Citizens Against Tyranny movement, backed by Sen. Heard, seeks to expose people who make OSHA complaints
Senior Staff Writer
Citizens Against Tyranny movement, backed by Sen. Heard, seeks to expose people who make OSHA complaints
Senior Staff Writer
Two local women have been targeted by a group calling itself Citizens Against Tyranny, and more are likely to be targeted in the future.
State Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Myrtle Creek, is backing the movement. The tyranny, according to the group’s website, involves COVID-19 safety mandates the group says have harmed local businesses.
But this group has gone far beyond criticizing the governor.
In late December, it also began publishing names of people it alleged have turned in businesses to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violating COVID-19 safety rules. And it demands that all elected officials sign the group’s declaration or face recall.
Two women, both senior citizens and Douglas County residents, were recently fingered by this organization. Their names were published on a website called citizensagainsttyranny.net as part of “The LIST,” and they were labeled “Filthy Traitors.” The words were spattered in red, as if to indicate blood.
The website encourages businesses to sign on to “86”-ing, or banning, anyone on “The LIST,” which as of early Friday afternoon had just the two women on it.
The names were removed after an inquiry from a News-Review reporter.
Heard encouraged businesses to file public records requests to obtain names of people who have filed OSHA complaints at a Dec. 13 Sunday service at Garden Valley Church. Heard was featured as a guest speaker for the service and spoke about the group’s plans.
“There’s going to be stuff in it that might make you pause for a second, like when we discover that someone has betrayed their community, betrayed their own freedom and turned in their neighbor for nothing but going to work and earning a living the most basic of rights, we’re going to expose them. We’re not going to return evil for evil though. But their faces and their names and what they did must be known,” Heard told them.
The News-Review spoke to the women targeted on the Citizens Against Tyranny website. Because of concerns over the potential for harassment, both agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.
One said she was shocked by it.
“I’m not a filthy traitor, I’m a good American,” she said.
She said she had reported the Reedsport Safeway back in May for allegedly having workers not wearing masks.
The other told us she’s never reported anyone for a COVID-19 violation.
“I don’t even have any numbers to OSHA. I don’t even know what they’re talking about,” she said.
She said she sent a message to the email address listed on the site, and asked them to take her name off the list. She told them she had nothing to do with any of this.
Next, she called the police and filed a police report.
“The police told me to notify them immediately if anybody tried to make contact with me,” she said.
The woman said she didn’t want anything to do with the people behind Citizens Against Tyranny.
“They’re just a bunch of bullies, that’s who they are. They’re just a bunch of bullies,” she said.
She was surprised to learn of Heard’s involvement.
“I really think he is not representing me, I don’t want anything to do with him. He is not representing the people, he is not representing me or anybody else,” she said.
“I think really, to be very honest with you, I think people should just report him and get him out of office,” she said.
She said she’s a big supporter of local businesses and has been eating a lot of takeout meals.
“Why would they ban me from trying to support them and trying to order from them? That doesn’t even make sense,” she said. If that’s Heard’s plan, she said, “he’s one brick short of a full load.”
Her fiance had just one thing to say about it all.
“Don’t worry about us. I’ve got a 12-gauge shotgun that will take care of us just fine,” he said.
The other woman, the one who did make an OSHA report, said she wanted to help an elderly friend of a friend in her 80s who has access to no other grocery store. At the time, she said, there was no plexiglass up and store employees weren’t wearing masks.
“I was very concerned and I just really felt for that poor woman who walks with a little wheeled cart. That was the only place she can shop. You can’t live off the groceries at the Dollar Tree. This is small town stuff, it’s heartbreaking,” she said.
The risk of dying from COVID-19 increases with age, with the death rate for those over 80 being 17% in Oregon.
The woman said she doesn’t believe any harm came to Safeway because she reported them.
“I honestly wouldn’t have if I had thought that I was reporting to OSHA and they would shut Safeway down in Reedsport. That would be a terrible thing. I knew they wouldn’t. I reported them so that they would hopefully be told that really people, you should wear a mask,” she said.
Reedsport Safeway Manager Mike Overton said he had no idea what the Citizens Against Tyranny group is, but would not comment further. When asked if Safeway had made an effort to discover who turned them in to OSHA or made changes in response to a complaint, he referred questions to a public affairs officer in Portland.
