mindset were ruled to be inadmissible. Ironically, and disgustingly, the day after the state supreme court declined to hear my case, they overturned a sex abuse case because a woman saying “No, I don’t want to” while crying as a man forces himself onto her isn’t enough for the perpetrator to “KNOWINGLY” realize that the woman is not consenting. They will let state of mind play a factor in overturning rape cases, but not in my case.
I am now in the process of petitioning the Supreme Court Of The United States to hear my case.
Many people ask what they can do to help. Well, most pressing is raising funds to pay the attorneys. I usually hate begging for money, but it all goes to pay for the attorneys and other legal costs. I have a PayPal set up at paypal.me/StricklandLegalFund and Oregon Firearms Federation has been gracious enough to once again take donations for my fund via their site, https://www.oregonfirearms.org/join-support-off , just please make a note on the check-out page that it’s for my fund so they know where to allocate the money.
I’m very thankful to those who have donated, both in the past and more recently. I plan on hosting an exclusive livestream Q&A event for anyone who has donated, past or present. There’s no way I would have been able to survive this without the help of so many who have chipped in.
You can also share this story around. Share some of the videos about the case that I’ve posted on my YouTube channel. Share some of the stories on VictoriaTaft.com . Raise awareness over what has happened.
Speaking of Oregon Firearms Federation, they have been there every step of the way helping me out. The same cannot be said for a certain other, very large, supposedly pro gun organization.
Unfortunately, the NRA has been silent on this issue thus far. Though, now that the case is going up to SCOTUS and nationwide precedent can be set, maybe they’ll realize they have to take action and help out. If the Heller case established an individual’s right to own a gun for self defense, then the Strickland case may very well decide if a person can draw their legally owned and carried firearm in self defense. If you’re an NRA member, you should be lighting them up to get involved in my case. Heck, even if you’re not an NRA member, I implore you to hit the NRA pages on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, encouraging them to help out. My hope is that they will get involved.
The NRA and other organizations can file what’s called Amicus Curiae, which is “friend of the court” status. This allows groups and other interested parties who are not directly involved in the case to submit briefs to the court in support of me, and they can make other legal arguments and approach the matter from different angles.
Other groups, such as 1st Amendment and free press organizations and non profits, as well as justice reform groups, should also take interest in this. My case spans a variety of Constitutional, civil, and due process rights, regardless of political leanings. Leftist groups, such as the ACLU, should be up in arms over the way the courts treated me. My brief to the Supreme Court is due November 25th, and interested third parties have 30 days after that to file Amicus.
Regarding the 1st Amendment: Does a person have the right to be in public area, filming a public event, as part of their job, and in exercise of their right to free press? Or does a gang of thugs have the legal right and lawful authority to use force, threats, and intimidation to prevent a person from engaging in their 1st Amendment rights? If the gang of thugs does not have that right, then they used unlawful force against me, thus meeting the threshold for exercising self defense.
Secondly, can the courts threaten someone with imprisonment for engaging in 1st Amendment rights? At various different phases over the course of four years I was banned from blogging, talking to the media, going on twitter, posting videos, going to political events, filming political events, or filming anything at the local colleges. Had I done anything of those things, I would have been thrown in prison as a violation of the terms of my release and/or probation.
The 2nd Amendment ramifications are obvious. Can a person draw their firearm in self defense against a mob that the person believes is engaging in unlawful force, potentially deadly force, and further imminent unlawful force? Given the number of assailants against me and the fact that I am partially disabled, a large disparity of force was presented. Additionally, I used verbal commands, a non lethal alternative, and was attempting to retreat to avoid the conflict, all to no avail, as the mob continued to bear down and pursue me. I followed the training I had received from the numerous firearms courses I had taken over the years.
There are a litany of due process rights violations that have been committed against me at various different aspects:
At my first arraignment, deputy district attorney Kate Molina cited a false police report, filed by a guy named John Slaughter, whom I hardly knew, who had gotten in my face screaming and yelling at me a few weeks prior at the vigil for the Orlando nightclub shooting victims. Slaughter claimed that I had started sending him threatening race based text messages and voice mails, that I have ties to white supremacist groups, and that I drove by his house with my hand in the shape of a gun pointing toward me. Of course all of those accusations are untrue. I barely knew or cared who this guy was. On that evening he’s claiming I drove by his house I was caring for two cats that needed medical attention. But Kate Molina read that report out loud in course, lying to Judge Leslie Bottomly, stating these assertions as if they were fact, with the media there recording it and subsequently broadcasting it to the public. Molina was essentially able to unduly influence and taint the jury pool with these defamatory statements. That police report was so unconvincing that she never brought it up again, never charged me with anything from it, and never pursued anything from that because it never happened. But the damage was done.
Judge Thomas Ryan denied my motion for a change of venue, to move to the trial to a different part of the state, away from the Portland area media footprint. I was effectively denied my right to a fair trial before a jury of my peers, and forced to go with a bench trial.
