A ‘weird times at The Rock River Times’ update …Ready to throw away the 14th Amendment?

After nine years of working at The Rock River Times, sometimes I wonder …

Homeland Security and the Patriots Act have made headlines lately, but in the attention to 9/11, does anyone know what the full impact of it really means? And shouldn’t somebody tell us soon?

I believe I could be on the front lines of how far the Constitution can be pushed.

Within the Bill of Rights is the 14th Amendment. Thomas Jefferson and George Mason

The 14th Amendment?

fought a heavy debate with banking oligarchs Alexander Hamilton and others, to include the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution and won the backbone of our Civil Rights—making the courts fair and affordable to the common person. Lady Justice balances justice and mercy, from right to left, wealthy to poor.

The 14th states: “…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law…”

This is a long story, so I’d better start at what I think is the beginning.

Local public housing developer

Last fall, a local developer, Dan Tonneson of Anchor Group Development, expressed to me an interest to buy our historic brownstone apartment on Market Street, where I live. Dan Tonneson would tear it down. I told him I didn’t want to sell.

I explained that I’ve been hit by three drunks; and accordingly, I don’t like driving at night. Accordingly, I stay downtown, close to home, the River District. I can walk wherever I want to go.

My location has an intrinsic value for which he couldn’t compensate me. I’ve co-owned the property for 17 years. I’ve co-owned the property across the street for 24 years. I’ve restored every apartment and most of the exteriors. The buildings have great aesthetic and historical value to me and the community. I told him I was not interested in selling.

On Nov. 4, an article in the Register Star announced Anchor Group Developments public/private high-rise for the elderly at 3rd and Jefferson St., on the Old Humphrey Cadillac and Olds property. The zoning was approved by the city zoning board.

Sen. Dave Syverson was quoted in the article saying that state public aid and Medicaid would assist residents with their living costs because of the burdens and cost at traditional nursing homes.

Anchor Group has developed several other government low-income and disabled living projects on the west side, mainly on North Court Street.

Neighbors protested one of the first projects, but were unsuccessful in stopping it.

I never received a written offer from Tonneson and dismissed his interest in the partnerships’ property. Bruno’s complaint alleges that I did not convey an offer to him. Why would I? At that point, I was buying his interest and still wish to do so.

Our challenges

Here, the story gets bizarre. Working for The Rock River Times, we hear about stories that should be covered, but with limited manpower, it is impossible. (Perhaps one of our readers has an idea on how to fix that limitation.).

There is a penalty to pay for those who get a glimpse of the underbelly of the community. Once you’ve had a look … the paradigm changes, like it changed for people after 9/11. In trying to make Rockford a better place, Editor & Publisher Frank Schier, WNTA’s Chris Bowman and a slew of community activists across the political spectrum have worked tirelessly, from the school desegregation lawsuit and illegal taxation issues, to trying to stop the paving over of federally protected burial grounds and wetlands at the Ditzlers’, to stopping the unnecessary Perryville extension to fill developers’ pockets and a casino in Beloit. The latest is the $130 million proposed jail and now an INS prison in Oregon. Somebody’s thinking ahead. Planning ahead, but for what?

What is the price to pay for due process?

For exercising the First Amendment right to debate issues, and in defense of Due Process, we have paid a certain price in the form of political arrests, illegal searches, political threats, computer hacking, et al.

The vandalism at my properties has stopped by this writing. I’ve lived here for 14 years. You learn the rhythms of a neighborhood. But during the fall of 2001 and spring of 2002, they amounted to three smashed exterior lights; bags of maggot-ladened garbage dumped in the backyard; birdseed in the basement stairwells to attract pigeons; several shattered exterior light bulbs; one burglary, a big chemical burn in the grass; damage to the brick facade; damage to exterior woodwork; a car break-in where nothing was taken, but it was searched for something; a second car break-in where my car window was broken in and my stereo stolen. We caught that person. The state’s attorney is prosecuting him.

Also, in one week, seven leaks “appeared” and deluged my laundry room (for building occupants). One leak was a copper pipe “with an exterior dimple” as if punctured from the outside, and glass and nails had to be vacuumed from the floor drain to let the water escape.

Coincidentally, my real estate partner, Doug Bruno, had taken the plumbing tools before this and changed his unlisted phone number. I bought new tools. Yet his lawsuit/complaint accuses me of making “excessive withdrawals.” Try excessive leaks, excessive repairs.