On Monday, Safeway responded that complaints they receive are confidential with regard to the complainants’ information.
“The Reedsport Safeway was following all COVID-19 regulations between March and May, and has been since,” said Safeway spokesperson Jill McGinnis.
She said Safeway is not aware of any employee involvement with Citizens Against Tyranny.
The Citizens Against Tyranny website encourages businesses to “86” or ban the women and others who file complaints. It also contains sign-up sheets, a sign to post at businesses and detailed instructions about how to file information requests to Oregon OSHA to try to uncover the names of those who have made reports.
The person who wrote the instructions used the term “constituents” to describe those who would be filing the information requests, a term generally used by elected officials.
Heard told The News-Review he’s not in control of the Citizens Against Tyranny group, which he said was formed by a group of 20 or 30 small businesses such as restaurants and gyms.
After being questioned by a reporter about the women on the list, Heard said he did not know that any individual names had been posted on the website, of which he said he is not the administrator.
He also said he would contact the administrator and ask that the names be removed. The names were promptly removed following the interview, and so was the “Filthy Traitors” label.
Heard said names shouldn’t go up unless the group has gone through a process to confirm they have made OSHA complaints.
“We are not the pitchforks and torches crowd,” he said.
But Heard stands by the plan to put those who the group decides have made complaints on the list.
“I’m not sympathetic to people who are actually calling the government to turn in their neighbors for simply earning a living,” he said.
If there’s concrete proof, he said, their names should be on the list.
“If that’s the case then I support those people being known for what they did,” he said.
In his December speech, Heard said the movement would demand that every elected official in Douglas County — from mayors to county commissioners to legislators — sign on to a declaration endorsing Citizens Against Tyranny. Anyone who doesn’t should be “purged” from office, he said.
There are approximately 500 elected officials serving all or parts of Douglas County.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, an elected official, said what Heard’s doing is inappropriate and he doesn’t plan to sign on to his declaration.
“I don’t feel that sharing the names of individuals who think or may believe that they are reporting appropriate violations of law or violations of the governor’s orders, I don’t believe it’s appropriate to shame them or publish their names for doing what they believe may be the right thing,” Hanlin said.
“As an elected official, certainly as a sheriff, I’ve already taken a couple of oaths that I take very seriously and so to just jump on board and sign this declaration of the Citizens Against Tyranny, I’m not sure that that’s an appropriate thing for me to do at this point. I’m trying to be fair and impartial and serve everyone and I don’t feel that this necessarily does that,” he said.
“Certainly we don’t publish the names of individuals who report drunk drivers or who report a domestic disturbance going on or those sorts of things,” Hanlin said.
One issue that gives him heartburn over this, Hanlin said, is the demand that elected officials sign the declaration or have a recall effort started against them.
“So there’s coercion. They’re threatening elected officials into signing it and that doesn’t settle well with me,” Hanlin said.
State Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, said on Facebook Saturday he was distressed about Heard’s connection to Citizens Against Tyranny. He said he supports the position expressed by Hanlin.
“(W)e have a duty to represent all the citizens in our elected area, and we have a duty to uphold the constitution. I have experienced threats from members of these extreme groups and experienced pressure to sign letters and documents that after investigation proved to be less than forthright,” Leif said.
The singling out and publishing of the women’s names is similar to a practice called doxing, in which identifying information is divulged to supporters of a particular cause to encourage harassment. It’s popular with some extremist movements.
Doxing is not currently illegal in Oregon, though Willamette Week reported last year that a proposal to outlaw it was expected to come before the Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform — a committee on which Heard sits.
It could be taken up by the 2021 legislature. The proposal would make doxing a misdemeanor and a second offense a Class C felony.
A spokesperson for Oregon OSHA said there are laws protecting employees from retaliation for reporting potential COVID-19 and other safety violations. However, he said he’s not aware of any that would apply to non-employees.
He said people making reports about COVID-19 or other safety issues can ask for confidentiality. If they do, no identifying information will be released.
This is an incredibly difficult and stressful time, he said, but decency remains important.
“That’s what I have on my mind. Where is the decency?” he said.
In his speech at Garden Valley Church, Heard referenced the demonstration that would occur at the Capitol building in Salem a week after his sermon, and insisted that parishioners participate.
