EAST WENATCHEE — Right-wing gadfly and former congressional candidate Gavin Seim was arrested Thursday in Douglas County District Court, where he tried to record and livestream a friend’s misdemeanor trial without a judge’s permission.
Sheriff’s deputies handcuffed Seim, 29, and his father Grant Seim and took them from Judge Judith McCauley’s courtroom about 9:20 a.m., as jury selection was beginning in a trial over a driver’s refusal to give information to a police officer during a traffic stop. Seim’s brother Nathan, 23, was removed from the courtroom but not arrested.
Despite the morning altercation, the jury needed only 15 minutes later in the day to find the young driver guilty.
“Folks, we’ve got to rise up and take back this court,” Gavin Seim told the 16 audience members who answered his online call to attend the trial of Tavis Tell Shasteen, 19.
Gavin and Nathan Seim had taken a seat at the defense table with Shasteen, without attorney’s credentials, and began video recording without permission from the judge. State court rules require such permission, which Shasteen sought in a Jan. 8 filing, but McCauley had not given a decision.
When court officers learned of the recording — while Gavin Seim and Shasteen were out of the courtroom — they asked Nathan Seim to stop and asked court deputies to remove him when he refused.
Gavin Seim returned to the courtroom, where McCauley told him he must cease recording until she ruled on his request, and sit in the gallery rather than at Shasteen’s side.
“I will run the courtroom,” McCauley said. “You will sit down or leave, sir.”
“No, this is our courtroom,” Seim replied. “How dare you say this is your courtroom?”
Three Douglas County sheriff’s deputies took Seim to the floor and handcuffed him when he refused to move. “You’re going to have to arrest me too,” demanded Grant Seim, who refused Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal’s pleas to sit in the gallery.
Gjesdal said Grant Seim will be charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction or interference with a court. Gavin Seim faces identical charges, plus one count of contempt of court.
The jury pool was not present to see the arrests, which involved six uniformed Douglas County deputies, plus plainclothes deputies and East Wenatchee police. Shasteen, of Ephrata, was left representing himself.
Shasteen was pulled over about 9:40 p.m. Oct. 4 after police radar clocked him at 76 mph in a 60 mph zone, eastbound on Highway 28 near East Wenatchee. His passenger was Tammy Seim. When he demanded to know the reason for the traffic stop, Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Evan O’Malley told him he would answer once Shasteen turned over his license and proof of registration.
On his website and his Facebook page, Seim used the case as an example of law enforcement run amuck, posting video from O’Malley’s dashboard camera and writing that Shasteen’s arrest violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
It’s illegal in Washington to refuse to provide ID or proof of registration or insurance during a police traffic stop, but when O’Malley pulled him over, Shasteen argued that the law allowed him to refuse to identify himself.
O’Malley opened the driver’s door of Shasteen’s 1983 Saab and ordered him to provide his driver’s papers or be handcuffed. Shasteen told O’Malley he did not have permission to touch the door.
“I don’t need your permission. If you’re gonna obstruct me, I’ll arrest you right now,” O’Malley says on the video from his dashboard camera, which Seim posted to YouTube Jan. 10.
“I’m not going, Tammy,” Shasteen says to his passenger. “It’s not the law.”
“It is the law, sir,” O’Malley replies.
O’Malley ordered Shasteen out of the Saab and handcuffed him. Shasteen continued to protest that O’Malley was acting illegally. Two other Douglas County deputies came to the scene in response to O’Malley’s call. O’Malley released Shasteen with a citation for speeding and driving without proof of insurance, after Tammy Seim located his license and registration.
Gjesdal said he viewed the dashcam video from O’Malley’s car. “He, I thought, was very accommodating to Mr. Shasteen, and very kind to him. Mr. Shasteen was allowed to leave with a citation and his car, where he could’ve been arrested and his car impounded.”
Gjesdal said he was “really disappointed” at the audience behavior in court. Shasteen’s trial continued into the afternoon, with O’Malley giving testimony.
Seim, a photographer by trade, has gained attention for constitutionalist activism, much of it focused on law enforcement. He’s recorded himself provoking security staff at the Grant County Courthouse by demanding they offer him a secure lockbox for a firearm upon entry; and pulling over an unmarked police car, threatening the officer inside with a citizen’s arrest for his lack of vehicle insignia. The latter video garnered nearly 3 million views.
Seim attended spring 2014 protests at the Nevada ranch of Cliven Bundy, threatened with federal seizure of his cattle for refusing to pay fees to graze them on public land. In August, his unsuccessful bid to replace U.S. Rep. Richard “Doc” Hastings in Congress drew just over 1,400 votes. In mid-December, about 1,000 people joined a “We Will Not Comply” rally in Olympia, organized by Seim to protest I-594, the state initiative which mandates firmer background checks on private gun sales.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123