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Posted on Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 2:05 p.m.

Bill Riney faces 3 misdemeanor charges for one-man protest on county building

By Amalie Nash

An Ypsilanti Township man who climbed onto the Washtenaw County Administration Building in a one-man protest on Labor Day was criminally charged with three misdemeanors today.

Bill Riney was arraigned this morning on charges of attempted resisting and obstructing, punishable by up to one year in jail; trespassing, punishable by up to 30 days in jail; and disturbing the peace, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, Washtenaw County Chief Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Steve Hiller said.

Washtenaw County sheriff's officials said Riney climbed to the top of the Washtenaw County Administration Building and called police to say he was protesting there at about 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Thumbnail image for Bill_Riney_July_2010_debate.jpg

Bill Riney

Riney - who brought a tent, sleeping bag, computer, water and other items onto the roof with him - was eventually convinced to come down at about 6:40 a.m. Tuesday.

He was arrested and complained of chest pain, so he was evaluated at a local hospital until he was turned over to the Washtenaw County Jail.

Riney stood mute on the charges, and a not-guilty plea was entered, Hiller said. His bond was set at 10 percent of $1,000.

Jail officials said he remained lodged there this afternoon and would be held until he was arraigned on a different charge Friday. Court records show that case as a "miscellaneous misdemeanor" ticket issued by a sheriff's deputy at the same time as an impeding traffic ticket in May. Details of that case weren't immediately available this afternoon.

During the protest, Riney told a Detroit TV station he was taking a stand to help the unemployed.

"I care and love other people. I want to help them find jobs. I want them to have a better life," he told WDIV.

Officers from the Sheriff's Department, Ann Arbor Police, Ann Arbor Fire Department, Huron Valley Ambulance, crisis negotiation team and SWAT responded to the scene.

Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, said the agencies are currently compiling a cost for the response to the incident. Any decision on whether Riney would be ordered to repay those costs would occur during the court process, Jackson said.

Riney is scheduled to return to court for a pretrial hearing on the charges Sept. 21. An attorney was being appointed to represent him, records show.

In the August primary, Riney was one of six candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to replace Alma Wheeler Smith in the state House of Representatives. He came in third with 13 percent of the vote.

Riney, known by many as the "The Free Hot Dog Man," has also staged at least two protests in trees in his yard during a dispute with a utility company over cutting those trees. The dispute was eventually settled.



Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 8:26 p.m.

When they do the math for his bill. Geee are they going to use the figures in pay at over time or holiday pay? There is a big number between the two!!!!

T Kinks

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 7:34 p.m.

Don't you people have anything better to do? Get off the man's case already! I think whoever was supposed to be on security when he brought all that stuff on the roof should pay the bill( if there is one). Sounds like someone was asleep on the job.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 4:54 p.m.

He's a joke and a half. Today I saw his little hot dog wagon set up, at Michigan Ave and First Ave.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

@Ed, sometimes protests go awry, fine Mr Riney the cost of the response. Please don't put him in jail, then it just costs us more. I wonder who paid the security cost of the Beck rally?

Jay Allen

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 11:05 a.m.

@Atticus F. With all due respect, are you trying to say that going on top of a county administration building where admittance is prohibited is a peaceful protest? Seriously, please, tell me how YOU as an individual could PROVE w/o a doubt his protest is/was peaceful? It is this mentality exactly that when NOTHING is/was done would lead to a string of hundreds of posts on why nothing was done. People would be all up in arms about NOTHING being done. AA has been voted one of the best places to live. The University is one of the best in the world. Again according to studies. So you don't want to live here? Switzerland is neutral. See ya later.

Atticus F.

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 9:50 a.m.

I dont want to live in a world where a SWAT team is ready to blow me away because I'm engaged in a peaceful protest...This is the definition of a police state.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 9:14 a.m.

Is it just me or does anyone else fail to see how this protest will help the unemployed?


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 8:44 a.m.

@Chai "All they're really doing (the cops and the courts) is trying to silence him and scare us all into accepting the status quo" A person would REALLY have to be paranoid to believe that cops and the courts exist to "silence and scare us all" Good grief judges in this country are all over the map (figuratively and literally)Do you really think there would be enough of them that agree philosophically to mount a conspiracy? It is really a bonus when judges actually follow the law of the land and not apply their own personal bias's "distribution of wealth" What you mean is give everyone what I worked for! If I had to guess it would be that you are paid (assuming conspirators haven't taken your job away) with tax dollars.

