UPDATE: (4:20 p.m.) I just got off the phone with Robert Hill, and have updated this post to include his comments.
Police on Tuesday arrested well-known figure Robert Jesse Hill after he walked into City Council chambers just before the Tacoma council was set to meet, violating a restraining order taken out against him by Deputy Mayor Julie Anderson.
Locally infamous for his political antics and odd-ball behavior, Hill, 39, who often goes by the self-styled nickname, “The Traveller,” was held late Tuesday in the Pierce County Jail.
The arrest, for violation of a civil anti-harassment order that prohibits him from entering City Hall, was Hill’s fourth since Oct. 30, jail records show.
“When people don’t have personal boundaries, sometimes we need to provide them for them,” said Anderson, who was granted the order against Hill on Friday.
Reached by phone on Wednesday, Hill claimed he hadn’t been served with the anti-harassment order when he walked into City Hall Tuesday. A police officer “waved a page in front of my face and said, `50-feet, 50-feet!,’” said Hill, adding he paid $200 bond and was released from custody Tuesday night.
“They don’t want me there, I guess,” Hill said. “And I had stuff to say. I don’t know why I don’t have a right to public access to City Hall anymore.”
A Pierce County District Court judge granted Anderson’s petition for the emergency order after she alleged that Hill recently has engaged in a series of bizarre behavior towards her, including communications “laced with sexual overtones and references.”
Anderson’s petition states Hill showed up at her home uninvited on Oct. 28.
“I clearly told him that I did not want him to be on my property again,” Anderson wrote.
The petition also alleges Hill distributed hundreds of Election Day flyers — sources described them as sexually charged — that advertised a party for Anderson’s successful campaign for Pierce County auditor.
“He also came to City Hall to deliver roses and a greeting card, saying that he liked our `date’ and asking me to go out with me this weekend,” Anderson’s petition states.
Anderson noted she sought the protection order against Hill on the advice of Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell and Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor.
“Although he has never threatened me, TPD reports that Robert Hill’s behavior appears to be escalating rapidly,” Anderson wrote. “Also, in my years of interacting with Mr. Hill, I have never seen him so aggressive and so disrespectful of personal boundaries.”
The court granted Anderson’s requests that Hill be prohibited from attempting to contact or follow her, and from coming within 100 feet of her home. Though Anderson did not specifically ask for it, a judge also included a condition banning Hill from going within 100 feet of Anderson’s work place: City Hall.
The temporary anti-harassment order remains in effect until a hearing later this month to consider whether it should be made permanent. Under state law, the court must review the petition within 14 days and decide to grant an order effective for up to one year. Hill said today that the hearing is set for Friday afternoon.
Throughout the day Tuesday, Hill phoned several reporters at The News Tribune to say, among other things, that he will seek the city council’s appointment to Anderson’s seat, which she will vacate later this month when taking over the auditor’s job.
Shortly before Tuesday’s council meeting, Hill walked into council chambers with a hat pulled down to his eyes and leading a small dog on a leash, a city security guard said. Tacoma police arrested Hill without incident a short time later.
“He violated the court order just by showing up,” said Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum.
Hill may have violated the order again after his release from jail. On Wednesday afternoon, he told a reporter he had just called Anderson.
“I just called her a half an hour ago, saying, `Hi. What’s going on,’” Hill said. “We’re on talking terms and stuff. I mean, I left her a message. What’s wrong with that?”
A frequent attendee of public meetings who has run for sheriff and other elected office, Hill has been removed from several council sessions for disruptive behavior. In recent years, he has showed up at public meetings in various costumes and with signs promoting masturbation. At one meeting, city officials say he wore loose-fitting shorts and sat in the front row in a way that exposed himself to at least one council member.
“At one meeting he dropped his pants,” city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff said. “At other meetings, he has used his time at the podium more for performance. Last week, he started singing.”
Hill’s long rap-sheet includes an arrest last year for bringing a replica-gun into the County-City Building, after which he was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. Hill has tallied at least a dozen arrests since 2008 for charges including obstructing police, forgery, assault and weapons violations, jail records show.
In September, “The Traveller” traveled to the U.S. Capitol, where he waved around a $10,000 U.S. gold bond “trying to get on CNN,” said Sgt. Ed Troyer, Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman.
After disrupting a Congressional sub-committee hearing and unsuccessfully trying to meet with several politicians, security escorted Hill “out of the building to make sure he was not following the congressmen,” Troyer said.
Hill’s trip home garnered more trouble. Police confronted Hill at the Newark airport for illegally distributing campaign literature, and later removed Hill from an airplane, Troyer said. Hill ended up in a New Jersey mental hospital for evaluation, Troyer added.
Anderson’s court petition came three days before Hill allegedly distributed an Internet link to a list of scanned images, including one entitled “The Face of Julie” that contained a pornographic photo. Hill allegedly emailed the link to local politicians and others as part of a plea for contributions to his “legal defense” to three recent arrests, for which he denies wrongdoing.
“It’s rather hard to prove I’m being harassed,” the email says. “However, considering that I seem to be making progress on a number of fronts, leads me to believe that there are a collusion of interests in seeing me fail.”
The email, which promotes a presidential run for Anderson in 2020, added: “I believe I will be arrested… for something … again … before the month is out.”
News Tribune Reporter Adam Lynn contributed to this report.