“I’m going to force that door open. When the time comes you better be standing outside that door to push your way in and establish your, you gotta establish your rights as the people. Do not let your servant take all of God’s blessing and glory for you. Take it for yourself. So your children have an inheritance worth having,” he told the parishioners.
On Dec. 21, he removed his mask on the state Senate floor as protesters attempted to push their way into the Oregon Capitol, and later he went out to speak to the protesters.
Heard believes his cause is just. He said businesses are hurting because of Brown’s mandates, and he believes those mandates are illegal.
“I’m just gonna stand with the people I know are being trampled. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lemonade stand, a nail hair salon, a grocery store, a lumber mill, a diner, they have the right to open for business and earn a living to feed their selves their children their employees to be able to do the same for that community to be able to feed itself by going there and being patrons,” he said.
He said the movement isn’t going to be perfect and he’s not a dictator who can control everything that members of it do.
“I’m doing my absolute best to make sure all of you know that you are still free people,” he said.
In an age of emails and text messages, Rebecca Machain became known for the numerous handwritten correspondence she sent out over the years.
She frequently mailed beautiful, handmade cards celebrating Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays.
One such card had a box covered with pink polka-dot wrapping and a black ribbon on top, with “Merry Christmas” handwritten in black below it.
“I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I❤️U! ❤️Becca.”
Another card had the Yin Yang symbol over the symbol representing the key of life, with the word “Knowledge” written underneath.
A third featured three borders — bronze, maroon and black, — with a green center over which “Happy Holidays” is handwritten in script.
Machain also wrote letters, all handwritten and sprinkled with smiley faces and hearts, describing what she was up to. The sewing class she had taken, the “A” she got in the college class she had completed, her work as a plumber — “Yes, me a plumber, crazy huh?” — she wrote.
Machain wrote about how her family was doing and her hopes for the future. She would sign them ❤️Becca, stuff them into envelopes and mail them off to friends and loved ones.
But it was another kind of correspondence that got Machain, a convicted murderer, out of prison.
Rebecca Machain was a 15-year-old Sutherlin High School sophomore back in 2004 when she shot and killed her 14-year-old nephew while he was playing a baseball video game in the garage of their home. Machain shot Troy Anderson to cover up the theft of $700 dollars stolen from Anderson’s mom, who is Machain’s older sister. At the time, Machain was living with her sister, and Anderson also lived in the Sutherlin home.
Machain’s best friend, Kelly Irwin, also a 15-year-old Sutherlin High School student at the time, gave Machain her father’s gun and was also at the scene when the shooting occurred. Irwin was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison.
Machain was convicted of murder in 2006 and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. She spent a total of 16 years behind bars, including the last nine years at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.
By most accounts, Machain, now 32, tried to make the best of a terrible situation. She was involved in myriad activities in jail, including completing high school and college course work; becoming a certified drug recovery mentor; joining a group that advocates for bringing higher education into prisons; and working as a seamstress and a special events photographer. She even took up plumbing for a while.
Last March, Machain filed a petition with Gov. Kate Brown asking that she be given clemency for her crimes. The petition was accompanied by an outpouring of support for Machain, including nearly two dozen letters written on her behalf. The letters came from people who had come to know Machain over the years, including a prison chaplain, a high school teacher, a college professor, a private investigator and attorneys involved with her case.
Nine prison guards and three fellow inmates also wrote on Machain’s behalf. Altogether, the letters paint a picture of a young girl who acknowledged committing a horrible act, yet was trying to mature and put the pieces of her life back together again.
“I am writing this memorandum in regards to Machain, Rebecca, Sid # 16735041,” one guard wrote. “I have had only good interactions with her here at Coffee Creek Corrections Facility. She has always been very respectful and projects a very positive energy to staff as well as other inmates.”
The letters apparently helped; Machain was released from prison on Sept. 1. Machain, through her attorney, declined to comment for this story.
Following her release, Liz Merah, a spokesperson for the governor, said Brown evaluates clemency applications on a case-by-case basis and considered a variety of factors about Machain’s history before making her decision.
“Information is provided from law enforcement, prosecutors, and prison officials during the review process,” Merah said in September. “In commuting the remaining term of Ms. Machain’s incarceration, Governor Brown cited her prison record of good behavior, engagement in prison programming and work assignments, her pursuit of education, and her work as a peer recovery mentor. The governor also considered Ms. Machain’s youth at the time of the crime and the fact that the victim’s mother supported the commutation.”
