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News Link • Criminal Justice System

When the Rustlers Wear Badges


In an agitated voice, Gillette's attorney reported that he had just been contacted by a Malheur County deputy District Attorney who accused the rancher of "unlawfully interfering with a witness" – namely, his ex-wife.

Since the attorney called literally seconds after Gillette had hung up, the call from the deputy DA must have come in the middle of the conversation with his ex-wife, who later insisted that she hadn't told anyone about the phone call.

Both Sweeney and his former wife were under surveillance by the Malheur County Sheriff's Office, most likely through a "trap and trace" system. This form of electronic eavesdropping records what the NSA calls "metadata" – the telephone numbers and Internet addresses of people who communicate with the subject of a warrant.

Sweeney's ex-wife was not the focus of an investigation, nor was she a witness. Her ex-husband, however, had been targeted by the Malheur County Sheriff's Office for a campaign of harassment and defamation that would eventually destroy his business and drive his family out of the state.

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