A Sign of Our Times: Police Search For Culprit In Booby Trapped Trump Sign

Police in Michigan are looking for the person responsible for a booby-trapped Trump-Pence sign that cut a worker who was removing it because it was too close to the road. The worker required 13 stitches. In torts, we cover a long line of cases involving “snare guns” and “man traps” going back centuries. This case presents an ironic twist under that precedent.

The razor blades were taped around the edges of the sign. Township supervisor Dave Scott correctly told WDIV Local 4 that a variety of people could have been harmed by this senseless act, including children. This is an utterly senseless and reprehensible act.

Trump supporters have complained about people taking or tearing down signs and some have turned to extreme measures like a Massachusetts homeowner putting an electrical fence around his yard sign.  The use of electrical fences are commonly regulated under state and local laws.

We have previously discussed such booby trap cases (here and here). The common law has long recognized the use of such devices for home or property protection as a form of battery, even when used against thieves, as in Katko v. Briney in Iowa (183 N.W.2d 657 (1971)). Marvin E. Katko was shot by a 20-gauge spring shotgun rigged by Edward Briney in an abandoned old farmhouse or shed. The building largely contained old bottles and other low value items. A jury awarded damages and the Iowa Supreme Court agreed that there was no legal privilege to use potentially lethal force in an uninhabited structure. Most states ban the use of spring guns or mantraps.

The long-standing rule against snare guns or booby traps was that they are immoral.  That was the view expressed in Bird v. Holbrook in 1825 where a shotgun was used as a mantrap in the garden to protect valuable tulips. The court ruled that the owner cannot use force to cause serious bodily injury or death to protect property. By extension, he could not use a device for the same purpose since “[n]o man can do indirectly that which he is forbidden to do directly.” Not only are such devices viewed as immoral (because human life is more valuable than property), but dangerous because such devices cannot tell the difference between friend and foe.

Ironically, the court in Bird stressed that the owner did not post any signs warning of the trap. In this case, the sign was the trap.

Notably, there was a push in Michigan in 2017 to pass a law addressing booby traps after an officer was injured by trap using a bed of screws to protect a marijuana grow operation. I could not find that law in the criminal code.  However, there are other laws dealing with the creation of such public hazards or dangerous conditions.

One interesting question is whether the person could be charged under Section 750.81d on the basis that he or she had reason to know that road crews regularly remove signs from along the roads:

750.81d Assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing, opposing person performing duty; felony; penalty; other violations; consecutive terms; definitions.

Sec. 81d.

  (1) Except as provided in subsections (2), (3), and (4), an individual who assaults, batters, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.

  (2) An individual who assaults, batters, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties causing a bodily injury requiring medical attention or medical care to that person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.

  (3) An individual who assaults, batters, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties causing a serious impairment of a body function of that person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both.

60 thoughts on “A Sign of Our Times: Police Search For Culprit In Booby Trapped Trump Sign”

  1. Jonathan: One of your loyal followers, “Mr. Kurtz”, argues that the plot by 13 right-wing extremists in Michigan to blow up the capitol building and kidnap Governor Witmer was just much ado about nothing. He claims they took “few if any substantial steps” to carry out their plot. “Mr. Kurtz” thinks they were just good old boys– “beer drinking redneck shooting group” only exercising their 2nd Amendment rights .Facts, however, are stubborn things. For most of the summer this merry band of conspirators trained with weapons and sought to make and buy explosives. They staked out Governor Witmer’s vacation home. One plotter is overheard on an FBI tape saying: “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her”. Some of the 13 plotters have long criminal records. Just fanciful talk by some peaceful redneck beer drinkers?

    Now for some time the FBI has been investigating and infiltrating right-wing militia groups in Michigan and around the country. The FBI says the danger from these groups is much greater than anything Antifa adherents have engaged in over the past months. In 1995 Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City killing 168. His accomplice was Terry Nichols from Michigan. So the FBI knows a lot about right-wing plots and decided the plot in Michigan was serious enough to warrant arresting the 13 plotters. But “Mr. Kurtz” apparently thinks the 13 conspirators in Michigan should have been given “wide latiutude (sic)” to pursue their “legally protected free speech”. Tell this to the families of the 168 who died in Oklahoma City! I just hope you don’t agree with “Mr. Kurtz”.

    1. Is it illegal to “train with weapons” ?

      I would hope that those who own guns spend time Training.

