Rodney Brossart, a farmer from North Dakota, is the first American citizen to be sentenced to prison with the assistance of a predator drone. Brossart was sentenced to three years in prison, of which all but six months was suspended, for a June 2011 incident where police arrested him over failure to return three (or six) cows that had wandered over from a neighboring farm.
Like any cow-wandering-high-profile-terrorist-situation calls for, the situation quickly escalated into an armed 16-hour standoff between Brossart, his three sons, and a SWAT team. To summarize: a SWAT team and a predator drone were sent to a farm because a farmer refused to return 2 cows to his neighbor.
Brossart’s attorney requested that the evidence gained from the drone surveillance be dismissed because no warrant was issued. However, the motion was rejected by a federal judge, and Brossart was found guilty on January 14th of “terrorizing police”. He was also acquitted of theft and criminal mischief.
Bruce Quick, attorney for Brossart, previously stated that his client had been subject to “guerrilla-like police tactics” which were full of constitutional violations, and has repeatedly affirmed that authorities had no legal right to use the drone to aid in his capture.
The six states named by the Federal Aviation Administration as those serving as test grounds for the future use of drones are: Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. Although drones have been mostly used by the US military to aid in their “War on Terror”, they are becoming increasingly commercialized.
Drones are not just used for destruction, death, and harassment, but also for peaceful methods like video recording football practices, filming footage of protests and activism, even delivering food and Amazon packages. The drone market is only going to expand, as more producers look for ways to serve the needs of consumers with the assistance of these vehicles, and jobs involving their use continue to increase.
Along with his prison sentence, Brossart was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. Ironically, his sentence is far harsher than the sentence facing a former Halliburton manager found guilty of the destruction and concealment of evidence regarding the Deepwater Horizon disaster .His three sons, who were also arrested during the incident, each plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of menacing law enforcement officers and were sentenced to a year of probation. To recap; police, SWAT team, predator drone, months of time, and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees all because 6 cows wandered over into to a neighbor’s yard.
The message the government is apparently sending us with this: we will punish you more for stealing cows than destroying the ecosystem. Our privacy is unimportant (with our packages being intercepted, all communications recorded, and the unjust taking of our lives not even earning those responsible more than a slap on the wrist.) The noramlization of drones, and the reduction of our rights, continues. Is it maybe time for civil disobedience in the face of a clearly unfair system?