Commissioned News Story: (Source: Loncar & Associates)
Whenever anyone from the entertainment industry gets involved with a legal dispute, there is an uproar of public attention surrounding the case. A recent case involving the Insane Clown Posse and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is no exception.
Earlier this year, Insane Clown Posse filed a lawsuit against the FBI in response to the latter's labeling of ICP fans, called "Juggalos," as a gang. The case is now back in the news, as the Department of Justice, representing the FBI, has asked a Detroit-area federal judge to dismiss the suit.
Longtime attorney Brian Loncar is the founder of the Dallas, Texas-based firm Loncar & Associates. Since 1988, Loncar & Associates has grown to include offices in eight other cities, and represents over 7,000 clients each year. Given this wealth of experience, Loncar has certainly witnessed his fair share of high-profile cases. When asked about the reason for the public attention surrounding this particular case, he has this to say: "Any time a public figure or celebrity gets involved with a legal dispute, the public's finger is going to be on the pulse of the story."
"What's interesting about this dispute is that there's a very large following behind the Insane Clown Posse, and all of these people identify themselves so much with these public figures - it would be difficult to condemn all of them," Loncar adds.
The whole debacle started when the FBI included Juggalos in its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report on emerging trends. According to the report, "The Juggalos, a loosely-organized hybrid gang, are rapidly expanding into many US communities. Although recognized as a gang in only four states, many Juggalo sub-sets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence. Law enforcement officials in at least 21 states have identified criminal Juggalo sub-sets, according to NGIC reporting."
"Most crimes committed by Juggalos are sporadic, disorganized, individualistic, and often involve simple assault, personal drug use and possession, petty theft, and vandalism," the report continued. "However, open source reporting suggests that a small number of Juggalos are forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity, such as felony assaults, thefts, robberies, and drug sales. Social networking websites are a popular conveyance for Juggalo sub-culture to communicate and expand."
Outraged by this allegation, ICP fired back in its suit, "Juggalos are a ‘family’ of people who love and help one another, enjoy one another’s company, and bond over the music and a philosophy of life. Organized crime is by no means part of the Juggalo culture."
The suit was filed by both members of ICP along with four Juggalos. One of them claims to have tried to enlist in the army, but faced rejection because of a Juggalo tattoo. Another claims to have been detained by police three separate times because of tattoos and other Juggalo gear.
“Among the supporters of almost any group — whether it be a band, sports team, university, political organization or religion — there will be some people who violate the law. Inevitably, some will do so while sporting the group’s logos or symbols,” the filing said. “However, it is wrong to designate the entire group of supporters as a criminal gang based on the acts of a few. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened here.”
"Many people view Juggalos as nonconformists because of their musical tastes, their practice of painting their faces to look like clowns, and the distinctive Juggalo symbols — including the ‘hatchetman’ logo that they often display on their clothing, jewelry, body art and bumper stickers,” it continued. “Yet when Juggalos come together at concerts or their annual week-long gathering every summer, they know that they are in a community where all people are equal and where they will be accepted and respected for who they are."
When news of the suit first emerged, many on the Internet sided with the rap group and its fans, and with the topic in the headlines again, the vocal outpouring is back.
"The FBI should not have the authority to arbitrarily place people under a microscope," one Vice reader commented.
"I am a stay at home dad to two wonderful children," a self-proclaimed Juggalo commented on Rolling Stone's website. "I work very hard every day to give my kids the life they deserve. I have been listening to Juggalo music for many years now. For u [sic] to say I am affiliated with any gang is utterly offensive."
Meanwhile, lawyer and blogger Jeff Engstrom, who writes under the pseudonym Juggalo Law, told The New York Times that the FBI's actions were "laughably off base" and "the equivalent of placing Phish fans on a terrorist watch list."
It's clear that that ICP and the Juggalos have many supporters, even outside of the group's immediate circle of fans. As Brian Loncar of Loncar & Associates points out, legal tests of personal freedoms are always hot button issues - but when celebrities are involved, you can expect just about everybody to have an opinion.
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