Routine Traffic Stop Turns Into Bizarre Legal Ordeal for Whitefish

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH – What began as a routine traffic violation turned into a curious and prolonged legal ordeal for the city of Whitefish, one in which the defendant recognized no physical address, accused the chief of police of threatening his life, claimed to be subject only to the law of the Holy Bible and demanded to be paid every time his copyrighted name was used, though there was some discrepancy over his preferred name. City Attorney John Phelps said he has never seen a case like it.

Robert Blair, or Robert Young, – who also goes by the hyphenated name “rob-blair” – faced a jury trial at Whitefish Municipal Court on July 30 on charges of running a stop sign, failure to provide proof of insurance and failure to provide a driver’s license. The charges stemmed from a Feb. 26 incident in which he was pulled over by Police Chief Bill Dial.

At the trial, Blair angrily rebuked Dial, Judge Brad Johnson and City Prosecutor Clif Hayden, proclaiming: “God save their miserable souls – I pray for these men.” Blair was found guilty on all three charges and ordered to pay $480 plus jury costs, but he vowed to appeal. At one point in the trial, he said, “I’m taking this as far as it can go.” He represented himself and had several colleagues in the crowd.

Pacing the courtroom and pointing to a bible, Blair announced: “This is my law.”

On the morning of Feb. 26, Chief Dial observed Blair running a stop sign on Reservoir Road and East Lakeshore Road. Dial pulled him over on Big Mountain Road, where Blair failed to provide proof of insurance or a driver’s license, according to court records. He was ticketed for those offenses, as well as the stop sign violation.

At the jury trial, Dial testified that in lieu of a driver’s license, Blair provided a 25-page identification document containing “some things I had never seen,” as well as a ski pass. He didn’t give an address, but instead offered his home phone number.

Officer Shane Erickson, who had been called in to assist, dialed the number and spoke to Blair’s wife, who said they lived on Reservoir Road, according to Erickson. Blair called this a lie in court and remained elusive about his physical address.

At an initial appearance in city court on April 7, Blair, in response to requests from the judge to state his address, said: “I’m right here right now” and “I’m not an object or subject of your jurisdiction,” according to a court transcript. Finally, Judge Johnson rephrased his question: “OK; but for purposes of being on planet earth, is there a place that you traditionally go during the evening hours of repose?”

Blair responded: “Not a definite place all the time, no.”

When contacted by phone several weeks before the July 30 court date, Blair said, “I’m a missionary; I don’t really have a residence here.” He said he has a chapel and refers to himself as “Mountain Mission.” On the police citation, Blair’s employer is listed as “GOD.” Several of his supporters, in conversations with city officials, have referred to Blair as their minister.

Over the past few months, Blair and a handful of his acquaintances have frequently sent homemade legal documents – similar to those he provides in court – to the offices of city officials. Among the documents is a demand for payment stemming from the city’s “unauthorized use of my duly recorded copyright, i.e., ROBERT BLAIR YOUNG©, and any and all derivatives thereof.”

Blair also requested a certified copy of Hayden’s oath of office, the identity of a “purported ‘Secret Service’ Agent participating in the” Feb. 26 traffic stop and various other documents, including a W-9 form for Chief Dial. There are also letters addressed to Mayor Mike Jenson.

Phelps, citing the large quantity of documents sent from Blair and his acquaintances, said officials have done their best to “deal with it fairly without letting it consume hours and hours of our time.” Phelps said the city has received letters in the past using the same “lingo and terminology” as those of Blair and his acquaintances, but never with such frequency.

“Usually we just get one long letter in the mail and that’s it – certainly never in this volume,” Phelps said.

During the trial, Blair, who was addressed as “Defendant Rob,” accused Chief Dial of telling him at the traffic stop that “if you pulled that kind of crap over there (in Afghanistan), you’d disappear.” Dial spent a year in Afghanistan training police there through an international police liaison program. Despite Hayden’s objections, Blair repeatedly asked, “Who did you work for in Afghanistan?” He alluded to Dial threatening him, which Dial denied.

“Do not answer that question,” Judge Johnson instructed Dial, deeming it irrelevant.

When Blair addressed prospective jurors before the trial, he claimed “heinous crimes” had been committed against him but felt his situation could serve as a lesson.

“The city’s going to be a better place for what I’ve been exposed to,” Blair said.

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