By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer
Whatever their political beliefs, a local judge and the district attorney say, the group’s efforts will have no legal authority to investigate anything and could prove to be dangerous to others and themselves.
Dr. James G. Allen helped to organize the meeting in Mercer that drew about 40 people to the community room at Brandy Springs Park.
Many of them said beforehand they didn’t know anything about the New York-based website that supplied the two videos they watched before 36 people voted by a show of hands – two by absentee ballot – to empanel a local common law grand jury. Sixteen people signed up to serve.
Allen said a common law grand jury has the authority, for example, to investigate “corrupt public officials as individuals,” especially any “not adhering to their oaths of office.”
Its findings would be formally turned over to the district attorney for trial in court.
The authority for such a grand jury that “serves as a buffer between the people and the government” derives, Allen said, “from the people directly and through the founding documents, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
He clarified that he was referring to the “original” 1776 state constitution, not the constitution last amended for the fifth time in 1968.
Before the meeting, three local women, Mary Mattocks, Mercer, Carol Bollard, Stoneboro, and Elizabeth Lane, Jackson Center, said they had not heard of National Liberty Alliance or John Darash. He supplied and narrated “Take Back the Republic,” one of the videos the gathering watched.
“We’re here to learn,” Mattocks said.
So was John Garvin, a Slippery Rock area contractor who came with a friend after seeing a shopper advertisement for the meeting.
Allen, an anesthesiologist who lives in Grove City, said he didn’t know anything about Darash’s background but he agrees with its advocacy for local grand juries based on what he has learned from the website since last summer.
Other online groups with similar interests have set up websites to promote the formation of investigating juries.
According to meetup.com, an online reviewer of websites, National Liberty Alliance, Hyde Park, N.Y., was founded in 2011 by Darash, Carl Shuer and Gerard Aprea and recently listed 432 members.
It lists no biographical information about the founders.
NLA’s emblem is a U.S. flag shown upside down as a sign of distress. The website says its goal is to have a common law grand jury in all 3,141 counties in the United States.
Groups in several other western Pennsylvania counties have held meetings, and organizers in Butler and Westmoreland counties said they have filed documents with their clerks of courts to convene.
Allen said he didn’t know how soon the local group will be ready to file the results of the vote and names of interested jurors.