    2. The “talk” you describe is disturbing.

      Do we prosecute everyone who has talked about doing something bad ?

      I do not know whether those “plotting” against Whitmer were going to act.

      Hopefully the FBI has a compelling case that they were.
      So far I have not seen that.

      That said the FBI has a reputation for entrapment and for manufactuing terrorism when it is not there.
      There are numerous cases where the FBI has prosecuted Mulsim Teens for saying stupid things.

      No one should discuss killing other people.

      But it is not inherently a crime.

      To be an actual crime actual significant acts in furtherance of the actual crime have to take place.

      Maybe the FBI has evidence of that – so far I have not heard more than a bunch of beer drinking red necks shooting their mouths off.

      Hopefully this country is not prosecuting people for that.

      But lets say this is of actual consequence.

      A plot that is not put to effect is still overall LESS significant that burning a single police car.

      In the real world ACTS of violence are more consequential than speculative acts.

      I hope that Whitmer gets recalled, that she never holds public office again and that she is compelled to live somewhere where others make the ludicrous rules she imposed and she has to live with them.

      But i do not wish death of violence on her.

      That said, her actions are very serious violations of the rights of others.
      And they were done under color of law.
      They are very wrong.

      It is ONLY because other remedies – such as seeking the court order which struck down her orders, or the recall petition, exist that rebellion is not yet legitimate.

      “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
      Thomas Jefferson

    3. And I have serious problems with the FBI investigating and infiltrating groups that are not engaged in actual violence.

      Just as I had problems with the FBI investigating and infiltrating groups on the left in the 60’s.

      Todate there has been no actual act of violence by these groups.

      These groups are some fearful wet dream of the left.

      Antifa is not – they are both real and actually violent.

      I do not give a $hit what pot smoking beer drinking alleged rednecks say.

      Provide me with actual violence.

    4. I agree with Kurtz at this point.

      It used to be the FBI and DOJ were given a presumption of integrity.

      No more. They have been caught in outrageous misconduct and stunning malfeasance too many times, leaving a trail of innocent bodies behind them.

      This case is suspicious. Perhaps it is genuine, but presumptions no longer favor the government in political cases and I have doubts about many of their other cases.

      Funny, isn’t it, that the FBI can’t find Antifa? Andy Ngo finds them and tapes them nearly every day. Go to Portland and they will find you. In fact there they are probably banging on the doors of FBI offices and the agents still can’t find them.

    5. McVeigh did engage in a serious act of violence. 25 years ago.

      Those very same right wing militias you rant about disassociated with McVeigh and actually reported him to the FBI who ignored it.

      Based on the actual evidence I still have my doubts regarding Nichols involvement.
      Though it is likely that McViegh had atleast one other accomplice.

      Regardless, McVeigh did NOT act as part of some “right wing group”.

      I would further note that though McViegh’s actions were NOT justified, they were in response to Ruby Ridge and to the Wacco Fiasco.

      We hear constantly that white (or whitish) police officers should be prosecuted for killing young blacks.

      At Ruby Ridge the FBI – without a warrant and with shoot to kill orders tresspassed on Randy Weavers property – Fired on and killed his dog without identifying themselves, and proceded to murder his son, his friend his wife and his infant child.

      At Wacco the AFT without announcing or warning raided a religious compound at night and were met with arms.

      After a long standoff, The FBI used tanks, burned the compound to the ground and murdered over 80 people – including children.

      There have been no successful prosecutions of those responsible for either of these attrocities EVER,

      McVeigh is a criminal and his actions are wrong. But his motive has merit.

      We still do not know if anything meaningful actually occured in Wisconsin.

      But even if it did – there is nothing wrong with these peoples motives – Whitmer is a tyrant. Only their actions.

      There still are lawful remedies for dealing with Whitmer – her edicts have been struck down by the court.

  2. Do not put razor blades under signs.

    Do not steal other peoples signs.

    As to the worker, I still have a problem. If the sign was on the persons property – then I am dubious about the law.
    And Dubious that the law was being impartially enforced.

    That is not being addressed here.

    We have lots of evidence of people tresspassing and steeling other people policital signs. Pretty much exclusively Trump signs.

    And we know that numerous government workers such as postal workers are using their government jobs to interfere in the election – again near universally to interfere with Trump.

    If the worker in this instance was acting outside the law, or even inside but enforcing the law in a biased manner – then there is another crime here too.

