The Terrorist: I am a 61-year-old bullwhip artist, author of “Let’s Get Cracking! The How-The Book of Bullwhip Skills” and a four-time Guinness World Record holder. I have performed for groups from the Cub Scouts to the Charlotte International Speedway and many varied points in between. I’ve also performed at burlesque shows and alternative sexuality events. I travel a lot, coast to coast, and I have driven for the past five years instead of flying because I do not like being X-rayed and patted down.
The Crime: On July 1, 2013, with my wife, I crossed from back Canada into the U.S. at Port of Entry 3401 (Pembina, ND). I was told to pull my car into their garage for an “agricultural survey.” We were both placed in a locked room for about an hour, while CBP agents tore into our belongings and car. They seemed happy to find my laptop computer. I was then separated from my wife by Chief Gullicks, frisked and patted down and squeezed and locked in another room. John Stanley of DHS arrived. He indicated (I thought) that waiving my rights would expedite the process and we could be on our way, since we had to be on the East Coast in three days for an engagement. Stanley started the conversation saying, “You think you’re a colorful character, eh?!” He then grilled me about my sexual life, my history, my friends, family, etc., telling me they had found “problematic pictures” in the laptop. He tape recorded the interrogation.
(In the two months preceding this, my computer had been analyzed by four different computer experts to deal with virus issues I was having during our travels. None of them told me I had questionable material on my computer. )
During this time my blood sugar was dropping and I was becoming very spacey. My wife (down the hall) asked them to feed me. I was given bananas and banana bread they’d confiscated from me at the crossing. Further, I was in physical pain in my shoulders (frozen shoulder, for which I had surgery about a month later — total of 4 surgeries)
After five hours, we were told we could leave, but without the following electronic equipment: 1 Dell computer, 1 Lexar USB flash drive, 1 verbatim USB flash drive, 1 Adanta USB flash drive, 1 Lexar USB flash drive, and SD/MMC/RS-MMC SB flash drive. I signed the receipt for my property. It is FPF Case No. 2013340100010501. Mr. Stanley told me a forensic analysis by Homeland Security would take 30 days and that a District Attorney would determine charges, if any.
I had many documents on my computer important to our lives, our reputations and our business. Not having access to the electronics impacted us tremendously. I cancelled several appearances because the audiences were children, and Mary (a veteran with PTSD) was afraid DHS would arrest us with great publicity. From August to February, I did not perform professionally.
About two months later, after my insistent requests Agent Stanley arranged for copies of documents on the laptop to be sent to me on CD by the forensic analyst. It was only a portion of the files I’d requested.
The material NOT sent included: Promotional and informational flyers related to whip cracking as a hobby and sport; Quickbooks program and back up files (unable to stay on top of my books, we were charged $1330.00 for inadvertent NSF’s by Wells Fargo; the only complete copy of my book “Let’s Get Cracking! The how-To Book of Bullwhip Skills” and related photos; Complete film script based on my book which I was hoping to shoot before the end of 2013; photos of two years’ of touring the USA in the form of a Flashdrive with photos taken by my wife (no copies elsewhere); My Key Pass program with passwords and URLs for nearly 100 websites related to my profession as a performing artist (the loss of these has severely crippled my ability to stay abreast of job postings — i.e. Gig Master, Gig Salad, BackStage, etc); Supporting material for my most recent claim for a Guinness World Record, which was not verified for months.
Five months later I wrote to Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken, who politely advised me they were told by DHS that the forensic investigation was ongoing. Period.
On Aug. 4, 2014, I received a letter saying I could have my property returned if I signed and had notarized a Hold Harmless Agreement within 30 days. They said they found only three “contraband images” (whatever they were) and would not prosecute. I then approached about a dozen law firms, but all said they did not handle this area. I finally signed the HHA after writing in large letters “Signed Under Duress.”
We’ll see how this pans out. A friend who went through a similar experience said her laptop computer was returned to her in pieces by these Bullies with Badges, these Sawdust Caesars.
“And that’s the way it is,” as Walter Cronkite used to say.