Letter to the Editor-Opinion

Butte County News

The following is an explanation from John Tracy, owner operator of 3J Medics & Towing explaining the course of events he has experienced with Butte County.

Letter to the Editor-Opinion On September 18th we were dispatched by BFPD to tow and impound a car involved in an arrest. The driver was arrested for a myriad of offenses including stolen tags, DUI, possession of meth as well as other crimes. Several officers were involved but we dealt with officers Harter and Huber on scene.

A few days following, a guy called us and refused to identify himself, looking for the vehicle. By this time, we had received owner information from DMV in Pierre. He was not an owner, he was calling for a Brandi Harper whom had been arrested. Her name did not match the information we received from the DMV and he would not identify himself. We told him that if he is not the owner, we cannot share information with him. Ms. Harper was screaming in the background and said that she purchased the car in April, but refused to have further conversation with us.

We informed them that if she purchased the car then she would need a notarized bill of sale which hers was not. No big deal, call the seller and have them send a notarized copy. She and the unidentified man both threatened to kill me and the man went further by adding that he would bomb our business and hunt down my wife and kids and kill them. We reported this to officer Harter.

He then contacted the Butte County State’s Attorney and was told that she didn’t find the threats credible, so nothing was pursued. A day or so later, the man called back with Ms. Harper in the background and stated that the cars title was in the glovebox and all she wanted was the contents. The state of SD allows towing companies to have a possessory lien of no more than $500.00 on contents and we are only required to release tools or implements of a trade with proof of career, clothing and food.

The week of October 15th, Ms. Harper called BFPD for a keep the peace to meet us at our office. Officer Brost contacted me and we agreed to meet with him, officer Huber and Ms. Harper. She presented the handwritten Google downloaded bill of sale.

We once again advised her that she would need to ask the seller for a notarized bill of sale. She was once again asking for contents. The officers and I all agreed that what she was presented was not official and that anyone could download and fill it out in about 5 minutes. She became violently furious and threatened to kill us while attempting to go over or through officer Brost. She was told to calm down and leave the property but was physically removed by the officers and told not to return.

The officers agreed with us that she didn’t have sufficient proof of ownership and the issue would be put to rest.

While I was out of state at a business meeting on October 24th, I was contacted by my employee stating that Chief Deputy March had just served him with a court order for the contents.

The court order says nothing about what vehicle nor does it mention any vehicle, just contents. Our business name was incorrect and myself and my wife are the partners and the only authorized agents.

Also, our employee hadn’t been with us long enough to even be able to carry out the order and I had the key to our key box with me.

The order was the State of SD vs Brandi Harper. We had a civil suit within her criminal case. We never had criminal charges pending or otherwise as the SA and Sheriff stated. A certified letter that was postmarked October 24th, the same day as the court order was served, from the Sheriff terminating our spot on the rotation. We were denied due process!

We had 30 days to comply, respond or whatever our decision was with the court order but the Sheriff declared us guilty and said that we had criminal charges pending when we never did.

The Sheriffs Department knew I was out of state that day because they called me earlier that morning for an ETA for a deer hit my employee was headed to and I told them I was out of state but he was on his way.

We were railroaded, gaslighted, and falsely accused of something other than what was real and true. The county had allowed and assisted in the other tow company acquiring a monopoly on the rotation which violates state and federal antitrust laws and cheats the citizens and motorists of Butte County.

We had to hire an attorney after responding to the court order and on Monday December 18th we released the contents as agreed upon by our attorney and Ms. Harper’s public defender to the Sheriff, Chief Deputy and Deputy Fox at the county shop.

In the midst of all of this we attended two county commissioners meetings. The first we were denied a spot on the agenda but when we arrived the sheriff had us on the agenda and we were not allowed to speak and defend ourselves because Chief Deputy March and the SA said it was an ongoing criminal investigation.

At the next meeting the SA and Sheriff both came in with speeches about it during public comment which breaks meetings laws and straight up lied and falsely accused us of being criminals while making Ms. Harper appear to be a victim. We did nothing to victimize her, she acted under her own free will when she was arrested and I guarantee that neither feel these feelings for everyone they arrest.

This was nothing more than a witch hunt and a way to remove our company from the rotation under false pretense. We had a civil case that we worked out. It is not uncommon for any business but especially a towing business to have civil suits, it comes with the business. It also does not disqualify ours or any other business from being eligible to continue business at any level. If it did, there wouldn’t be one business anywhere that was able to continue on.

A private company having a civil matter of any kind is any of the government’s business nor responsibility.

The SA’s job as described even on the county website is to prosecute criminals, or hold up for them in anyway. The Sheriff is not allowed to give legal advice either since he is not an attorney!

The only wrongs that have happened are Ms. Harper making poor decisions and the false narrative that the county has used against our company to get rid of us and a feeble attempt to shut us down completely. We are not going anywhere much to their dismay.

A towing rotation is not designed to be a profit center. It is a channel for towing companies to be involved with working with the public in a jurisdiction as a service. Not all of us can, nor want to be EMTs, cops, or firemen. We started our towing business as a way to give back as best we could while assisting the citizens and traveling public within Butte County.

Yes it costs the driver/owner money for these services and yes it can be expensive, but we do not receive any government funding and are not guaranteed a government salary. Beyond that, just a light duty tow truck starts at around $150k and it is all specialized equipment that is ridiculously expensive and our insurance premiums never go down no matter what we do, they just skyrocket every single year even with zero claims.

It cannot be considered a rotation when there is only one choice. It would have to be on a sealed bid system and awarded accordingly and it is not. I would also like to point out that the towing companies do not work for law enforcement, we aren’t paid a dime except from the vehicle owners and more than not, not even then. It is also illegal for a government body to utilize any services that are not within their jurisdiction unless nobody within steps up to do it.

They didn’t terminate us, they assisted the other company in obtaining a monopoly! They won’t even honor customer requests which violates state and federal antitrust laws as well.

Dig in like we are, you will see that we are being 100% truthful and transparent and what the actual crimes committed were. Even if you don’t, it will soon make national headlines.

We called officer Harter and was told that he had an easily downloaded, handwritten bill of sale that they had removed from the glovebox during their search of the car but that there was nothing else in the glovebox.

We do not dig around inside of any vehicles ourselves unless and until we end up with the title through the states abandoned vehicle process. I called the number back and told them what officer Harter told us to which we were once again threatened. As the days went on, we had calls about this from the ministerial association, an unidentified employee of the State’s Attorney Office, people that Ms. Harper had gone to school with and hadn’t had contact with for more than 20 years, deputy Fox, and several other random people.

We explained to each one of them that all she needed to do was get a notarized bill of sale from the seller and she could then claim the entire vehicle and its contents.

Thank you for letting us share our side.