Jay Allen

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 8:26 a.m.

jcj, OMG that was hilarious as well as very fitting! Given the LOCATION of where riney decided to protest, I see that as to why SWAT was called in. Folks I know you get sick to death of me saying this and MANY of you think "Geez, doesn't this guy have a life", but I listened to this unfold. This night I couldn't sleep (imagine that) and SWAT did not KNOW of riney had a weapon or not. This went on all night until ~about 5:15 when riney began to communicate with the SWAT negotiator. They (SWAT) were positioned on other building tops and simply could not see what he had. His tent had the view blocked and he had what SWAT described as a canvass covering up other garbage up he had drug up there. Please folks, don't come back and say he called a news channel and was protesting peacefully. Come on, seriously. Would this be the first time a person "said" he was playing nice and then decided to change the rules midway through the game? AAPD, WCSD, and SWAT are ALL (read again) ALL in a lose-lose situation in this case. They get called in as they were and people are complaining it was over the top. Okay....... So suppose they are NOT called in. riney does not have a screw loose, he has two screws loose (being funny - humor) and he has a weapon. He is able to do some type of harm to others. Then everyone here complaining that SWAT was there would THEN be complaining as to WHY SWAT was NOT brought in. To ME the REAL question is security in the building. How on God's green earth did he get all of that junk on top of that building and NO SECURITY within' the building caught this. There end lies the problem.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 8:16 a.m.

Oooh... That didn't work out right.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 7:19 a.m.

But what about Riney's point? What about unemployment? His action (while maybe only a self-serving, symbolic gesture) is right, in that it does take protests to get the attention and action needed to reduce unemployment (like the Bonus March in 1932, or other mass demonstrations that led to New Deal reforms and JOBS). Of course, it takes thousands and thousands acting together, not single individuals. All they're really doing (the cops and the courts) is trying to silence him and scare us all into accepting the status quo. Most of these comments amount to a sad acceptance and defense of the status quo. The issue here is the economy; capitalism; relief; distribution of wealth; etc.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 11:06 p.m.

A friend of mine cooked the hot dogs for riney, as soon as Riney lost the primary he fired my friend and left him homeless. Do NOT listen to this clown.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 9:25 p.m.

speechless? not nearly enough! "rather than to call attention to the ignored plight of the unemployed" What? Who is ignoring their plight? It never fails. It doesn't matter if we are talking about a tree being cut down or a building permit denied. Somebody has to blame Obama or the Tea Partiers or the republicans or the democrats! Can anybody discuss the an issue without falling back on their own prejudices and blaming everyone BUT the one that has committed the act. Just like a 5 year old! It always someone else that is at fault. How petty!


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:09 p.m.

If Riney had told the media was doing it in solidarity with tea party activists frustrated by the Republican state convention — rather than to call attention to the ignored plight of the unemployed — he'd now be an undeniable hero to most of his critics here, who'd place him high up on a pedestal. Any cost to police or the county would be considered quite inconsequential. "... Time to start locking up Beck, Palin, and the teaparty-ists...." "... But don't think of locking up anyone from the middle east...." Hey, I'd be fine with locking up the Saudi royal family and Netanyahu.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:38 p.m.

I knew it was only a matter of time! "Time to start locking up Beck, Palin, and the teaparty-ists." But don't think of locking up anyone from the middle east.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 5:24 p.m.

@lumberghe is not stable - this is not an insult but a statement of fact!48108 Really?...a statement of fact? Unless you are a mental health professional who has examined this man, you have no possible way to know whether or not Mr. Riney is stable. It is wrong to state conjecture as fact.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:43 p.m.

cinnabar, Assuming they are all armed? That's not exactly the case. And really they don't have that many agencies, including a SWAT team as a rule to arrest one man where no weapon was seen, even on tv. We all know that.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:43 p.m.

I posted before but it was removed... he is not stable - this is not an insult but a statement of fact! as long as media keep celebrating his "antics" he will continue until he hurts himself stop making him "news" and he might go away!


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:38 p.m.

Atticus F Wrote: If we used that logic, we could simply assume that every criminal is armed. Thats how police work, everybody is armed until proven otherwise, they also assume you have aids until proven otherwise. I think the police did a good job here. How would you feel about this had the police just ignored him and he started shooting people on the streets? Make him pay the bill and lock him up for awhile.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:34 p.m.

Psych evaluations for protestors? And in Ann Arbor of all places? Amazing. Simply amazing.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:31 p.m.

