'They don't like
what we're playing':
Controversial Oroville radio station owner arrested after encounter with U.S. Marshal
By K.C. Mehaffey, World staff writer
OROVILLE -- U.S. Marshals arrested the owner of an Oroville radio station Friday, alleging he struck an officer with his car as the officer tried to serve him with court papers attempting to shut down his station.
Mark A. Rabenold, who goes by Mark Alan, 43, was charged with assault of a federal officer with a dangerous weapon and taken to Spokane.
The marshal, who allegedly had to dodge Rabenold's vehicle Thursday, sustained a minor injury to his hand, according to the U.S. District Attorney's Office.
Rabenold's friends and family say the whole case is an assault on freedom and an attempt to keep Rabenold and others from airing their views.
Since at least 1997, Rabenold has operated North Valley Broadcasting on the FM dial at 105.1 in Oroville and 106.9 in Tonasket with a low-wattage micro casting station, said his wife Jeri. The signal doesn't reach outside the immediate area and is not subject to licensing, she and her husband claim.
The Federal Communications Commission ordered Rabenold to stop broadcasting in December 1998 and fined him $11,000 for running a radio station without a license.
U.S. Attorney Jim Shively said his office filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court in Spokane to enforce the FCC ruling when Rabenold did not shut down the station and pay the fine. Marshals were trying to serve papers from a federal judge for a March 7 court hearing to show why Rabenold should not be held in contempt, he said.
Rabenold has not shown up for several court hearings involving his station, Shively said, adding that some court orders were mailed and others were served personally.
Some northern Okanogan County residents say the arrest was a set-up and insist that the station is exempt from licensing.
"My personal view is they don't like what we're playing on the radio," his wife said after her husband was taken away. "Politically incorrect talk radio is what the mass media calls it. I call it informational radio. ... We have maybe 1,500 listeners. How scary could we be?"
She did not describe what political views her husband is airing on his station.
She said she and her husband have never received a court summons, although two people claiming to be U.S. marshals came to her house last year when Rabenold was not home. She said they refused to show identification so she told them to leave.
According to the federal criminal complaint charging Rabenold, U.S. Marshal John Olstad approached him in his vehicle on Main Street in Oroville Thursday afternoon, knocked on his window, identified himself as an officer and asked to speak with him. Olstad said he carried his badge in his other hand, but did not know if Rabenold saw it.
Marshal Carey Perkins crossed the street and was standing about 10 feet in front of the car, the complaint said.
Rabenold then pulled out into the street and accelerated directly toward Perkins, who stepped into the center of the road and yelled at him to stop, according to the complaint.
As Rabenold sped by, Perkins was hit on the hand by the car's windshield, sending court papers flying and spinning him around, the complaint said.
Both federal marshals were dressed in plain clothes.
Oroville police, later joined by Okanogan County sheriff's deputies and federal officers, chased him for several minutes until Rabenold stopped and was arrested, the complaint said. He was taken to the Okanogan County Jail on suspicion of second-degree assault.
Friends who attended a preliminary hearing in Okanogan County Superior Court on Friday said that the marshals were dressed in grungy clothes, did not show any badges or identify themselves as law enforcement. They noted that a man impersonating a U.S. Border Patrol officer had detained someone on a back road in the Oroville area last October.
His wife said he purposely drove past the Oroville Police Station believing he was being pursued by someone suspicious.
"It was a set-up," said Joel Kretz, a Wauconda resident and friend. "This week it was Mark, and next week it'll be some Methow Valley rancher who turned his water on, or a logger who stepped in a creek."
Kretz said although the radio station may air some extreme views, it's no reason to shut it down or set up an arrest.
Candy Gamache, a former station employee, said the station airs views not popular with the government, such as "government involvement in every aspect of our lives." Topics range from religion to health issues, natural and organic foods and attempts by the United Nations to take over part of Okanogan County for an international peace park.
Gamache described Rabenold as a constitutionalist, a conservative group that believes the federal government has exceeded its powers under the Constitution.
Friends said Rabenold is very involved in the Oroville community, working with 4-H kids and other groups. He has no criminal history and lives in the area with his wife and six children.
"Mark is a well-known, honest patriot," said Tonasket resident Betty White. "He's got the mistaken belief that he has certain constitutional rights."
During a preliminary hearing in front of Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Jack Burchard, Rabenold told the court his name is Mark Allen, calling himself a "sovereign, living, breathing person," and a "free Christian man living on the land."
Rabenold told the court he does not think the court has jurisdiction over this case, and refused a court-appointed attorney, saying, "I would like counsel. Not a bar attorney, but I would like counsel." Burchard told him that he could raise the issue of jurisdiction at a later hearing, and that only a lawyer admitted to the bar in Washington state could act on his behalf, unless he wants to act as his own attorney.
He urged Rabenold to consider seeking an attorney, adding, "I believe you could probably do that without giving up any of your personal beliefs."
Burchard determined there is probable cause to charge Rabenold, and released him on his own recognizance.
Marshals then took him into custody and transported him to Spokane, where he will have a preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court on Monday, U.S. Attorneys said.
K.C. Mehaffey can be reached at 422-3850, or by e-mail at email@example.com
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