This story has been updated with a full, unedited reply by Sean McCoy.

Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A candidate for City Council who remains in a tie with the incumbent was arrested in Missoula in 2002 and charged with felony endangerment that wasn't disclosed during the campaign.

Sean Patrick-McCoy, who is challenging council member Sandra Vasecka for the Ward 6 seat, was convicted and found guilty in Missoula District Court for deliberately endangering the lives of firefighters by roping himself to a logging truck and rappelling off the Madison Street Bridge.

On Friday, he said he was later given a deferred sentence and completed probation.

During his trial, covered by the Missoulian in February 2003, former Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg accused McCoy of placing the lives of firefighters at risk.

According to records, McCoy and a group of fellow “Earth First” members stopped a fully loaded logging truck in June 2002 as it was attempting to cross the Madison Street Bridge. As others distracted the driver, McCoy placed ropes on the truck and lowered himself over the bridge, where he intended to hang a banner claiming “Globalization Kills Our Forests.”

However, during the stunt, the banner tangled in the ropes and firefighters had to respond both on the bridge and in the Clark Fork River, which was “pounding” with runoff.

Van Valkenburg accused the protesters of crossing the line by hijacking the logging truck, dropping over the bridge and placing the lives of firefighters at risk during the rescue.

"This was an outrageous stunt," Van Valkenburg was quoted telling jurors. "Sean McCoy and the Earth First! crowd are taking this too far. They put firefighters' lives at risk with their little stunt."

McCoy was jailed and held on $70,000 bail. On Friday, he said the whole event resulted in a deferred sentence. He described the story of his past record as "sensational journalism."

"The protest and conviction here in Missoula is really straight forward," McCoy said Friday. "I was protesting a salvage sale in the Bitterroot, we did a banner hang on the Madison Street Bridge where we anchored off to a logging truck and repelled over the side of the bridge. Went to trial, got convicted, got a deferred sentence, did four years on probation, and ultimately filed the final paperwork, which entered a not guilty plea.".

A second arrest

According to newspaper records, McCoy also traveled to the Twin Cities in 2009 to serve as a volunteer street medic but was instead arrested for protesting the Republican National Convention. Upon arrest, he was carrying rocks in his pocket, according to reports.

During the trial, covered by the Pioneer Press, McCoy faced misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly, obstructing traffic and fleeing police. Protesters were painted by prosecutors as anarchists who encouraged others to “swarm, seize and stay” in an attempt to disrupt the convention.

McCoy's campaign website said he began attending college at Lewis and Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, in 2003 before transferring to the University of Montana in 2006. However, he doesn't disclose his 2002 arrest in Missoula nor the 2003 conviction, and it never surfaced during the campaign.

McCoy currently serves at the president of the Missoula Consolidated Planning Board and has served on the board of the Missoula Farmers Market since 2014. He remains in a tie for the Ward 6 seat and, under state law, the Missoula City Council will pick a winner.

The vote is scheduled for Monday night.

On Thursday, he told the Missoula Current that his activism and other experiences made him the right choice for the Ward 6 seat.

“I believe that my experiences in the military, fighting wildland fire, college, activism, farming, serving on boards, being a stay-at-home dad, and having spent my life in service to my community gives me a unique background that offers leadership qualities and the capacity to be a force for positive change within the city council,” he said.

He added, “My hope would be to draw on that background and my abilities to create coalitions and find common ground so that we can address the various issues facing our city. If we are going to make headway on the issues we face then our city government must start working in concert more.”

McCoy said the tie vote with Vasecka has placed the City Council in an untenable position that no one wanted. He called it a less-than-desirable outcome.

“I also think it's important for council members to use the resources they have available to look at my background. I have several decisions and meetings as the Planning Board president to reference, as well as all the information generated over the last year of campaigning that council members can reference to gain a better understanding of my position on issues and who I am,” he said.

Sean Patrick Mccoy's full statement

So let's see, my time as an activist.The protest and conviction here in Missoula is really straight forward. I was protesting a salvage sale in the bitterroot, we did a banner hang on the Madison street bridge where we anchored off to a logging truck and repelled over the side of the bridge.  Went to trial, got convicted, got a deferred sentence, did four years on probation, and ultimately filed the final paperwork, which entered a not guilty plea. I participated in the protest after doing a tour of a logging site in the Bitterroot. After seeing that they were logging over the top of all of the restoration work that had been conducted by people I knew and worked with in the Forest Service, I was compelled to get involved.  I found the wastfule and utter disregard for millions of dollars in restoration outrages enough to take action. The period of my life when I was in college and an activist were very informative and fulfilling experiences just like being in the Navy. I learned a ton about our political system, judicial system, and grassroots activism. These are pillars of American democracy and society that I am glad I got to experience.  How have I changed since then? I'm a farmer , a stay at home dad, and 21 years older. I'm far more pragmatic, less idealistic, and now trying to change the world through politics.  Mostly I am just older.  I am still the passionate kid who believed in our country and joined the military at 17 to help save the world.  However, now I am trying to do it through agriculture, parenting, and ideally politics.
I've never been to Chicago, so I would check your sources on that one. I went to lots of protests around the nation over the years, but never Chicago. Following my ass kicking in the courts here in Missoula I stuck with providing medical and food support for activists. I worked with an organization called Seeds of Peace.
To be clear, I am almost certain that I mentioned my activism at every public speaking event, and it was included in my literature.  I think what you are really asking is why didn't I specifically mention this protest in Missoula. First of all, it is very difficult to highlight one thing within a period of your life without it costing you all the time that you have to speak to people. When I tell people I am a veteran, I don't then tell them where I went to boot camp, A school, which ship I was on, or when I was in the Persian gulf. Those were all significant to me but they don't mean a lot to constituents, and I can't talk to them about anything else if I take the time to elaborate.  The same goes for my time as a farmer, father, wildland firefighter, or activist, and when I tell people that specific story today almost all of them find it humorous, and most don't remember it or didn't live here at the time. That protest was certainly a spectacle at the time, however today it is harmless and inventive when compared to neo-nazi marching through the streets, or the events of Jan. 6.
Well, I suppose trying to answer those in a thoughtful manner was a waste of time. I see that you have already published a piece 3 hours after emailing, but failing to mention any type of deadline. I would also like to point out that you clearly leave out specific parts of those stories. Like the fact that I was given a deferred sentence, successfully completed probation, entered a not guilty plea, and no longer have it on my record. Your coverage of the St Paul protest is ludicrous. I never had rocks in my pockets, there is not one police record or official document claiming that I had stones in my pocket. To pull some article with that claim to it and publish it is loathsome journalism sir. Furthermore, I was acquitted of all charges in that case where I was arrested for treating a paraplegic gentleman who had just been pepper sprayed by the police. I was using my medical training to treat the eyes of a man in a wheelchair who had just been pepper sprayed point blank in the face. There was so much video footage of the cops actions to this man that my role was very easy to demonstrate to the jury. I would encourage you to actually find the facts of a story before pushing a narrative out into the world. I find your effort to drum up readership through sensational story telling distasteful."

 

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