Press Release: Lonny Rae Meets the Thought Police

Immediate 5:00 p.m., July 27, 2001

by Edgar Steele

Contact: Edgar J. Steele, Attorney at Law
102 S. Fourth Ave., Suite C
Sandpoint, Idaho 83860
tel: (208) 265-4153
fax: (208) 265-5329

SANDPOINT, IDAHO - In a case likely to test the limits of Idaho's infrequently-used "hate crime" statute, Sandpoint attorney Edgar J. Steele has taken over defense of an Idaho man facing five years in prison for using the word "nigger.

" Lonny Rae, until recently a resident of Council, Idaho, is slated to stand trial on October 1 in that small town, county seat for Adams County in southern Idaho.

Rae was attending a high school football game last October with his wife Kimberly, staff reporter/photographer for the local newspaper, the Adams County Record. Admitted on her press pass and camera in hand, she had been assigned to cover the game.

Bitterly contested, only the victor of the game would advance to the state playoffs.

Assigned out of Boise as last-minute substitutes for the regular officials, the three referees were accustomed to calling games for schools with much larger student bodies and more highly-evolved football programs. Council and its opponent, truth be told, had trouble putting enough boys in uniform to field full teams.

The referees called the game as they usually would, resulting in an extremely high number of fouls on both sides of the field. The crowd began to boo the officials as the game wore on and, when the final whistle blew, Council had lost by a touchdown. The hometown crowd was not pleased.

Knowing the real story of the game to be the officiating, Mrs. Rae started toward the locker room building in hopes of getting a picture to go with her story. As the referees jogged by, she asked to take their picture, getting no response other than a chuckle as they entered to shower and change clothes. Still hopeful, Mrs. Rae continued toward the building when the referees came out again. She lifted her camera and snapped one shot before the official in front told her not to. Shrugging, she turned and walked toward the parking lot, where her husband waited, standing next to their car.

Suddenly, Kimberly Rae was seized from behind and dragged backward by one of the men as he groped for the camera, demanding that she turn it over to him. The strap on the camera denied him possession as it bit into her neck, raising an angry red welt. Mrs. Rae cried out for help to her husband, who looked up in horror to see his wife being mauled.

As Lonny Rae ran up, the referee, Kenneth Manley of Boise, Idaho, released hold of Mrs. Rae, then grabbed her again as the camera enticingly swung within his reach. Manley, a black male standing 6'3" and weighing upwards of 250 pounds, towered over the 5'3" Kimberly Rae. Mr. Rae shoved Manley back, swearing and shouting at him to leave his wife alone.

The referees trooped back into the building with a school official that had just come on the scene and, after seeing that his wife was not grievously injured, Lonny Rae marched up to the building's entrance, shouting out, "Tell that nigger to get out here, 'cuz I'm a gonna kick his butt."

Getting no response, the Raes went to a nearby pay phone and dialed 911, then waited for the police. They demanded that the black referee be charged with criminal assault and battery.

Later, Rae took his wife to the hospital, where a doctor treated her injuries and released her with prescriptions for several drugs.

A day or two afterwards, when Mrs. Rae was feeling better, they sought out the city prosecutor, to ensure that her attacker was brought up on charges.

Several months later, the defendant answered the criminal complaint which had been lodged against him: Not guilty, your honor.

Problem is, the defendant was Lonny Rae.

Not long after the altercation, the Idaho Athletic Association, which had assigned the referees to the game, placed Council High School on a year's probation. The reason given: the officials had suffered "fan abuse" because the locker room wasn't unlocked when they first went into the building to take a shower. Another incident and no more referees would be provided, thereby effectively ending the school's football program until the ban was lifted.

Then the local school board barred both the Raes from the school grounds for a year, though their two daughters were then enrolled. Then Lonny Rae was charged by the town prosecutor with violating Idaho's so-called "hate crime" statute for "Malicious Harassment."

Media from the surrounding area converged on the town to cover the "hate crime," and predictably sensationalized the event, painting Lonny Rae as a racist and a bully.

