John Ballinger is the Gnome of Strawberry Plains, Tenn., a handyman who studies law. (Photo David Tulis)

John Ballinger is the Gnome of Strawberry Plains, Tenn., a handyman who studies law. (Photo David Tulis)

The Gnome of Strawberry Plains is a carpenter, 70, who has lived all his life as a private person and who has helped Tennesseans caught in the maw of administrative law, churned up by accusations by the IRS or state departments of safety.

I have talked with John Ballinger about many liberty topics, including my case against state bureaucrats that prompted the legislature to rewrite the driver’s license law to account for my arguments about social security numbers and rights of religious conscience.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

In the past few days he and I have interacted over probable cause, which a cop, detective, TBI agent or other must have to arrest or detain someone.

My investigations the past year in Chattanooga suggest that officers of the police department routinely arrest people without probable cause and perjure themselves on sworn police reports because no one challenges their trivial and throwaway charge, “disorderly conduct.”

More important than perjury in these crimes against the people is probable cause, Mr. Ballinger asserts. Probable cause is foundational to any action by a cop against a citizen of the free state of Tennessee. Because cops generally don’t believe that a free state of Tennessee exists, and that citizens are not free to go about as they please, they treat people with contempt and utter disregard of their constitutionally protected rights. Below is Mr. Ballinger’s correspondence:

Limits on oppression

Your question is not, what is probable cause but why is it so important? It puts a limit on  government oppression and government tyranny. The same reason for all 10 sections of the Bill of rights. Each section of the bill of rights is for the purpose of abolishing tyranny/abuse by government. If you have not done anything wrong or violated some law, the government has no right or authority to bother you.

Hanson Melvin happened to be walking down the street going home when out of the blue he was confronted by the police. Why? Evidently for no reason, no probable cause. No belief or reasonable suspicion that he had done anything wrong against the law. He could have easily been charged with murder. Makes no difference. He ended up being charged with disorderly conduct. Still, it makes no difference. What was the police reason for stopping him to begin with?

I was stopped on Interstate 40 a few years ago. The highway patrol stopped me for crossing on a gravel strip in the medium. As a results I was charged with not having a driver license. Long story short  he could not get a grand jury indictment for no driver’s license. The grand jury gave a no true bill on the driver license charge because he could not come up with probable cause for why he stopped me to begin with. It was not against the law to drive across the medium. His probable cause was I violated a statute about controlled access highway. Had nothing to do with crossing the medium. Sometimes law enforcement cannot be trusted to be on the up and up. Mr. Melvin’s case was one of those times.

Why police brutality?

I have a theory about abusive policing. You could say it is a survival tactic. It is a fear-causing tactic. There are so few police against thousands of us citizens. The policeman overreacts and abuses his authority as a means of causing fear in us, which results in less resistance from people knowing that the slightest amount of resistance could lead to being tased, thrown to the ground, beaten with a billy club.

If you suspect a policeman is acting outside his authority and arrests you, demand probable cause right then and there.

Being booked? Demand probable cause.

Being put in a jail cell? Demand probable cause.

At every turn, demand probable cause. That is the No. 1 defense against a bully police officer.

Hey, this is not legal advice, it is constitutional law and common sense. The constitution is one of your very best friends. Learn it and use it. The policeman will violate your constitutional rights because he knows more than likely that you do not know what they are. This is the No. 1 reason for most bully policemen.

When I was a graduate student at University of Tennessee, working on a master’s degree in English, I heard about John Ballinger, the working man who spent hours at a time in the stacks of UT’s college of law library in Knoxville. By means of a friendship with a divorcee at my church, whose ex-husband was sexually abusing their son, I met Mr. Ballinger and maintained his connection.

I am grateful for Mr. Ballinger’s insights. At family worship in the Tulis house, we regularly remember Mr. Ballinger, hurting for work in the carpentry and home repair line.


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