The vital bill you hate to keep paying

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Freedom isn’t free.

But when your hard-earned tax dollars go to keep the Joseph Duncans of the world clothed, fed and sheltered — and given seemingly endless legal support and representation — sometimes you can’t help but wonder if the price of freedom has to be so damned high.

That feeling is sweeping over lots of locals because of someone far less insidious than Duncan, the death row inmate who slaughtered members of the Groene family and visited irreparable harm on survivors. We’re referring now to a young man accused of criminal activity on the Fourth of July: Tyler Rambo.

Rambo is 18. While he’s only accused at this point of firing a weapon at police in a large crowd near Independence Point, he’s clearly guilty of being both young and stupid. The courts will determine whether or not he’s also a felon.

The case of Tyler Rambo reminds us how expensive maintaining our legal system — the bedrock of all our freedoms — can be. As reported in The Press on Wednesday, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office is likely going to need more money from the county if Rambo’s maintenance proves a budget buster.

Police who reportedly returned Rambo’s fire nailed him 14 times. He’s lost his legs but not, apparently, his malice. More on that in a moment.

Rambo needs extensive medical treatment — drugs, prosthetics, you name it — all on your dime, taxpayers. Transporting him might require special accommodations that won’t be cheap. He needs a special bed estimated to cost $600 a month. And if he ends up being proven guilty and heads down longer term incarceration row, those taxpayer bills will only grow.

Emphasizing again that he is only accused at this moment and proven guilty of nothing, the Rambo pill is especially hard to swallow because police have reported finding weapons in his vehicle and residence that may have been acquired since the July 4 shooting. Citing Rambo’s attraction to drugs and weapons and clearly concerned that the 18-year-old may have been planning retribution against police, First District Magistrate Daniel McGee has prohibited Rambo from being within a mile of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department.

On social media, some of Rambo’s friends are rallying to his defense. A common refrain is that his injuries are sufficient payment of his debt to society.

We could hardly disagree more and look forward to this case being adjudicated. Even though it could cost all of us plenty, the price of justice — the cost of freedom itself — is worth every penny.

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