After several angry editorials and letters to the editor, denouncing the Raes for having put the town's football team in jeopardy, Kimberly learned that the paper's advertisers were threatening to pull out if she remained on staff. She was called in by her superior, who reluctantly let her go.

Lonny's contract work ended and, with winter setting in, he was unable to land another job in the area, the economy of which was already suffering from the closure of several nearby lumber mills.

Out one evening, a local ruffian reproached Kimberly for having gotten their football team "in trouble." Lonny intervened, one thing led to another and a fistfight ensued, with Lonny getting a broken ankle for his trouble. The media again picked up the story and sensationalized it, claiming that it was Rae who had broken the other man's foot! Lonny pled out to a charge of disturbing the peace, the same as the other fellow who broke Lonny's ankle.

The day before his criminal trial was to begin on the "hate crime" (in another county due to the animosity generated by local media), Rae learned that prosecution of his case had been handed over by the city to the Adams County Prosecutor so that the charge against him could be elevated to a full felony, with trial before a District Judge, rather than just a local magistrate. Instead of a simple misdemeanor for what amounted to disturbing the peace, Lonny Rae now faced the possibility of five years long hard time in the penitentiary, and several months' more delay. The new judge revoked the change of venue, deciding instead to merely delay the criminal trial a few more months. Now Lonny would face a jury made up from the local townspeople.

Denied work at every turn, the Raes and their daughters were evicted from the trailer home they had been making payments on until their money ran out, thereby losing the equity they had built up.

Unable to get work locally and with the entire region turning against them for their "hate crime," the Raes packed their possessions and children and applied for work elsewhere, both of them eventually securing low-paying jobs in northern Idaho, where they settled with their daughters near Sandpoint, just north of Coeur d' Alene, and not far from the recent McGuckin children's so-called "standoff" with county authorities.

Among their new neighbors in Sagle was Edgar J. Steele, who agreed to take Lonny Rae's case pro bono, meaning for no payment, because he thought it was "an important case and the Raes good people who deserved far better than the system had given them of late."

Said Steele: "This is another clear case of local government run amuck, just as with so many other recent Idaho cases that have achieved national profiles. Lonny Rae is being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness, so that Idaho can be seen as the so-called 'Human Rights State,' and to counter recent negative publicity garnered from the McGuckin, Aryan Nations and Ruby Ridge affairs. Problem is, this is the gang that couldn't shoot straight. They're just going to shoot themselves in their own foot once again with this case."

Speaking specifically of the charge pending against Lonny Rae, Steele said, "These hate crime statutes generally have been deemed not to violate the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. However, some actual criminal act in conjunction with the hate speech is required before one can be charged. We haven't yet reached the point of criminalizing mere speech or thought. However, the Adams County Thought Police have applied Idaho's little-used Malicious Harassment statute in such a way as to achieve that very result in Lonny Rae's case. Thus, while the statute may be constitutional, its usage today by the Adams County Thought Police is clearly unconstitutional and an affront to all who value the right to speak their mind without fear of government interference."

Steele went on to say, "What Lonny Rae said to Kenneth Manley that cold night last October wasn't right, but it wasn't criminal. And, given what Manley had just done to Mr. Rae's wife, one could understand his state of mind. I'm not sure which is worse: the fact that Manley was never charged with assault and battery or the fact that the Adams County Thought Police want to put Lonny Rae in prison for five years for defending his wife."

Steele noted that, in addition to taking up Mr. Rae's case, he has filed a civil lawsuit for assault and battery against Kenneth Manley for the injuries inflicted upon Kimberly Rae. Trial of that matter in Boise is not expected to take place until late in 2002.

Steele also set out a detailed pretrial plan of depositions whereby school, county and state officials, in addition to the referees themselves, will be questioned under oath well in advance of Mr. Rae's now-delayed trial.

If you don't know your rights you don't have any.

Back to VNN Main Page

Click Here!