  3. For the 3rd time, the headline picks on “Bobby”. Poor Bobby to be so trapped.

    1. LOL!! For a “respected law scholar” he should spend more time proof reading his articles. Especially the title. SMH

  4. THIS is the story Turley wrote about Michigan? Lets see, what else has happened in Michigan in the last 24 hours?

    1. Fishwings, Turley tuned-out to current events several months ago. Since then columns about ‘Free Speech’ (for conservatives) and ‘Tyranny From The Left’ have been the staples of this blog. Those topics are calculated to be the safest for academics defending Donald Trump. Commenters are expected to reply with cookie-cutter replies. Like, “Yes, it’s shocking conservative students aren’t allowed to display posters of aborted fetuses in university quadrangles”. Or, “Indeed, Professor Turley, it galls me that liberals question if Handmaids belong on the court”.

    2. They are anarchists and antifa Trump haters. The whole story is very ‘fishy’….Get the story straight.

  5. Turley has always been a super-partisan ‘spin-doctor’. He sells ‘Communism Lite’ every time he sits to pen another ‘enlightened, woke viewpoint’ that is useless to anyone with critical thinking abilities. He’s like ‘Bernie Lite’. Turley is the ‘doormat’ to fascism painted in ‘rainbow colors’. He’s the perfect modern day University Professor and we’ve seen enough garbage of that ilk.

    He’s full aware Whitmer’s kidnappers are ‘anarchists’. He has the audacity to pretend he is ‘clueless’ about any difference between ‘Anarchist’ and ‘Conservative’.

    He knows. He lies with a Nate Silver Tongue. And so? For his massive demo/commie reader base, he writes about one yard sign. He is fully aware of how his ardent support of the left contributes substantially to the foment of Civil War II. A war I’ve predicted since Obama started his and Turley’s efforts to Centrally Control all Police Forces, even local law enforcement with Obama, Holder and Turley’s complicity.

    Where was Turley speaking out against the federalization of all police by Obama into a KGB, a CPP? “crickets”. Crickets then, defamation now. Same ole Turley.

  6. Imagine, for a moment, that the roles were reversed.

    Imagine that it’s Republicans out there protesting in the hundreds of thousands during a pandemic, rioting, looting, burning. Targeting Democrat owned businesses. Barging into restaurants and demanding a loyalty oath or any other compelled speech from Democrats. Burning down police precincts and trying to destroy federal buildings. Destroying cop cars across the country. Urging crime. Urging the assault and murder of Democrats.

    Imagine if Republican politicians were openly planning to change the process of electing presidents in the Constitution in such a way that no Democrat would ever win again. Imagine their plan to disenfranchise most Democrat states from ever having a say again.

    Imagine if Republicans said they were going to expand the Supreme Court, and then pack it, and instead of originalists, they were going to choose Republican ideologues who would legislate from that stuffed bench.

    Imagine if Democrats feared leaving the house wearing political clothing, or expected their car to be damaged if they had a bumper sticker.

    Imagine if Republicans took control of K-grad school, teaching young children that Democrats were all evil. Imagine if invited Liberal speakers were assaulted, threatened, cancelled, or mobbed at universities all across the country. Imagine if every single Liberal speaker was shouted or screamed down if they did make it through the gauntlet. Imagine if Democrat students had to pretend to be Republicans for fear they would receive a bad grade from their rabidly Republican professor, who dragged personal politics into the classroom.

    Imagine if the entire media was Republican propaganda. Imagine if every prominent Democrat was called racist. No matter how many times they denounce racism, the media would keep saying they’re racist.

    Imagine if a Republican candidate paid a Russian spy for fake propaganda against their opponent, and then Republican operatives in government used that fake dossier to spy upon the campaign, and later presidency. Imagine if the lie went round the world for years that the Democrat president was a Russian Manchurian candidate, when in reality, it was the Republicans who colluded with Russia.

    Imagine if Republicans kept lying that a Democrat with a Jewish family was really a secret Neo Nazi anti-Semite.

    Imagine if you were in the Republicans’ shoes.

    Reject the tyranny, and violence, of the Left. Theirs have descended into the actions leading up to yet another Leftist dictatorship coup.

    You all know this is wrong, because if it were the other party acting this way, there would be non stop media coverage. If it were Republicans out there threatening to burn down the government if they don’t get their way, the Democrats would be calling in the National Guard and the Marines.

