Local North Dakota authorities were aided by live video surveillance from a U.S. Border Patrol Predator drone in an armed standoff with a farmer and three of his sons involving a neighbor's straying cows, Betabeat
Rodney Brossart, who runs a profitable farm on 3,600 acres, and can sometimes be "disagreeable," had refused to return the cows that had wandered onto his property in June 2011, The Grand Forks Herald
The farmer and his sons engaged in an armed standoff with sheriffs deputies who called in a SWAT team. With the help of the drone, the fugitives were located and arrested on their farm.
In sentencing Brossart this week to 90 days in jail— along with other penalties— Judge Joel Medd of the Northeast Central Judicial District said, "This case should have never happened.
Chalk it up to stubbornness, to stupidity, to being at odds with your neighbors or any combination of those. We should never have been here if the cows would have just been returned."
Brossart initially sought to get the case dismissed because authorities had no warrant for the drone surveillance. Judge Medd rejected the motion because the drone "appears to have had no bearing on these charges being contested here," according court papers.
The farmer promised he'd behave differently in the future. "Sometimes things don't make sense. ... And we do things that we wish we had done differently," he said according to the Herald.
As part of a plea bargain, the sons, Thomas, Alex and Jacob, pleaded guilty to menacing law enforcement officers, a misdemeanor. The brothers were put on probation.
Meanwhile, Michael Peck writing in Forbes
pointed out that the issue of aerial surveillance, whether by helicopter or drone, "is ambiguous, with some court rulings— including a 1986 Supreme Court decision— allowing warrantless surveillance, while other rulings have found it to be unconstitutional."
When suspected criminals are tracked by police drones, Peck writes, the privacy of ordinary civilians may be compromised in the process.
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