Irv Sutley

Argus Letter

He had guns.

If Irv hadn’t taken those ‘Tanya’ photos nobody would know his name.

Judi Bari supposedly asked him directly or through an intermediary to kill her ex-husband for money.

He took a lie detector test. He ‘passed.’

Mike Sweeney is still alive.

Irv Sutley is still doing his thing with the Peace and Freedom Party.

In the late 80’s, a small group of Peace and Freedom activists from Santa Rosa began to campaign for the 1st Congressional District as a spoiler. Elden McFarland and his wife Toni Novak, along with CISPES [Campaign In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador] activist Eric Freid traveled around the district which included Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. Irv Sutley, Toni’s ex, might also visit. He seemed less tied down to a job and would hang around more than the usual traveling activist with a schedule and a clipboard might. Irv was a supporter. He smiled, was fun, and contributed small amounts of cash to fund a mailer or a community meeting.

The story of the Tanya photos had come around before Bruce Anderson printed the first one. Irv had visited others, shown guns in his trunk and offered a souvenir photo. He probably thought it was fun. These photos showed up in various places: Sutley sent Cherney three photos and Sutley’s landlady (Bari’s close friend, Pam Davis) had access to them.

Considering the activist life-style Irv may have shown the photos to more than a few people. They were a joke. It was funny at the time. People say and do things in casual fun. No harm intended. Those photos probably came from that impulse. Activists fall prey to the impossibility of their quest by imagining pranks, followed by laughter. People will sit around for hours, talking, making up scenarios, laughing. It was fun. Bruce Anderson printed a Tanya photo. People laughed. It was forgotten for a year or more until a similar one was seen again in the post bomb media.

The photos were also sent to police departments, Sheriff Departments, county supervisors and corporate public relations organizations including Lousiana Pacific. It was in their Anti-Humboldt County Measures A,B and C propaganda the day after the bombing.

History demonstrates that CISPES and Peace and Freedom were monitored, maybe infiltrated by government agents, even provocateurs. Earth First! was also infiltrated by both the FBI and the corporate spies and one of its national leaders and founders was arrested a few months before the bombing on unrelated terrorism charges.

The Hit Man story fits into this mold. Bari knows someone with some guns who had just played a trick on her. She laughs with Pam. Pam plays the role to Irv. Irv is played. It only matters later. No one does anything.

See also:

The Bari Bombing: Pen Names, Pyrotechnics, and Paranoia in the Timber Wars


Sutley’s Response

Irv Sutley’s Christmas Offensive

Gehrman, who has been investigating the Bari bombing for years, argues strongly in his lengthy piece in Flatland magazine, scheduled for publication in early March, that Sutley has been unfairly accused, not least by Bari herself. He produces the results of a polygraph voluntarily undertaken by Sutley and suggests that among the reasons for Bari’s hostility to Sutley was that a close friend of Bari’s, Pam Davis, had repeatedly asked the former Marine to kill Bari’s estranged husband, Mike Sweeney, for $5,000.Sutley says he had energetically declined the proposal on four different occasions. Bari did subsequently admit, in the wake of the polygraph test in which Sutley stated the offer had been made, that Sutley had been approached in this manner, but that it was all a joke.

One of Gehrman’s main motives was to clear the name of his good friend Irv Sutley, denounced by Bari and the AVA as a likely FBI informer, if not worse. Sutley duly emerges from Gehrman’s review looking pretty good. The famous gun photo of Bari was conceived of as a droll cover for a record album made by Bari and Cherney, They Don’t Make Hippies Like They Used To. The prime accusation against Sutley — that he wrote the Argus snitch letter — doesn’t seem to stand up. It contains information to which it seems highly unlikely Sutley had access. He lived outside the area, beyond access to the Ukiah Daily Journal. He volunteered to undergo, and passed with flying colors, a polygraph examination administered in Los Angeles on Dec. 14, 1994, by Joseph Paolella, a licensed polygraph examiner. Paolella reported that in his judgment Sutley was telling the truth when he (a) denied being a paid informer for law enforcement agencies, (b) confirmed that he had been offered money by a friend of Bari to kill Sweeney — a mission (later confirmed by Bari, who called it a joke) he had declined, (c) had not written the Argus letter and (d) had not been involved in any way in the Oakland bombing. Beyond this, Sutley has, according to Gehrman, physical injuries — he hasn’t used a typewriter since 1975.

I have this clip and Talbot says no such thing. In fact, Judi did consider her husband to be a suspect and then, before 1990 was over and after much research/investigation, determined he was not. She was never “certain” about anyone. However, Talbot’s documentary determined the most likely suspect was the source of this disinformation campaign in the first place: Irv Sutley, who clearly helped write a police informant letter (DNA and typewriter evidence) that came with a photo of Judi with Sutley’s Uzi (taken presumably as a joke album cover) that only Sutley, myself (Sutley sent me three photos) and his landlady (Judi’s close friend) had access to. Sutley admitted rummaging through the photos and sending one (a photo of Judi with Sutley’s Uzi) to Bruce Anderson, who published it.

