Letter of the Law   

 

                           February 1999

 

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Poetry Notes

Jim Hogshire: Writer, Scholar, and Champion of the Free Press

By Alison Wyner & Jenny Eudy

 

On Wednesday, Feb. 10, by invitation of the ACLU student group, civil libertarians and the student body at large listened raptly as Jim Hogshire detailed his arrest at home by a Seattle swat team for the unique “crime” of possession of dried florist poppies coupled with the knowledge of what to do with them.

“In 72 hours, they bankrupted me, made me homeless, threw me in a cage and threatened me with 10 to 12 years.” He described the feeling of being surrounded by masked policemen with guns drawn as “bone terrifying.” Hogshire stated that he was not told what he was being charged with, and was still unclear as to the specifics after he was released three days later.

What was clear then and what is even more apparent today is that the arrest was at least in part due to his authorship of the controversial book Opium for the Masses: A Practical Guide to Growing Poppies and Making Opium. As police were ransacking his apartment, a young fresh faced officer waved a copy of his zine, Pills-a Go-Go, in his face demanding to know where his subscriber list was. When Hogshire told him that there wasn’t one and demanded to know why the police were there, the officer responded incredulously, “with the things you write, weren’t you expecting this?”

It’s a chilling thought. Most Americans take for granted the right to speak and write without criminal ramifications. Ask any person on the street what they know about the Bill of Rights, and they will likely say that it means free speech. Yet to this officer, it seemed logical that Hogshire would expect such retribution. One wonders how many other officers share this belief. Though the charges against Hogshire never included publication of the book or any other printed material, this telling comment indicates that the charges ran deeper than what was apparent on the surface.

Ironically, despite the fact that Hogshire was eventually acquitted of these charges, the arrest effectively silenced him for over a year while he dealt with the legal morass in which he suddenly found himself. Hogshire is now writing again and is also devoting his time to sounding off and fighting back. He recently filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights suit against the Seattle police and is actively supporting other authors who have been targeted because of the words they have written. Hogshire’s advice to the group of prospective lawyers in the audience: “Do Justice.”

 

Note: The ACLU student group has donated an autographed copy of Hogshire’s book, Opium for the Masses, to the PILP Auction, so please bid on it—just be careful where you read it!

 

Editor’s Note: At press time, LOTL has learned that shortly after Hoghire’s speech, local District Attorney Rod Underhill phoned administrators at the law school, claiming that Hoghire defamed him in his speech. LOTL is not yet aware of the substantive nature of Underhill’s allegations or how he learned of the content of Hogshire’s speech so quickly. ACLU has offered to arrange for Underhill to speak in rebuttal.