The guy who took hostages in the Discovery Channel building also protested peacefully a number of times before going over the edge and bringing guns and bombs to the building. At what point does someone like this go from peaceful to violent? And how are police agencies to know which way the person is going to go this time? If they erred on the side of caution, it's certainly understandable. Maybe a psych evaluation is in order here.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:30 p.m.

jackson 72, Unarmed civilian. This area is small enough that I'm betting command officers know Riney from highly publicized protests in the past. And he did announce his purpose on tv locally. Swat team unnecessary. A SWAT team is an elite paramilitary tactical unit in American law enforcement departments. They are trained to perform high-risk operations that fall outside of the abilities of regular officers. Their duties include performing hostage rescues and counter-terrorism operations, serving high risk arrest and search warrants, subduing barricaded suspects, and engaging heavily-armed criminals.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:30 p.m.

Because of where he positioned himself, it was reasonable to worry he was armed. Most criminals do not intentionally set up camp on top of a government building. I see this as a case where you would want the SWAT team around in case he had violent intentions. It's probably time for a long, involuntary stay in a room filled with firm rubber pillows. All this "look at me" stuff seems an indication of a serious mental disorder and he's becoming increasingly strident about getting attention.

Stuart Brown

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:24 p.m.

When the different agencies calculate a bill, are they calculating the marginal cost increase of the response or are they simply taking the number of hours they put into this and multiplying by the average cost per hour? Since these are public employees that get paid whether they sit on their behinds in a doughnut shop or chase down a bank robber it hardly would seem fair to bill someone for costs that are usually covered by public monies. I suspect they will try to inflate the figures by asking for the average cost per hour, which to me would be a dishonest trick or even a form of fraud. It's great to see the forces of law and order not even following their own laws!


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:24 p.m.

With all the security at this building, how does a guy climb on the roof?

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:22 p.m.

Jackson72, SWAT should be called in only if there is an armed person...We can not call in the SWAT team every time someone breaks into a house, or starts a bar fight in front of Ricks. If we used that logic, we could simply assume that every criminal is armed, in which case There would be no need for the regular police. Only SWAT team police.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:14 p.m.

Make an example of him! Make him eat "hot dogs".


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 3:54 p.m.

Cash, hindsight is 20-20. When some idiot illegally climbs to the roof of a building, there is no way to know what his or her true intent is. In that instance you have to assume the worse and cannot wait to see what their intentions are. Deploying SWAT was no more overkill at the time, then having any of the other agencies on site. Riney obviously loves the spotlight and should be billed for every penny of the costs associated with his useless, arrogant, self-promoting stunt. If he truly cared about the unemployed, there are far more useful things that he could do for them.

Top Cat

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 3:25 p.m.

I liked it better when we had Shakey Jake as our town character. He was more civil and only charged $1.50 for an autographed postcard.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 3:22 p.m.

nah he's just mad that he handed out all those free hotdogs and no one voted for him, LOL

5c0++ H4d13y

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 3:14 p.m.

Riney is doing his part to employ police, fire, EMS, lawyers and court stenographers.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 3:06 p.m.

Cash I don't know if law enforcement sits around watching the news during the day. I did not see it. But I also believe it was overkill. And someone overreacted.That does not negate that fact that no matter what course of action the police take there are those that will say they made the wrong decision.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 2:55 p.m.

jcj, He was on tv news early in the day...several times! They knew who he was and what he was protesting.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 2:46 p.m.

They sent the SWAT team?! Did this man make threats to harm himself or others? If not, then this was overkill.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 2:37 p.m.

I was thinking the same thing as cash...Why should he be billed for whoever made the irrational decision to send in a SWAT team? We do not charge bank robbers a bill for the resources that it takes to catch them, nor do we charge drug dealers for the resources that it takes to investigate them...Sending criminals a bill for breaking the law would be the equivalent of debters prison.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 2:29 p.m.

@Cash I agree that seems a little overboard. But if he had turned out to be a lunatic with a gun and had injured someone (or worse) The authorities would have been second guessed by half the citizens in this town.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

Obviously this guy has some problems. If he wants to help the unemployed he has a weird way of showing it! Well he has some cooling off time coming. Hope they feed him some "hot dogs".


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 2:12 p.m.

"Officers from the Sheriff's Department, Ann Arbor Police, Ann Arbor Fire Department, Huron Valley Ambulance, crisis negotiation team and SWAT responded to the scene." Did he call all of those agencies to respond to one man on a roof? (note: not threatening anyone, not threatening to jump etc) And really.....SWAT??? Wow. Overkill.

John of Saline

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 1:57 p.m.

He should be billed for the thousands of dollars he drained from the taxpayers with his stupid antics.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 1:39 p.m.

Moxy? Is that what it's called when your seemingly sole purpose in life is to draw attention to yourself? He should have stayed in the tree on the right of way near his property!

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 1:18 p.m.

Wasn't he also in the paper after he interupted a biker rally and was punched in the face? I like his moxy, but I question some of his actions.