A leader of the Nevada branch of an anti-government group was arrested over Facebook posts wishing “a slow and painful death” on a district attorney and a police officer involved in his past criminal cases.
Joshua Martinez, 32, is the Nevada leader of the People’s Rights network, a fast-growing group that has led an escalating series of demonstrations against COVID-19 precautions. But Martinez has been involved in his own series of escalating feuds with local law enforcement, beginning with spats over his right to film inside a courthouse, and escalating to convictions on gun charges in 2019.
His animosity toward a detective and a prosecutor in that case was still hot when he allegedly authored a pair of Facebook posts wishing for their deaths last week. Now he’s facing a set of charges for stalking, threats, and firearm possession, as the Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported.
The arrest isn’t going down well with Martinez’s fans in the movement.
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On Feb. 17., Martinez allegedly posted a picture of Michael Dickerson, a prosecutor who argued a 2019 weapons case against Martinez. In the now-deleted post, Martinez allegedly wished death upon Dickerson and Kenneth Mead, a detective with whom he reportedly had a conflict during the 2019 case.
“This is Michael Dickerson. He is Detective Kenneth Mead’s bitch. Dickerson, I hope you and Mead die a slow and painful death… Mead, I have a message for you—Molon Labe,” Martinez allegedly wrote.
In a still-live post from that day, Martinez also posted a picture of police officers carrying a casket with the caption; “How police officers take out their trash.” He added, “I can’t wait to see the news and hear that Detective Kenneth Mead is in that casket.”
In a criminal complaint, which accuses him of also owning a gun in violation of his 2019 plea deal, prosecutors claim Martinez has been directing threats at Dickerson and Mead since 2017. The campaign, prosecutors allege, “would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or harassed.”
Court records indicate that Martinez is being represented by a public defender and jail records show he remains in custody, but the Clark County Public Defender’s office told The Daily Beast he has yet to be assigned an attorney.
Martinez’s long history with local law enforcement and court officials is bound up in his associations with the People’s Rights movement. The group emerged early last year, largely in opposition to COVID-19 prevention measures. Its leader is Ammon Bundy, the anti-government figure who rose to fame following a pair of armed standoffs with federal agents in 2014 and 2016. Feeding off anti-mask sentiment and anger at lockdowns, People’s Rights exploded in size and aggression, leading brash statehouse demonstrations that would foreshadow the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Even before the People’s Rights network got off the ground, Martinez was a longtime supporter of Bundy. A report by the left-leaning Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights cites Martinez as becoming involved with Bundy around the time of the 2014 standoff that made him and his father Cliven right-wing icons.
Later, when Ammon and Cliven Bundy were in court in connection with that 2014 episode, Martinez tried entering the proceeding and came into conflict with officers. Court records from a 2018 disorderly conduct case claim he was initially arrested after failing to produce a valid form of identification—a requirement for entering the courthouse. He was re-arrested after refusing to leave the building.
He returned months later, trying to film his interactions with police. In an interview with a blog at the time, Martinez claimed he was trying to identify the officer who’d arrested him, so he could file a lawsuit. Court officers saw it differently, asking him to stop filming, as it was banned inside the courthouse. After Martinez refused, he was arrested again and slapped with a trespass order, which he violated again that November, leading to another arrest.
When he entered the court again the following year, Martinez refused to leave and started shouting, leading once again to his arrest—and conviction on a disorderly conduct charge.
Some of his solo standoffs have earned Martinez an audience of admirers, especially among libertarians and some anti-police activists. In fact, Martinez films local police and uploads the footage to YouTube. But unlike activists affiliated with more left-leaning groups like Black Lives Matter, Martinez has used those videos in tandem with his work as the leader of Nevada’s People’s Rights chapter. Some of his footage takes on a tone more friendly to libertarians and the right, like videos castigating cops for enforcing COVID-19 prevention measures.
Following Martinez’s arrest, his supporters took to Facebook to claim his posts were not threats, just memes protected under the First Amendment—a common claim in far-right criminal cases this year.
“While Josh's alleged remarks may show a lack of judgment, they are not crimes, according to well-settled First Amendment principles,” one wrote.