    Vote responsibly.

    Who cares if Trump is abominably rude on Twitter. Who cares if Biden, the guy who would usher in anarchy, is a smooth talker. Don’t vote for a Leftist dictatorship. Or go read a history book and learn about the danger of empowering a government at the expense of individual rights.

    1. Karen, if Republican presidential candidates can only win by way of Electoral College, that suggests a profound weakness.

      1. Maybe you should go back and review the rationale for the Electoral College. No one in their right mind would want to be ruled by an NYC-CA cabal. Oh, and how one gets the Constitution changed. Good luck with that amendment process.

        1. Mistressadams is our usual troll with yet another name. Every discussion on every thread must revolve around the troll.

          1. Oh Wise One “animosity” do you have something of value to add to a discussion other than calling someone you can see in a mirror reflection?

            1. George W is our usual troll by yet another name. He’s like the pandemic, ‘A virus with eerie staying power’.

      2. There is no “only win” by the electoral college. It is, in fact, the only way that one can win.

        The electoral college gives all states a say. Without it, highly populated urban areas in NY and CA, and maybe TX, would beat out all the others in choosing every president from then on out. This would disenfranchise most of the states in the union, rendering them meaningless to all future candidates.

        No sitting president would ever care about the needs of those extraneous states ever again. With the Electoral College, you ignore any state at your peril.

        Winning the electoral college means that the candidate appealed to more regions of the US. A more diverse, varied cross section of voters.

        Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, appealed to urbanites. She won a handful of voting districts and was blown out of the water, embarrassingly so, in most parts of the country. In your words, that “suggests a profound weakness.”

        1. It would also focus the interests of the government on city dwellers. Government wouly not care about those that live outside of cities

          The entirety of the structure of the federal government was designed to make interests compete against interests

          To both make it hard to act without support for all quarters and to give every minority group the power to thwart infringement on their rights.

  7. That poor worker. Best wishes for his recovery.

    We conservatives expect assaults from Leftists, at this point, if you have Republican signage, bumper stickers, or clothing. A MAGA hat would trigger an assault on the elderly, while a Democrat can confidently wear the image of any mass murdering Leftist dictator like Lenin, Chavez, or Mao.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats still deny this trend even exists. Everyone has their loonies. But this is an undeniable trend.

    1. I think you mean Lenin GUEVARRA or Mao. Nobody wears shirts of Hugo Chavez. Che was a handsome fellow compared to the pug ugly Chavez

      Anyhow Republicans better look into Lenin and Mao if they want to get an idea of where it’s all headed one way or another. Time to pull ourselves out of the 18th century Enlightenment bromides and ideology, reckon the last centuries of history, and get realistic very fast

      Wake up in time before we get slaughtered

    2. It was a horrible thing to do to booby trap the sign. How do you know the ideology of the person that did it? I can easily come up with reasons for right or left to have done it.

  8. Booby trapping a yard sign is simply emblematic of the problems this nation faces as a whole. It shouldn’t be “cherry picked” as a specific incident and somehow separated from the harms inflicted on others as we see happening every day. Is booby trapping a yard sign different than the “knock out game”? Not in my mind. They are symptoms of a segment of society that has lost their moral compass.

    1. I guess what I am trying to say is pointing out the booby trapping of a yard sign must be weighed in with the breaking of store front windows, burning of buildings and autos, beating innocent people with baseball bats or bike locks, throwing Molotov cocktails at buildings, cars, police, and innocent bystanders, screaming in someone’s face as they attempt to eat dinner, shouting threats of death, running mobs physically attacking others with opposing views, etc.

      Specifically highlighting for discussion a booby trapped yard sign is like highlighting that a bottle of Jack Daniels was looted from a liquor store and ignoring the fact that the entire contents of the liquor store had been looted.

      While booby trapping a yard sign is horrible and uncivilized, isn’t there far worse happening throughout our nation? At least 30 people are dead and countless others injured from these “peaceful protests”. Over a billion dollars in property damage alone. A booby trapped yard sign is nothing more than a small drop in a very full bucket. Let’s address the full bucket, not single out a drop.

  9. Was this worker hung over, partially blind or what? Come on Man ” I couldn’t see those razor blades.” Hard time believing someone wouldn’t know instantly something was wrong here!

