The coming revolution against the United States government was announced on the Internet via a manifesto by a self-described "proud and insolent youth," a college sophomore who sought to be our leader. This was to be the spark:
At 1:27 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2002, Officer David Mobilio of the Red Bluff Police Department was working the graveyard shift when he pulled his cruiser into a gas station in his quiet little farm town. As he stood beside the car, the 31-year-old husband and father of a toddler was shot three times, twice in the back and once in the head, at very close range.
Andrew Mickel, accused of killing California police officer David Mobilio, says he incorporated as "Proud and Insolent Youth."
(Jim Cole -- AP)
Beside Mobilio's dead body, someone left a handmade flag with a picture of a snake's head and the words "Don't Tread on Us."
A well-chosen spot for an ambush. That is what investigators later concluded, especially when they learned the suspected assailant had Army Ranger training. A lonely crossroads. Poorly lit. No station attendant on duty. No witnesses. It was a killing that might have never been solved.
That is, until a confession appeared on the Internet. Six days after the shooting, a manifesto appeared on more than a dozen Web sites operated by the left-leaning Independent Media Center.
It began: "Hello Everyone, my name's Andy. I killed a Police Officer in Red Bluff, California in a motion to bring attention to, and halt, the police-state tactics that have come to be used throughout our country. Now I'm coming forward, to explain that this killing was also an action against corporate irresponsibility."
The tract -- which managed to mingle an almost chirpy tone with leftist cant -- was signed by "Andrew McCrae," later found to be an alias for Andrew Mickel, a student at a liberal arts college who before enrolling had served three years stateside with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.
Mickel explained that "prior to my action in Red Bluff, I formed a corporation under the name 'Proud and Insolent Youth Incorporated,' so that I could use the destructive immunity of corporations and turn it on something that actually should be destroyed." The name is a reference to the novel "Peter Pan." "Just before their final duel and Capt. Hook's demise, Hook said to Peter, 'Proud and Insolent Youth, prepare to meet thy doom,' " Mickel wrote.
"Now, Peter Pan hates pirates, and I hate pirates, and corporations are nothing but a bunch of pirates," he wrote. "It's time to send them to a watery grave, and rip them completely out of our lives."
Mickel wrote that he was incorporating to shield himself from prosecution. He urged everyone to join his board of directors. His stock would be free. He called for insurrection. A national strike. Mass resistance. "But don't do anything you're uncomfortable with," Mickel added, "and don't pressure anyone else into anything they're uncomfortable with."
If this was a prank, it would be inane. But there was Mobilio, who would be hailed at his memorial service as a "fallen hero," lying in a puddle of blood.
The capital murder trial against Mickel began 10 days ago in Colusa, a county seat an hour's drive south of the killing. The trial was moved here because of publicity in Red Bluff.
Mickel, who just turned 26, sits at the defense table dressed in jeans and open-collared shirt, with a neat pile of manila folders and a composition book stacked in front of him. He looks like an attentive student ready for class.
He is tall, lean and jailhouse pale, and with his jutting chin and beaked nose, he looks avian, like a heron or crane, all angles and limbs. His eyes are not a madman's eyes, but they look dilated, nothing but pupils, and when he turns to face you, he stares. In the antebellum courthouse, surrounded by sheriff's deputies, the stare is merely awkward. Imagine, though, those black eyes at night, with him holding a gun.
If convicted, Mickel faces a possible death sentence. He has waived his right to counsel, insisting that he represent himself in court.
The bizarre case raises all kinds of questions about the mysterious motivations of Andrew Mickel -- is he just some self-obsessed middle-class brat, or is he the most cold-blooded kind of domestic terrorist? Or maybe both?
Not to mince words: Is Mickel crazy? That's what his friends think. His parents contend he is mentally ill. And if he is unbalanced, they argue, their son should not be allowed to serve as his own attorney, which is only going to lead, they fear, to a speedy guilty verdict and a sentence of death, which is what the prosecution is after.