If I’d had the chance to plead my case, I would have mentioned that in the absence of my partner in the daily operations of our partnership agreement. I’ve had to work with an arm tied behind my back. In three months, I had five vacancies to fill to pull income out of a nose dive.

Computer problems

The last few months have been very bizarre as my computer goes. On Aug. 23, Microsoft announced Internet Explorer had “back doors” allowing computer hackers easy access. It was later announced that Microsoft Word also provided a “back door.”

My printer lost all its fonts. All my news photos were removed from my computer; files were altered; two new drives “W” and “W” were created, which removed website addresses before printing a document right before my eyes, automatically. I went to the FBI. They said they couldn’t help me. I actually got one message: “Technocrats in the House.” No kidding.

Bank strangeness

So, trying to make up for lost time meant I was renovating hard. When I ordered checks and went to pick them up, a bank official said Bruno had already picked them up. So, I ordered some more and waited another week.

To be so bold as to tell me—I’m denying you checks, and it’s perfectly legal for your partner to do it—made me queasy.

So, I informed the bank official about the equity loans on my account, that I had not been aware of until I stumbled upon them while attempting to buy out Bruno’s interest.

By fulfilling my part of the partnership agreement, I paid the taxes and was served with a complaint by my partner in a Motion to Enjoin Partners. What’s going on here?

Ordered to appear in Civil Court

On July 29, I was served with an Alias Summons to appear in court on Aug. 15. Bruno wants to dissolve our partnership. On Aug. 15 a hearing was held in room 412 at 8:30 a.m. with Plaintiff Bruno, his Attorney Larkin; and Defendant Bystrom, and my advisor, Attorney J.F. Heckinger, before Circuit Court Judge Ron Pirrello.

The Rock River Times Editor & Publisher Frank Schier was there to cover the proceedings. We’ve all heard stories of court mistakes that end up costing innocent parties, money, property or jail. Before court I asked how Larkin could be representing Bruno, when he was our partnership attorney. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

During the Aug. 15 hearing, Bruno requested that the partnership accounts be frozen and partners prohibited from withdrawing any money from the partnership checking account for fear of taxes being unpaid.

Heckinger requested that the judge not order a freeze on the partnership account. Heckinger also requested that the partners be allowed to carry on business without new restrictions other than what already is agreed upon, until I had a chance to answer Bruno’s complaint.

Larkin argued for Bruno that there were insufficient funds to pay the property taxes. (Taxes were paid by Sept. 3.)

I asserted there is no proof that Defendant has engaged in any course other than the proper partnership business in which the partners have been engaged, even in the absence of Plaintiff.

Bruno, the Plaintiff, complained that Defendant does not communicate with Plaintiff as to the day to day affairs of the partnership.

The 14th Amendment?

I informed the court that Bruno changed his phone number and had not provided it to me.

Advisor Attorney Heckinger

Although I had not entered into a formal agreement with Atty. Heckinger, he acted on my behalf and requested Judge Pirrello grant me sufficient time to prepare an answer to Bruno’s complaint and that accounts not be frozen or prohibited, especially in case of an emergency.

Judge Pirrello granted the request and verbally conveyed to the parties that this matter will be set for a hearing to show cause (of the complaint and counter complaints) on Sept. 12, 2002 to allow me to prepare an answer and arrange for an attorney.

There was no question, the next court appearance date was Sept. 12. Atty. Heckinger noted it. I wrote it down. Schier wrote it down. Heckinger affirmed, Sept. 12.

Trying to understand it myself

I planned to file motions and an answer in court on Sept. 12. How can I explain it, until I understand what to explain to an attorney? I spent every day preparing, reading through Illinois statutes references, finding the specifics related to the case.

On Monday, Sept. 9, four days before the hearing, I saw Heckinger on Church Street. I’d been wanting to talk to him for about a week. He invited me up to his office and asked me where I was. “For what?” I asked. “They entered an order against you on Thursday, Sept. 5.”

I said, “What!?” In his office he showed me a handwritten “court order” (no court reporter present) which I couldn’t even read. I was in shock. The next court date was supposed to be Sept. 12! How had they held court on Sept. 5th without me present? I was never notified of a change of date.

Heckinger told me he was told, “Bystrom was supposed to be in court today.” He said he could not represent me because we had no formal agreement for me to be his client.

I had written Atty. Heckinger a proposal for representation, but now I cannot meet his terms because my checking account was ordered frozen on Sept . 5 as ordered by the court.

Since Aug. 15, I realized I needed to address an equity loan I’d discovered on our accounts, which stalled my buyout of Bruno, plus he wanted $20,000 more than I thought was fair. What could I do? If I bought him out, it would wash the books, and I would like to know about this loan.