Sutley is a 4 decade-long Peace and Freedom Party member and well documented disrupter (narked on two party members and had them convicted of using an out of district address), gun enthusiast, 8=year Marine veteran in the 60′s who never went to Viet Nam, a physical abuser of at least one woman according to the Press Democrat (a Peace and Freedom Party Candidate), writer of many menacing letters, a known police informant, a candidate for Sheriff, a Communist Party member, and a guy in his 60′s with no known street address for longer than a few months. The latter tidbit is particularly interesting as Sutley runs for office regularly and one is required to provide a street address to run. Sutley got an “exemption” because he claimed, as the Sonoma County elections office told me, he feared the “Troskyites” were out to kill him. He achieved national prominence for legally challenging and removing the star and angels off the Sonoma County Courthouse Christmas tree in 2010, becoming Fox News’ and the New York Times’ face of “The War Against Christmas.” This is one of Bruce’s primary sources of information. [RM]

Irv Sutley would be blamed and called an FBI informant relentlessly by Bari and Cheney which did great damage to Sutley’s reputation until five years later he paid and took a polygraph and passed.

In her book, Timber Wars, Judi Bari says that Steve Talbot, in his KQED documentary Who Bombed Judi Bari? Identified Irv Sutley as a probable police informant. Judi says Talbot’s expose of her is his best accomplishment of his investigation.

Irv claims innocence, saying that a third party, probably the FBI must have done it. He says the FBI must have had a surveillance operation of CISPES, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador in Santa Rosa and overheard him talking on CISPES phone. He says probably he casually mentioned taking the photos of me and the FBI decided to sneak into his house, steal a photo and mail it to the Ukiah police. [RM]

Judi in her book says, “This is quite a leap of logic, especially when you consider that I was a full-time carpenter at the time and not so active or well-known yet. The FBI would have had to anticipate my future EF! Stardom to be interested in me that early and, in order to believe Irv’s story you would have to believe that not only did the FBI steal the picture from Irv’s house without him being aware of it, but they wrote this letter (Argus) that just happened to be composed of stuff Irv would know. [Judi]

The test results indicated conclusively that contrary to Bari’s accusations—which are expected to be reiterated in a forthcoming biography called TIMBER WARS—Sutley is not an FBI informant and had nothing to do with Bari’s car bombing. Perhaps even more striking is that the exam confirmed Sutley’s countercharge that he was solicited to kill Bari’s estranged husband, Mike Sweeney, by Bari associate Pam Davis. Another test question ruled out Sutley’s involvement with the so-called “Argus” letter sent to the Ukiah Police Dept., which revealed that whoever the author was, he or she had intimate details of the attack on Judi Bari’s life. Bari has accused Sutley of authoring or being involved with the contents of the letter. The following is excerpted from Mr. Paolella’s report:


The subject was asked the following questions:

  1. Did you receive any payment from law enforcement agencies to be an informant against Earth First! or Judi Bari? Response: NO
  2. Were you solicited by Pam Davis to kill Bari’s estranged husband, Mike Sweeney? Response: YES
  3. Did you write the Argus letter to the Ukiah, Ca. Police Department in 1989 or 1990? Response: NO
  4. Were you involved in any way with the bombing of Bari’s car on May 24, 1990? Response: NO

Conclusion: After carefully reviewing the polygraph charts, it is the opinion of the examiner that the subject told the truth during the polygraph examination.

Ed. Note: I am as weary of this ongoing controversy as anyone but I have been criticized for printing Irv Sutley’s counter charge against Judi Bari regarding her alleged solicitation of Irv to kill her ex-husband. This whole affair has been bizarre and scary from its beginning and the fact that we still don’t have answers as to who was responsible for the bombing of Judi Bari has resulted in a demoralized and divided activist community with a lot of ugly finger pointing.

I have no answers as to why Judi continues to make unproven accusations against Irv. When she began her accusations against him over four years ago, Irv attempted to meet with Judi and/or her friends to defend himself. She refused. At that time he kept quiet about her alleged solicitation of him (before the bombing) but did confide in some close friends. After Judi escalated her attacks in an article by Ward Churchill, published in Covert Action Quarterly in 1994, he began to defend himself and made his counter accusations public for the first time.

In spite of many attempts to solve this dispute Judi has consistently refused mediation, refused to offer proof of her allegations, but has not stopped the accusations. They continue to be on the Internet and are in her forthcoming book as well as other forums.

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