  10. Jonathan: So the important topic today is a booby-trapped sign in Michigan that injured a worker. You can’t be serious! Your post comes a day after authorities in Michigan foiled a plot by a right-wing extremist group to attack police, storm the State Capitol and initiate a civil war. They even planned to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer, take her to Wisconsin and secretly put her on trial for treason. Over the summer the 13 plotters engaged in firearms training and made explosives. Had the plotters been successful there no doubt there would have been a lot of violence and mayhem. For months Trump and Republican politicians have railed against Governor Whitmer’s pandemic restrictions calling them a “power grab”. Trump even called on his supporters to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN”. As a result on several occasions gun toting militia types invaded Michigan’s state capitol to protest Governor Whitmer’s restrictions. So Trump’s tweet was not just a dog whistle. It was a rallying cry and command to action that the plotters, domestic terrorists, heard loud and clear. Trump’s refusal to condemn right-wing extremist groups encouraged them to act.

    In a number of posts and in Senate testimony you have argued that ANTIFA is the real cause of the threat of political violence. You have said: “Antifa embraces tactics that are the very signature of fascist organizations” and “Antifa is about revolutionary change and using demonstrations to trigger greater social unrest”. Your views are shared by Trump and your good friend AG Barr. But the FBI Director says the greater threat comes from right-wing domestic terrorists not Antifa and allied groups. Last year there were 42 killings by political extremists. 38 were by right-wing extremists. The plot in Michigan puts the lie to your spurious claims about Antifa.

    1. the charges against the beer drinking redneck shooting group are overwrought. it seems there were few if any substantial steps.
      also one is tempted to ask, how much fuel did the informant/ agent provocateur throw on the fire?

      brandenberg v ohio, virginia v black, establish a wide latiutude for people to call for violence within the range of legally protected free speech

      at the same time we need to be on guard of anarchists of any stripe, whether they are black clad heroin addict antifa freaks, or the boogerloo variety

      but just tossing words around or even scary scenarios is not enough to carry charges past a judge and jury

        1. “You’ll literally believe anything.” Back at ya. Dr. Fauci has said over and over that he “can’t imagine, under the circumstances, that anybody could be doing more” than President Trump. Dr. Fauci has called Trump’s coronavirus response “impressive.”

          But you literally believe anything the Biden campaign and its liberal media tell you to believe. You know that lie about “suckers and losers”? You my friend are the sucker who “literally believes anything” you are told.

    2. We have a bunch of ???”Edukaytead” idiots running around claiming “violance” will solve their problems. These idiots have never seen what the terror of War looks like. It’s not a walk in the park, and you may not survive.

    3. “..a plot by a right-wing extremist group..”?

      How do you know the group was ‘right wing’? What is your proof? CNN? MSDNC? You prove your cluelessness throughout your diatribe on conservatives. The so called leader of the ‘right wing’ group, after that moron Whitmer, hates Trump, is an anarchist and is probably closer to your political views than most all sane Americans.

    4. Little Antifa lovers (with Anarchist flags ) and BLM are left wing. These were LEFT WING Domestic Terrorists, but I see you’ve been watching CNN again.

  11. We need some land mines around patriot statues like the one in DC of Andrew Jackson.

  12. I love how Dems flip the script and add that the sign was too close to the road in order to legitimize the fact that the worker was tampering with someone else’s property. In reality this was another anti-Trump clown wh should have kept his hands off of the sign which didn’t belong to him.

    1. If the sign was in the right of way (it was) it was not someone else’s property

      1. Even though there is an easement long the road, I own and pay taxes on that easement. Furhtermore, 11 ft from edge of street in my state is MY property, not easement or right of way.

  13. “ The court ruled that the owner cannot use force to cause serious bodily injury or death to protect property. By extension, he could not use a device for the same purpose since “[n]o man can do indirectly that which he is forbidden to do directly.” Not only are such devices viewed as immoral (because human life is more valuable than property), but dangerous because such devices cannot tell the difference between friend and foe.”

    It’s interesting that here the courts basically say you can’t protect your property using force that can cause injury or death, but using a gun is perfectly ok?

    If the device is well within a property and someone who clearly doesn’t belong there is injured or killed by a booby trap that would essentially prove illegal trespassing if common sense were applied. The point of such devices is if people don’t trespass with criminal intent they wouldn’t be affected by such a device. Essentially getting caught or injured or killed essentially proves one had the intent to do something they were forbidden to do.

    A less lethal version of this is an alarm.

Comments are closed.