On Friday, Aug. 30 I sent documents to State’s Attorney Paul Logli’s office for an inquiry on the loan and am awaiting a response.

On Wednesday, Sept. 11, I went to the circuit clerk’s office to look at the case file in the docket. I figured I should file a Motion to Vacate the Order. Heckinger told me I had 30 days from the 5th. There I found the proceeding set under a “foreclosure”. I knew “we” had no mortgage. What was going on? Am I being dragged into an already existing suit?

At this writing, on Sept. 17, I have not received any documents of this order entered against me on Sept. 5.

In my motion I declare there was no confusion in understanding the date of the next Sept. 12, hearing, either by Atty. Heckinger, Publisher Frank Schier or myself.

That I, the Defendant, did not enter an appearance in court at the Sept. 5, hearing, because I was not notified of a change of court date to appear in court; that the Plaintiff did not obtain jurisdiction over myself as Defendant in this matter heard on Sept. 5th; and that no proper service was filed for a change of dates from Sept. 12 to 5th; And that the Order be vacated and re-set for a court date when proper notification to myself, the Defendant be made to appear.

I pray that the honorable judge will understand the mistake by the court and allow mercy to me for time to properly answer Bruno’s complaint.

The matter was set for a hearing on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 9 a.m.

I believed that a review of the court docket file could confirm the Sept. 12 hearing date. When I looked at the file on Sept. 11, 2002, I found the date was posted as Sept. 5. It makes a great case for cameras in the courtroom, because now the argument boils down to my witnesses Frank Schier’s, J.F. Heckinger’s and my own notes from that day versus the court clerk. Our word against the court clerk?

Free speech violation

Defending myself against a plaintiff is fine. Defending myself against court mistakes, which makes me defend myself with both arms tied behind my back (no income/no justice) is a violation of free speech, by not allowing me to be HEARD in a taxpayer-funded public court.

This is highly unreasonable, to say the least.

I’ve been caught in what Aristotle defined as Oligarchy Capitalists and Democracy. If the judges don’t allow democratic voices in court to defend themselves, the balance has been unfairly tipped against Democracy.

Presently, I stand at the mercy of a judge, to impartially decide the fairness of the procedures thus far, tomorrow, Sept. 19 at 9 a.m. in room 412 of the Winnebago County Courthouse. And if I do get my day to be heard in a democratic court, by my peers, in my defense, I stand blameless, and I have some complaints of my own.

It’s hard enough to find an attorney without some conflict of interest; now I’m prohibited from my own income to offer even an answer to this lawsuit.

Court of Public Opinion—The 4th Estate

Since I haven’t had my day in court which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, I resort to the 1st Amendment and appeal to the court public opinion. We The People are the Conscience of the Courts. The public defines how much justice We The People are allowed. Injustices are allowed when the public allows it.

Perhaps you’ve heard me call in to WNTA. That’s a great exercise in free speech and public opinion for everyone.

Public opinion is the conscience of the court. If you feel strongly that your children do not grow up in a police state, tell your neighbors, spread the message, copy this article, download it from our website, e-mail it to a friend. Put your “FREE WILL” out in the world. You may already know someone who’s had a similar experience, but doesn’t talk about it. Listen to what they have to say.

Defense Fund, attorneys?

I am trying to establish a Defense Fund. A $15 donation will get you a copy of the Rockford screenplay I wrote 10 years ago called The Discount Detective. Michael Butler, producer of the Broadway musical, Hair, made an offer to option the script.

Since this order of the court in my absence prevents me from access to my money, I pray the goodwill of the our readers will help refer me to a lawyer (outside Winnebago County perhaps), who believes in democracy enough to work on contingency basis. I am owed money from the partnership. Please, through your generous donations, help me stop this injustice.

Is there anyone who could recommend a good, honest, inexpensive, out-of-town lawyer? Please send your suggestions to The Rock River Times.

If you feel that in a Democracy, We The People have the right under the 14th Amendment to Due Process—to have our day in court—to be heard at a Hear-ing, tell somebody about this story, e-mail it to a friend. Sounds like a 1st Amendment right to me. No limits exist on the copyright for this article. Circulate it widely. Download it at www.rockrivertimes.com. Fight terrorism, share information.

Doug Bruno is invited to share his views in these pages anytime.

To be continued … more strange occurrences at The Rock River Times, including distribution problems, more weird phone calls and letters, computer hacking and vandalisms that have beset the rest of the staff at The Rock River Times.

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