What makes this case particularly confusing is that Rosenberg wasn't arrested on the day he walked into City Hall toting a gun. On that day, he was confronted by a police officer who asked him to remove the weapon from the premises. Rosenberg, believing he was well within his rights, attempted to debate the officer, but the officer wasn't having it. He persisted in asking Rosenberg to disarm and after Rosenberg complied, the officer went about his business, seemingly unaffected and unbothered by the event, as this video, captured by Rosenberg, confirms.
If you're thinking that anyone walking into a situation as potentially sticky as carrying a firearm into City Hall with a hidden camera to meet with a Police Officer is probably expecting trouble, then you're right. Rosenberg was at City Hall to retrieve the police files on his wife, which he had obtained permission to receive only after a contentious Freedom of Information Act request. Felicia Herman, Rosenberg's wife, had previously been arrested on false charges, which were eventually dismissed, but not before she had spent a month away from her family. Joel had initially been informed that he would need to pay the Police Department in order to receive her case files, which is not true and is against the law. After he argued the point, the department relented, which is when he took his fateful trip to City Hall.
Even stranger is the fact that Joel was arrested on December 8th, over a month after walking into City Hall with his gun and only after he posted YouTube videos ridiculing Minneapolis Police about the incident. His arrest warrant apparently mentions his videos, although making them and publishing them is no more illegal than his possession of a firearm. According to Minnesota law, only one person in a recorded conversation needs to be aware that the conversation is being recorded, and that person was Joel. All of which makes one wonder if it isn't his Second Amendment rights Joel is now fighting for, but rather his First, the right to free speech.
Friends and supporters fronted his bail, and, for now, he is out of jail, at home and resting, but he suffers from multiple serious medical ailments and since losing his day job, faces the threat of losing his health insurance, in addition to the felony charges. Charges which, according to some (including at least one attorney, are aimed at forcing him into a plea before he can damage the Police Department's credibility any further.
Having left the fantasy setting of Guardians of the Flame behind in 2003, Rosenberg has most recently been the author of mystery novels, and he jokes that in his new-found "copious free time" since being fired this week from his technical writing job, he will resume work on another novel. But it's hard to believe that with so much at stake his mind will be occupied with little else but the fight for his freedom. If convicted of the charges against him, Joel could be facing years in prison.
Joel's supporters have established a website, freejoel.com, chronicling the events in his case as they unfold. They are also seeking donations. Joel himself is currently under instructions from his attorney to not speak with the press, and was not able to comment on this story. More on this as it develops.
Russ Pitts is the Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist, a long-time fan of Joel Rosengberg's work and a member of the NRA.
Update: We had previously, inaccurately reported that Ms. Herman had been in jail following her arrest.