Alleged political sign thief charged, summoned to court
Suspect told police he removed it because it was in illegal location
Originally published September 19, 2012 at 11:53 a.m., updated September 19, 2012 at 7:29 p.m.
It may not have been political.
A Vancouver man allegedly caught on camera stealing a candidate’s sign apparently told police he thought the sign was illegally placed near his neighborhood, according to court documents.
John L. Ellis-Reisdorf, 66, was summoned to appear in Clark County District Court on Oct. 4 on charges of removing or defacing a political advertisement, a misdemeanor.
Ellis-Reisdorf was allegedly the subject of a YouTube video on July 30. In the video, former Congressional candidate David Hedrick chased down a bicyclist after spotting him stealing a sign promoting Lynda Wilson, a candidate for Republican precinct committee officer and a member of the PCO Liberty Alliance. Liberty Alliance members were fed up with signs for Wilson going missing, so they set up a camera on Northeast 164th Avenue.
While still filming from his vehicle, Hedrick called out the window: “What’s wrong with Lynda Wilson as a PCO? Maybe she’s too conservative? Maybe the establishment doesn’t like her?”
“Go (expletive) yourself,” the cyclist responded. Hedrick then allowed the man to ride off.
Video evidence later showed Ellis-Reisdorf ditching the sign in nearby bushes, according to court documents.
So what’s Ellis-Reisdorf’s connection to the PCO? Does he truly have a beef against Wilson?
An attempt to reach Ellis-Reisdorf for comment at his house off Northeast 162nd Avenue was unsuccessful. He quickly shut the door when approached by a Columbian reporter and photographer on Wednesday afternoon.
Christian Berrigan, a PCO Liberty Alliance member and Republican precinct officer-elect for Brush Prairie, said Ellis-Reisdorf doesn’t appear to have any connections to partisan politics.
When Ellis-Reisdorf was questioned by a police officer, “he didn’t admit any political intent,” Berrigan said.
Berrigan said Ellis-Reisdorf, instead, had told the officer he removed the sign “because it didn’t belong there.” The sign was placed in a median on Northeast 164th Avenue.
Candidates are advised not to place signs on public property, including medians, though those guidelines aren’t often enforced. Detailed rules about sign placement vary between cities and the county.
Vancouver city prosecutor Kevin McClure said it’s not a defense that the removed sign was placed on public property. Perhaps if a sign was placed on a private person’s property, that property owner could have justification to remove it, he added.
According to court documents, after the alleged sign theft, Hedrick tipped off police that the suspect worked out at Cascade Athletic Club. Hedrick told police that he and two others had started conducting surveillance on the suspect.
A Vancouver police officer later stopped Ellis-Reisdorf as he was riding his bike from the athletic club.
“The subject, John Ellis, advised that he did remove the sign in question,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed with the court. “He advised that he resides in the neighborhood and was aware that the sign was unlawfully placed on the posted property.”
Ellis-Reisdorf is a registered Clark County voter and doesn’t have any criminal history. He did not make any campaign contributions in any of this year’s races, according to a search of the Public Disclosure Commission’s website.
Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; firstname.lastname@example.org; 360-735-4516.