Mark Tolson Learns Blue Lives Matter In Washington State
July 25, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Given the events of the last few weeks, it’s not hard to imagine a more divisive moment in our nation’s recent history when it comes to relations between minorities and law enforcement. Cops are so tense they’re actively monitoring Facebook accounts and arresting people for even negligently posted anti-cop rhetoric. When you find a reason to charge a man in the booking process with a “hate crime” after he makes a nasty statement to cops, you’ve reached a new level of tense. This is how tightly wound Pierce County, Washington’s cops are at the moment, and why Mark Tolson faces two harassment charges instead of one.
The decision to charge Mark Tolson, 55, with malicious harassment, the state’s hate crime, stems in part from the national atmosphere after the recent killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
“Protecting the public includes protecting our officers,” Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a statement. “The officer took the defendant’s threats seriously because of recent events and so do we.”
Lindquist said he can’t remember another local case in which a police officer was a victim of a hate crime.
That’s probably because, until legislation started popping up at the Federal and State levels placing a job in the same category as those with immutable characteristics like race and sexual orientation, Lindquist hadn’t given the idea of charging anyone who threatened a cop under the “malicious harassment” statute. A quick look at the relevant law provides the following “justification” for the charge.
- A person is guilty of malicious harassment if he or she maliciously and intentionally commits one of the following acts because of his or her perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap:…
Wait a second. “Job description” isn’t in the mix of those “perceptions” covered under the malicious harassment statute. There’s no line in the original clause of Washington’s “malicious harassment” statute covering “police officers” as a protected class. Let’s keep digging further and see if there’s at least a remote justification for slapping extra charges on Mark Tolson.
(c) Threatens a specific person or group of persons and places that person, or members of the specific group of persons, in reasonable fear of harm to person or property. The fear must be a fear that a reasonable person would have under all the circumstances. (Emphasis added.)
That section might cover Tolson’s malicious harassment charge, since according to the officer Tolson threatened he was in fear for his life, given the recent shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge. That bolded statement is important when discussing Tolson’s “malicious harassment” charge, because taken in light of all the circumstances there’s a good question whether a “reasonable person” would experience the same fear as the unnamed officer.
Police said Tolson made the threat while being booked after his arrest for domestic violence against an ex-girlfriend.
As police prepared to book Tolson into the Pierce County Jail, he told an officer the four Lakewood police officers who were gunned down in 2009 “got what they deserved.”
He also said that when he got out of jail he would make the officer “like them,” according to court records.
Tolson also told the officer, one of those who transported him from the scene to jail, he “was a racist white cop.”
Tolson is in police custody, going through booking over an alleged domestic violence situation. He’s arguably surrounded by other cops, and most likely either in handcuffs or detained in a fashion that would cause anyone, especially after being arrested over a domestic violence call, ready to respond in an irritable fashion. Under those circumstances, it’s not hard to see how Tolson would start calling the officers names and making wildly negligent statements to the officers around him.
As dicey as this prosecution looks, the last part of the “malicious harassment” statute eliminates any question the charge is bogus. First, we return back to the original language excluding “police officer” from the classes protected by Washington State’s “malicious harassment” law. Then there’s a little matter about words not hurting and harming “victims” as much as DA Lindquist would have you believe.
For purposes of this section, a “reasonable person” is a reasonable person who is a member of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation, or who has the same mental, physical, or sensory handicap as the victim. Words alone do not constitute malicious harassment unless the context or circumstances surrounding the words indicate the words are a threat. Threatening words do not constitute malicious harassment if it is apparent to the victim that the person does not have the ability to carry out the threat. (Emphasis added.)
Assuming for the sake of argument police were a protected class, Tolson’s statements alone don’t give rise to “malicious harassment.” There’s not even a suggestion Tolson could have carried out his threat to make our unnamed officer “like” the four deceased Lakewood officers. This alleged “victim’s” expression of being in fear for his life carries with it absolutely no validation in the eyes of the law.
Unfortunately, Mark Tolson is the first in what will likely be a long string of prosecutions for silly statements, “perceived” as “threats” against police officers, in a year where “law and order” means more to the public than “due process,” “rule of law,” and “constitutional rights.” Every successful prosecution, even if under as spurious set of circumstances as these, will only add credence to the narrative that cops deserve the same “protected class” status as minorities get under existing hate crime laws. Mark Tolson may beat this rap, but if the current state of the nation is any indicator, his is the first in a long series of unbeaten rides in our march to proclaim “Blue Lives Matter.”