Machain was aided in her efforts to be released by the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic, a program run out of the law school at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
Aliza Kaplan, professor of lawyering and director of the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic, said that Machain was a prime candidate for clemency.
“We were extremely pleased that the governor recognized all of her incredible hard work and transformation and we know that she’ll make an incredible impact on her community moving forward,” Kaplan said at the time of Machain’s release.
Kaplan added that the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic has helped “dozens and dozens” of inmates navigate their way through the clemency process.
“At all of the prisons we work, there is no shortage of people who deserve to be released early,” she said. “I have stacks of letters from people who want us to represent them. But we’re a pretty small operation and we don’t have the resources to help everyone that deserves it.”
Kaplan also said it’s critical that inmates who are seeking clemency, such as Machain, get strong letters of support for their cause. Kaplan said this is how the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic explains the letter-gathering process to inmates seeking clemency:
“If they knew you before or at the time of your crime, they will be able to speak to the positive changes you have made. If you have family or friends writing on your behalf who may be able to offer you support if you are released, it will be helpful for writers to include this type of information in their letters. Also consider reaching employers, teachers, mentors, coaches, religious leaders, community members – anyone affiliated or unaffiliated with the prison who can attest to your character, your development while in prison, or your participation and engagement in various settings.”
LETTERS OF SUPPORT
Twenty-three people, including the nine prison guards, took that to heart and wrote letters of support on behalf of Machain. They wrote about her respectful attitude toward them and others, her willingness to be a role model to other inmates, and her personal growth.
One guard wrote:
“Since 2011 I have been employed at the same institution that Ms. Machain has been housed at, and on many occasions have directly worked with her. In the years that I have known Ms. Machain, I have seen her grow in maturity and seen her become more responsible for her actions and her life path. Ms. Machain has completed many programs while housed here and has always held employment or has been involved in continuing education. Ms. Machain has acted as a mentor to younger offenders and has had pro-social behavior when interacting with both her peers and staff. Ms. Machain, when discussing her defense, has always taken responsibility for her actions and been remorseful and sincere.”
“During my career, I have supervised inmate Machain numerous times, both as her housing unit officer and as the lead worker on her unit. I cannot recall a negative interaction I have ever had with her. Ms. Machain always handles herself with the utmost professionalism when conducting her work assignments and is very proficient at her job…Ms. Machain always seems to have a positive attitude when interacting with other staff and inmates and has proven herself to be a role model to others.”
Three inmates also submitted letters of support, all handwritten, on Machain’s behalf.
One of those inmates, a woman named Kristina Landrun, said she has known Machain during the nine years they spent together at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. She wrote: “There are really no words to express how much Becca has grown, changed and healed over the years…Becca has become a responsible, accountable and positive member of her community…I pray you will see Becca for who she is today and not her past mistakes. None of us are exempt from making poor choices, but with encouragement and perseverance we can make better ones along our journey…I plead for you to extend mercy and grace to Becca and please allow her to go home so she can live the new life that her heart longs for.”
Fivea Sharipoff, another inmate, said Machain had transformed her life behind bars.
“Rebecca Machain is a loving, humble, genuinely caring & giving human being,” Sharipoff wrote. “And I believe that she deserves a second chance in life, because now she has acquired the proper tools & skills to help her live in the free world. Rebecca can share and offer a lot of her gained knowledge from her experiences to others.”
Johanne Hansen, a religious service volunteer at CCCF, said she has known Machain since 2012. She said Machain participated in numerous programs aimed at helping other inmates over the years, including being a mentor in a drug recovery program and working to bring higher education into the prison. Machain also was a student in a liberal arts degree program at the prison, Hansen said.
“She does not blame anyone else for what she did. She has fearlessly examined her state of mind at the time she murdered her nephew to gain insight about herself,” Hansen wrote. “She has faced the effects of growing up in an addicted and abusive family system and with great remorse she has made amends and kindled a healthy relationship with her sister — the crime victim’s mother — when it would have been much easier to never face the person whom she caused so much pain. She is inspiring in her relentless desire to be a better person.”
Deborah Smith Arthur is an associate professor at Portland State University who also teaches courses at Coffee Creek. Smith said Machain attended an informational session she held about the prison coursework. After the session Machain came up to Arthur and told her that she was interested in the course but had little formal education and was scared.