It turned out that John Slaughter was one of the ones who had organized the mob to attack me, as he testified to that and admitted such on the witness stand.
My indictment is the only one I’ve ever seen that lists specific “victims” using vague descriptions but no names. It says things like “Michael Aaron Strickland, on or about July 07, 2016, in the County of Multnomah, State of Oregon, did unlawfully attempt to use, carry with intent to use and possess with intent to use unlawfully against another person, to wit: a male wearing jeans, a dark top, a backpack, a green cloth on his face, and a multicolor mask on top of his head.”
In fact, though the indictments and other charging instruments specify ten “victims”, only two were ever identified, ever came forward, and testified at the trial. Those two were Ben Kerensa (a 400 pound guy with a lengthy criminal history who led the mob to attack me) and Malcolm Chaddock (whom I had seen at previous protests engaging in criminal behavior and causing trouble, and who served as the distraction for Kerensa to run up along my blind side). The other eight were never identified, never came forward as “victims”, and never testified. I was denied my right to face my accusers, because eight of these people never accused me of anything unlawful. I was convicted of crimes against unknown John Does who were physical threats to me.
“Unlawful Use Of A Weapon” has multiple definitions in Oregon. We motioned for the state to clarify which part of the law they were charging me with. Judge Thomas Ryan ruled that the state does not have to clarify such, which left me not knowing what I was supposed to be mounting a legal defense against.
My trial also featured an ambush witness who was allowed to testify after both sides had rested. Molina and Todd Jackson (the other DA on the case) had known for at least six weeks that we were planning on putting on our own expert use of force witness, and he testified that everything I did was correct and in line with how a civilian CHL holder should react in the situation that befell me. As per law, witness lists from both sides were provided to the other the week before the trial. After both sides had rested, Molina and Jackson told the judge they wanted to put on on their own expert use of force witness. We of course objected to this, but the judge allowed it anyway. This expert was Ryan Rasmussen, who serves as Gresham police’s use of force and firearms trainer, and he testified that my actions were wrong and unlawful. Rasmussen was not on any prior witness list and he did not testify at grand jury. He was not a witness to the incident, either. Another problem with all of that is that Rasmussen could only testify as to what a police officer is trained to do, as he has no experience as a civilian. He graduated high school, went into the Marines, then spent a year as armed security, then joined the police department. He has never had a Concealed Handgun License, had never taken a CHL course, does not have any certifications to train civilians, and even conceded that police are held to a higher standard than civilians with CHL’s. yet his testimony was still considered valid.
Can a judge rule that a person’s own experiences, training, and knowledge be irrelevant? Can a judge pretend to be a mind reader and tell a defendant what that defendant was or was not thinking in the heat of the moment, under duress, and under threat of physical harm? At numerous different points, Judge Thomas Ryan substituted his own mindset in place of my mindset. Judge Ryan ruled that a aforementioned incident with Skye Fitzgerald, just 16 months beforehand, where my arm was shattered and had to be surgically reconstructed, was “irrelevant” and somehow didn’t play into my mindset and decision making when I was staring down an even more precarious situation. Judge Ryan also ruled that my statements to the detective, where I explained how the mob attacked me, how I tried to get away, how I was in fear, and how I acted in self defense, were all inadmissible, irrelevant hearsay.
Judge Ryan didn’t even take 30 seconds to go back and deliberate and review evidence and arguments. He immediately announced a guilty verdict as soon as Todd Jackson was done with his closing statement. As Judge Ryan was announcing his verdict, he proclaimed that this is not about what other people were doing to me, it was about my actions. By refusing to consider the actions of those who premeditated and carried out this attack on me, Judge Ryan is essentially refusing to consider self defense as a thing, since self defense is predicated on the actions of others.
At sentencing, Judge Ryan stated with fact that the mob was not about to pummel me, and I could not react in the way that I did. He said “Regarding the acts. I know I’ve already ruled on guilt of innocence, but the Defendant’s acts were not justified. This was not self-defense. This was an unlawful escalation of the situation. Simply put, you cannot respond in the way that the Defendant did in this situation. Brandishing the weapon was not the Defendant’s only option. He was not about to be pummeled.”
He is basically trying to tell me what I was thinking or not thinking.
Further, there are no such terms as “unlawful escalation” or “brandishing” in the Oregon statutes. By stating that drawing was not my “only option” he is implying that some sort of action was necessary. Oregon has no duty to retreat (State v Sandoval, 2007), so that action was not legally necessary, even though I was retreating and trying to avoid conflict. The judge is basically making up the laws as he goes along.
If they can do these things to me, they can do it to anyone. They can do it to you, your family, your loved ones, your doctor, your auto mechanic, your neighbor. I have no doubt that shady police, unethical DA’s, and crooked judges are using these tactics to lock up innocent people every day. This is our best chance to overturn these practices. I am fighting not just for my rights, not just to clear my name, but for everyone’s rights. Help me win this for all of us.