City Fumbles Prosecution of Teenagers over ‘Soviet Moscow’ Stickers

Moscow, Idaho–“I knew our justice system had gone wobbly, but if this kind of political prosecutorial harassment can happen in Idaho over something as trivial as stickers, God help anybody dealing with serious issues,” Nate Wilson said. 

Wilson’s two teenage sons (now 19 and 14) are ten months into their prosecution by the City of Moscow and Latah County for posting non-damaging stickers on poles without permission in downtown Moscow. Wilson himself is being prosecuted as an accessory.

City of Moscow, Latah County Prosecutors, and MPD seem to have taken several missteps in the prosecution.

City Attorney, Elizabeth Warner, originally charged the Wilsons with 13 misdemeanors each. But after the story made headlines, charges have been reduced to a single misdemeanor count each. For the adults, a single misdemeanor still carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison and creates a permanent criminal record. The sticker incident happened back in October of 2020. 

The charges are based on city ordinance, Title 10 Section 1-22 which prohibits the posting of any, “notice, sign, announcement, or other advertising matter” on fences, buildings, or poles. 

In Moscow history, the city has never issued a single citation or prosecuted anyone based on this ordinance, although yard sale signs, stickers, and “advertising matter” are regularly posted on poles throughout the city as a routine mode of public communication.

Rory Wilson, 19, who was a recent member of Bill Lambert’s “Mayoral Youth Council”, and his younger brother, 14, were stopped by Moscow Police after they had received a report that someone was posting stickers on poles around downtown Moscow. The stickers bore a hammer and sickle and read, “Soviet Moscow – Enforced Because We Care.” The stickers were created as a political protest of the now infamous and illegal arrests that MPD made at a peaceful psalm sing outside City Hall in Sept. 2020.

One of the Stickers posted downtown

Neither teenager was Mirandized by the police although the boys were both in custody and interrogated. Police allege that Rory was upset and had to be handcuffed on the sidewalk until he calmed down. An accusation that Rory and his brother find laughable. According to the boys, an officer stopped them and asked for ID. Rory responded that he didn’t think Idaho was a “stop and identify state”. This upset the officer, who responded by handcuffing Rory and forcing him to the sidewalk, where he was then interrogated. His juvenile brother was taken away from him, told he did not have a right to remain silent, and was interrogated alone against a squad car. Their father was asleep at home at the time.

Wilson said, “Magically, despite the number of mic’d up officers and patrol cars involved, MPD has refused to hand over a single recording of the incident from body cams, body mics, or dash cams. We have been told that all those recordings somehow ‘do not exist’. So, my sons are now in the unfortunate position shared by so many young men around the country—it’s their word against the word of police.”

The boys were released into their father’s custody that night with no citations issued. 

But a few days later, the boys and their father were delivered summons stating that all three were being prosecuted.

Officer Waters, who had been the officer in charge during the original incident, and who delivered the summons, denied that the charges were politically motivated and explained that they were simply trying to enforce the law equally. He did, however, say that the alleged crimes were those most often committed by people posting lost cat posters and yard sale signs. And when Wilson asked if MPD had ever handcuffed an old lady hanging a lost cat poster, Waters declined to answer.

stickers on a pole in Moscow
One of the many public utility poles in Moscow covered with stickers, and left. Not once in the history of Moscow has there been charges filed, or any legal action, for stickers on poles.

Nate Wilson also questions Judge Megan Marshall’s involvement in the juvenile case of his younger son, which is being prosecuted by Bill Thompson’s office in Latah County. After the initial hearing, Marshall took the case over from another judge without cause, which is a violation of Idaho Code. Wilson’s attorney, Sam Creason, filed a motion to dismiss the case based on that violation, but Judge Marshall ruled in her own favor and continues to preside.

Wilson said, “Prosecution, and even Judge Marshall, have acknowledged that this was a mistake and a violation of due process, but they just don’t think it was that bad. On the spectrum of ‘not bad’, apparently it’s as ‘not bad’ as yard sale signs, but nowhere near as bad as political stickers that criticize the city.”

Wilson also said a man in the community recently called the Christ Church office to issue a death threat against his son, Rory, who is the grandson of Christ Church pastor, Douglas Wilson.

“This guy only knew of Rory’s existence because of this prosecution,” Wilson said. “The damage dominoes from this ridiculous, political prosecution keep falling. We all know that if the protest stickers had said, ‘BLM’ or, ‘Immigrants Welcome’ or, “F*ck Trump’ we wouldn’t be here today. We know that, because those stickers were on downtown poles before and after this incident. City Attorneys thought they could get an easy political win here, but they’re really just wasting a ton of time and a ton of tax dollars chasing this.”

A motion hearing for the Wilsons is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 6 in District Court before Judge John Judge.


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