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Charges Dismissed: Podcaster Paul Lathrop Tells His Story

I had mentioned a while ago the Podcaster Paul Lathrop was in some legal trouble as a result of a false accusation. Mosey on over to the Handgun World Podcast to hear Paul Lathrop tell his story of being charged with a gun felony. Recently the charges have all been dismissed because the gas station the incident occurred at had video that disproved the accusers tall tale.

There are lessons to be learned here, so I think it’s worthwhile to listen. For those who just want a summary, my takeaway from it is:

  • Paul’s student driver gets under the skin of another truck driver for some perceived offense, and the other driver deliberately blocks them in.
  • Paul’s student driver flips the bird to the other driver, who then becomes enraged, gets out of his truck, and starts climbing up to the cab of Paul’s truck, at which point he informs the other driver that he’s armed. The other driver backs off. At no point was the gun brought out.
  • Both eventually depart the scene, but apparently the other driver called 911 with a tall tale about Paul getting out of his truck waving a big revolver around threatening to kill him.
  • Paul gets pulled over on the road and confronted by the Nebraska Patrol, who after taking him to the other driver to be identified arrest him. The gun he carries is a Glock 22, not a revolver. Prosecutor decides to charge terroristic threats, and possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.
  • Paul’s attorney obtains surveillance video from the scene that shows the other driver’s story to be false. The other driver won’t appear in court and perjure himself, and the prosecutor drops the charges.

From my point of view, the lessons are this:

  • If you get into a confrontation with someone where a gun is introduced into the situation either physically or as a warning, the first person to call 911 is presumed to be the victim, and that person should be you. If you are threatened enough to inform someone you’re armed, in the hopes that the fellow backs off, you’re definitely in “call the police” territory as well. If you don’t feel that threatened, you shouldn’t be introducing a gun into the situation in any manner.
  • I’ve written a lot about carrying defensive spray if you carry a gun, because the legal system tends to frown upon shooting people, or threatening to shoot people, for being belligerent assholes. It’s very useful to have force options that you can employ early on in a confrontation that do not have the legal implications of deadly force. In the situation described by Paul, he was in reasonable fear that the person climbing up his cab intended to use unlawful force against him or his student, in which case it would be justified to employ spray, not just threaten to use it. The standard for using force (but not deadly force) is “the use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.” (Nebraska 28-1409). Most states are going to be very similar. That’s a far lower standard than what is required for deadly force.

I’m surprised that the authorities didn’t become suspicious when the accuser said Paul was waving around a big revolver and the cops recovered a Glock 22. But the jurisdiction and prosecutor were apparently not gun friendly.

I’m glad he got the charges dismissed. Being falsely accused like that is a nightmare. Be careful out there folks, and if you end up in a confrontation with some jerk, be sure to cover your own ass by calling 911 and making sure the authorities know who the victim is.

23 Responses to “Charges Dismissed: Podcaster Paul Lathrop Tells His Story”

  1. Carl says:

    The accuser clearly made a false statement… is that legally actionable? I presume at the least that a decent civil case can be made that Paul endured legal fees, defamation, lost wages, etc. because of the accuser’s false statement.

    Even if Paul doesn’t pursue legal action for monetary reasons, he should simply because that if stupidity hurt more, fewer people would indulge in it. Other false accusers should be aware that their damn-fool lies may have drastic negative financial consequences to their wallets. It’s also a reputation-preserving thing–so many job interviews etc. ask, “Have you ever been arrested?” The answer “I was arrested under a false statement, all charges were dismissed, and the accuser was legally sanctioned for his actions” is a much better one than “Yes, but…”

  2. David Lawson says:

    I long ago ceased flipping people off or honking in anger. There never is a positive outcome in my experience.

    • TS says:

      Come on. The person you flipped off would have to live with the great shame and dishonor that comes with being shown someone’s middle finger. That’s got to be worth something, right?

  3. Paul L. says:

    The guy should Name and Shame the false accuser, Prosecutor and Police officers who arrested him. Post all the court documents.
    Hope he sues them under 42 U.S. Code § 1983 – Civil action for deprivation of rights

    • Sigivald says:

      Not so much.

      “A government official is entitled to qualified immunity unless his “act is so obviously wrong, in the light of preexisting law, that only a plainly incompetent officer or one who was knowingly violating the law would have done such a thing.””

      Both the cops and the prosecutor here were acting in what looks like absolutely plausible good faith; arresting and then charging someone on a report of brandishing, when they were in fact armed, is not obviously wrong or incompetent.

      (And no, “but revolvers aren’t Glocks” won’t cut it, since people are bad with gun terms.)

      The only person acting, legally, wrongly here was the guy who made up the claim about brandishing.

      And the guy who did that was not acting under color of law, he was just lying to the cops.

      • Paul L. says:

        IMHO, qualified immunity is BS.
        It is just Ignorance of the Law is no excuse unless the person being sued is in Law enforcement.
        He still should Name and Shame everyone. I would be interested in seeing all the court documents and the text of the laws they charged him.

        • Sebastian says:

          Even better: prosecutors don’t have qualified immunity. They have absolute immunity.

          • Patrick Henry, the 2nd says:

            Surprise- courts made up of former prosecutors give prosecutors absolutely immunity.

            Both types of immunity should be eliminated.

        • Sebastian says:

          He might have a defamation case against his false accuser. But I don’t think there’s any case against the cops. They aren’t triers of facts, they just gather evidence. Basically, a cop is going to arrest someone under that circumstance, and then let the rest of the system sort it out. In this case, the system worked pretty much how you’d expect it to: Paul’s lawyer found exculpatory evidence, or at least evidence the accuser was lying, and the prosecutor dropped the charges.

        • HSR47 says:

          The arrest and original charges are likely within the scope of what qualified immunity deems to be “reasonable” but it’s not clear that the entirety of the prosecution has been.

          This is not something that happened yesterday; The actual incident in question occurred 6 months ago.

          While I haven’t seen the video in question, the context suggests that it is unquestionably exculpatory. Given this, why would any reasonable prosecutor take so long to drop charges? Either the prosecutor is so incompetent that he/she didn’t bother to ensure that the case had been properly investigated, or the prosecutor is so ideologically bound as to be determined to hang an innocent man. Frankly, both of these possibilities suggest to me that the prosecutor has no business remaining in office.

  4. aerodawg says:

    The only time I would feel threatened enough to bring a weapon into play is upon imminent threat of assault/battery or worse and an imminent threat is one justified in not only drawing but using the weapon, the time for talk is long past.

  5. Earl Harding says:

    Some random guy climbs onto the hood of my car then it’s going into gear and off we go …….

    Why pull, or even talk about, a gun when I have 4000 lbs of steel available?

  6. Divemedic says:

    I installed a dash cam in my vehicle that begins recording as soon as the ignition is turned on. The camera attaches to the windshield in front of the rear view mirror. You don’t even notice it is there. It only cost $65 dollars, and I installed it in less than an hour.

    Now I have proof of what happened.

  7. bobc says:

    And despite the lack of evidence to back up the charges, the prosecutor went full steam ahead. Almost makes you think it was in Jersey. Also sadly proof that the rot has spread quite far.

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