And justice for all
Posted May 6, 2009 6:08 p.m. EDT
Updated May 6, 2009 6:12 p.m. EDT
We've gotten a tremendous amount of feedback on our story about the Patriot Act that aired on WRAL April 29. It has consistently been one of our most highly viewed stories on WRAL.com. In addition, we have gotten inquiries from media outlets in Indiana where the teenager is in custody, and from national media as well. One of the newest platforms that we monitor is the prevalence of our stories on social networking sites and on blogs. Again this story is getting unprecedented attention in those areas
The story involves a 16-year-old Granville County boy, Ashton Lundeby, who was taken out of his home in the middle of the night in March by a team of armed F.B.I. agents. He is in federal custody in Indiana. His mother was only told he is accused of making bomb threats, but beyond that, she has been able to get very little information. She has also had little access to her son. We have been turned away by federal authorities, the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Bend, Indiana, and the F.B.I. as we attempted to investigate the case.
The bottom line is we don't know what happened. Neither does his mother, Annette Lundeby. She believes her son is innocent, but because the entire situation has been shrouded in secrecy presumably under the auspices of the Patriot Act, there is no public record of what her son did or what legal hurdles he is facing.
We have gotten a lot of e-mails about the story. They run about three-to-one in favor of the approach we took on the story and against the actions of federal authorities. They urge us to continue to investigate this situation, which we absolutely will. The greatest criticism comes from those who want to hear more from the other side. Believe me, we have tried. We have contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office in both states, the teenager's federally appointed public defender, as well as the F.B.I. We have been consistently given a "no comment" from everyone. The North Carolina Highway Patrol did however confirm they assisted the F.B.I. the night Ashton Lundeby was taken into custody. We also saw the search warrant the F.B.I. gave to Annette Lundeby the night they arrested her son and searched her home.
Again, we have no idea what the evidence is in the case. But the bigger question that we tried to address in the story is this: Was this the proper way to handle such a case-to storm his mother's home at night, take a teenager into custody, and give his mother the bare minimum information before you ship her child nine-hundred miles away?
Clearly, this story has touched a nerve. No one wants to imagine they or someone in their family can be taken into federal custody without warning. It is a case that deserves more scrutiny. Only when we get the actual facts can we determine why federal authorities deemed such extreme measures necessary. Even in a post-9/11 world all Americans should have a right to due process.