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Fish Thrower Pleads Innocent to Assault Charges

by Sherry Devlin
Missoulian - October 4, 2000

A 20-year-old Moscow, Idaho, man pleaded innocent Tuesday to two federal misdemeanor assault charges for throwing canned salmon at U.S. Reps. Helen Chenoweth-Hage and Rick Hill during a congressional field hearing in Missoula last month.

Randall Mark asked but one question - clarifying that the charges against him were misdemeanors, not felonies - during a brief hearing before federal Magistrate Leif Ericson.

The charges came after Mark rushed out of the audience at the start of a Sept. 16 hearing, flinging a salmon pie at Chenoweth-Hage - whom he called "the greatest threat to the forest" - and at Hill.

Chenoweth-Hage represents northern Idaho in Congress; Hill represents Montana. They were in Missoula to hear testimony about this summer's wildfires.

At Tuesday afternoon's hearing, Ericson told Mark that he must remain in the Missoula County Detention Facility pending a Nov. 13 trial. Mark's attorney said he tried, but has not yet succeeded, to find a friend who would be Mark's "custodian" pending trial.

Even then, Ericson said, Mark is also wanted on a warrant out of Idaho - for a probation violation. Mark was on a year's supervised release for an earlier conviction for blocking a forest road in Idaho County, Idaho, at the time of his arrest in Missoula.

Probation officers in Idaho said they had not heard from Mark since last spring. He was not supposed to leave the state, and was on orders to keep in regular contact with the court.

Mark told the judge that he would like to return to Moscow and answer the probation violation first, before being tried on the salmon-throwing charges. The judge said that decision will be up to authorities in Idaho.

In the meantime, Ericson said, Mark must stay in jail.

Mark has also been a source of controversy at the jail, demanding a diet free of anything derived from an animal. Mark is a vegan, and had earlier issued a news release saying that he abides by the special diet out of "moral conviction, spiritual belief and social values."

He is not, however, being provided with a special diet, jailers said Tuesday, but is instead free to trade food with other inmates.

Some inmates apparently have asked for vegetarian diets - in solidarity with Mark - while others have complained that he is receiving special treatment.

Two inmates sent copies of grievance forms to the Missoulian, objecting to Mark's vegetarian cuisine and saying that he does in fact eat from the "meat tray." They also asked that they be provided with special diets: red steak, baked potatoes and fresh vegetables six days a week, then seafood on the seventh.

Missoula County Detention Center (406) 829-4000

Sherry Devlin
Fish Thrower Pleads Innocent to Assault Charges
Missoulian, October 4, 2000

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