[UPDATED 2018-07-12 @ 1937 UTC — This story corrects some incorrect statements included in an earlier post.]
A California man embroiled in a long-running license renewal proceeding has lost the next step in his fight to remain a radio amateur. In a July 9 Order, FCC Administrative Law Judge Richard L. Sippel terminated the decade-old license renewal application of William Crowell, W6WBJ (ex-N6AYJ), of Diamond Springs, California, upon a motion by Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary C. Harold. Sippel’s Order followed Crowell’s refusal to appear in Washington, DC, for a hearing to consider not just his license renewal but related enforcement issues dating back 15 years or more.
“Crowell’s decision not to appear at the hearing has the same practical effect as if he had initially failed, pursuant to Section 1.221(c) of the Rules, to file a written notice of appearance or otherwise signal his intent to participate in the hearing on his pending renewal application, i.e., he has waived his right to prosecute that application,” Harold said in the Enforcement Bureau’s June 12 motion to dismiss Crowell’s license renewal application.
In his Order, Sippel said he agreed with Harold’s determination. Crowell had asserted that the FCC was obliged to hold field hearings in the city nearest to a licensee’s residence, but Sippel said that was incorrect. Crowell invoked financial hardship rules, but Sippel said those would not apply in an Amateur Radio case. Dismissal of the renewal application was “with prejudice.”
It has been 10 years since the FCC set Crowell’s license renewal application for hearing, which was to center on whether he had violated FCC Part 97 rules in the early 2000s, in part by causing intentional interference, transmitting music, and “using indecent language,” and whether he was qualified to have his renewal application granted.
Crowell raised the lengthy delay in his response to Harold’s June 12 motion. “The more-than-10-year delay in holding a hearing herein (that’s only since the Hearing Designation Order [was] issued; the pre-HDO part of the case goes back to 2000) violates my administrative due process rights,” claimed Crowell, who is an attorney.
Crowell further claimed that most of the witnesses who might testify at a hearing are now deceased, and “the evidence is terribly stale.” He said the Enforcement Bureau “has no excuse for not having taken this case to a hearing at a much earlier date, and, at this point, my ability to elucidate the truth has been fatally compromised.”
Crowell was fined $25,000 in 2016 for intentionally interfering with the transmissions of other radio amateurs and transmitting prohibited communications, including music. The FCC said Crowell did not deny making the transmissions but argued, in large part, that those transmissions were protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The FCC turned away that assertion.
Sippel said he had stayed the renewal case on the basis of the pending Forfeiture Order proceeding, but said he was later informed that the US Department of Justice had decided not to prosecute the case.
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