Machain enrolled anyway and got an A in the class, Arthur said.
“It has truly been a joy and a gift to watch Becca grow over the course of a fall term, and now into the winter term. Her confidence is growing by leaps and bounds,” Arthur wrote on Machain’s behalf. “Since I know she did not have a strong K-12 experience, it is all the more exciting, as she truly does have some intrinsic academic talent…Watching how much Becca has grown in the relatively short time I have known her makes me feel excited for her future. If given the opportunity, Becca has the capability to turn great pain and heartache into beautiful, positive contributions to the world.”
A CRUSADE TO HELP
Two attorneys also wrote letters of support for Machain.
Eugene attorney Mark Sabitt was co-council for Machain during her trial. In his letter of support, he said that the disparate sentences Machain and Irwin received, despite having similar cases, highlights flaws in the legal system.
“I have handled more than 25 capital murder cases in my career and I have tried several of those cases to verdict,” Sabitt wrote. “Rebecca’s case continues to echo for me as one that highlights the sometimes indiscriminate nature of prosecutorial and judicial discretion.”
Sabitt also wrote that Machain’s defense team, especially lead attorney Michael D. Barker from Corvallis, did a poor job of representing her.
“My observation is that lead council had lost his edge and should have retired before the Machain trial and not after…it clearly impacted lead council’s ability to think clearly and to perform capably under stress,” he wrote. “I feel strongly that Rebecca deserved a better defense at trial than what she received from our team at the time.”
There was also a letter sent by Roseburg attorney David Terry. In it, he describes how he received a phone call from Kelly Irwin’s family on the day of the shooting. Irwin and her best friend, Machain, had been arrested and needed help, the family said. Terry agreed to go to the county juvenile detention center and talk to them.
He met with Kelly first. Terry described her as “a lively, bright-eyed girl, blond and blue eyed, scared but alert and responsive. She engaged with me right away.”
He then met with Machain, an encounter he described this way:
“She was a dark-haired, dark eyed Latina girl looking for all the world like the proverbial ‘deer-in-the-headlights.’ She would not look at me for more than two seconds. Her frame, shoulders, hair, arms and hands were folded in on themselves. Everything about here was withdrawn, almost defensive. Her responses to me were whispered, single syllable responses of ‘yes’ or ‘no’…Rebecca haltingly told me she did not have family. No father. No real mother. Grandparents she did not know. She did not have anyone she wanted me to call. No one she wanted me to message. ‘Nothing,’ she responded when I asked her what I could bring her. Her affect was flat, resigned and unmistakably sad.”
In 2010, Machain was in the Douglas County jail to deal with issues related to her case. Terry got a note from her asking if they could talk. He was surprised by the “grownup young woman” Machain had become. They spoke, and Terry said the conversation changed his life.
“On that day began the most remarkable personal journey and relationship of my life. After spending two hours talking about EVERYTHING under the sun, I went back to my office stunned. I jabbered nonstop to my office staff. I enlisted them right then and there in a crusade to help Rebecca. TO BE THERE for her when no one else was! To be her family when hers had forsaken her.
“I drove home and told my wife and daughters what I had decided. I asked for their blessing and understanding. I asked their permission to support her emotionally, spiritually, and financially and, bless them all, they enthusiastically agreed.
“For the last ten years, I have been privileged and honored to call Rebecca Machain my friend. To inspire her. To argue with her. To challenge her. To play cards with her…It has been an amazing journey for me to witness the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual development and maturation of that scared, abused little girl into a strong, confident, and caring woman who wishes most to serve others, to steepen her personal and professional learning curves and to be a positive force for good in the community and for society as a whole.”
Terry ended the letter with this:
“I am deeply honored and furiously proud of the friendship and mentorship that Rebecca has gifted me. I have less than ZERO doubts that Rebecca has conclusively proven that she is genuinely deserving of clemency. Respectfully, it is my strong belief that you, Governor Brown, will recognize Rebecca’s efforts at rehabilitation, remorse and personal growth under the most difficult personal circumstances and act accordingly…Thank you for the distinct honor and privilege of adding my voice to the chorus of knowledgeable and insightful individuals writing in support of this remarkable young woman and her amazing, inspiring journey.”
The letter was dated May 4, 2020, making it the last of the 23 correspondence sent on Machain’s behalf. Less than four months later, she was released from prison.