Category Archives: Crime and Punishment

Three Flag-Burning Yalies To Face Charges

Now, while I wouldn’t call myself in any stretch of the imagination a supporter of flag-burning, it is one of those things that should not be illegal. But these guys, who have admitted the burning, need to pay some penalty.

Yale trio charged in city flag burning incident

When detained by police a few blocks away, they allegedly acknowledged it was a “dumb thing to do,” according to a police report on the incident.

Hyder Akbar Said, 23, Nikolaos Angelopoulos, 19, and Farhad Anklesaria, also 19, were arrested on a range of charges including two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal mischief, second-degree arson, breach of peace, and conspiracy to commit second-degree arson.

Why should they be charged for doing something that I think is an acceptable, if distasteful, form of free speech? Because it wasn’t their flag, and it wasn’t their property.

Marc Suraci, 37, owner of the two-story house on Chapel Street where the flag was burned, was upset when informed of the incident by the Register.

He said he always puts flags out front of his rental properties.

“It makes me sick to my stomach to think that someone would burn the American flag,” said Suraci, who described himself as “very, very patriotic.”

Suraci said several of his relatives fought in American wars to defend the constitutional right to burn the flag as a protest.

“But, it gets to another level when it is somebody else’s flag on their own personal property,” Suraci said. He feels flag burning should be illegal.

You want to stand on your own property and burn whatever you want, that’s your right. You step on my land and burn my property, and we’ve got problems.

Now, being not so far removed from the stupidity of youth, I’m not going to advocate throwing the book at these “kids”. What they did was stupid, but I’m not going to jump out and call for actually convicting them of arson or throwing them in jail. But, having admitted their guilt, they should get enough punishment to learn a lesson. And I think it starts with financial restitution to Mr. Suraci, and a formal apology to him for damaging his property. Add some fines and maybe some community service, and we’re in business.

Guiliani, Kerik, and Corruption

The man who commenter and self-proclaimed neo-libertarian leader Eric Dondero holds up as a strong leader of our time has fallen into yet another scandal. This one concerns his good friend, Bernard Kerik:

Federal prosecutors have told Bernard B. Kerik, whose nomination as homeland security secretary in 2004 ended in scandal, that he is likely to be charged with several felonies, including tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wiretapping.

Kerik’s indictment could set the stage for a courtroom battle that would draw attention to Kerik’s extensive business and political dealings with former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who personally recommended him to President Bush for the Cabinet. Giuliani, the front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination according to most polls, later called the recommendation a mistake.

Kerik rose from being a warden and police detective to become Giuliani’s campaign security adviser, corrections chief, police commissioner and eventual partner in Giuliani-Kerik, a security arm of Giuliani Partners, which Giuliani established after leaving office in 2001. Kerik resigned his positions in Giuliani’s firm after he was nominated to the homeland security job.

The former mayor is not in any legal jeopardy, according to legal sources directly familiar with the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing. He and his consulting firm have cooperated in the FBI’s long-running investigation of Kerik.

These allegations, while it is clear that Giuliani did nothing wrong, raise still more questions about the man’s character and competence. Guiliani hired a man to work for him both as New York police commissioner and as his business partner who is a shady character at best. This has shades of President Bush’s cronyism as exemplified in the picks of Harriet Miers for Supreme Court Justice, Alberto Gonzalez for Attorney General, and finally Mike “Heck of a Job Brownie” Brown for FEMA director. More cronyism and horrible decision making for subordinates is the last thing this country needs in a Commander in Chief in the Long War and this is yet another reason why Guiliani is not fit to be president.

EDITED: 10:36 AM CDT to fix link to mainstreamlibertarian.com

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Seven Years for Shoving?

That’s the sentence 14 year old Shaquanda Cotton received in Paris, TX after shoving a hall monitor in a dispute. Now, while readers of this site certainly would be interested in such an apparent miscarriage of justice, I don’t think it’s too much to say that this wouldn’t get much play in the national media unless there was another angle.

Shaquanda Cotton is black. Another 14 year old girl in the same town received a sentence of probation from the same judge after burning down her family’s home. The other girl is white. It would seem the charge of racism is fairly easy to make in this case. That’s certainly the angle this Trib article takes:

And then there is the case that most troubles Cherry and leaders of the Texas NAACP, involving a 14-year-old black freshman, Shaquanda Cotton, who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun.

The youth had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor–a 58-year-old teacher’s aide–was not seriously injured. But Shaquanda was tried in March 2006 in the town’s juvenile court, convicted of “assault on a public servant” and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21.

Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family’s house, to probation.

“All Shaquanda did was grab somebody and she will be in jail for 5 or 6 years?” said Gary Bledsoe, an Austin attorney who is president of the state NAACP branch. “It’s like they are sending a signal to black folks in Paris that you stay in your place in this community, in the shadows, intimidated.”

However, as in most cases of this nature, things are not so neatly cut and dried. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in this one, and this article from the local paper that focuses on the Judge and his decision ties a lot of that together. Money quotes:

County Judge Chuck Superville says he fears for the community’s safety and is calling for the national media and other organizations to investigate the facts before drawing conclusions about the Shaquanda Cotton case.

The judge said a March 12 story in The Chicago Tribune unfairly painted the community as racist and a recent protest as well as the threat of future protests by organized groups with national media coverage could “spin this thing out of control.”

Superville said he has refrained from commenting until now because of his position as the judge in the Cotton case, but that he believes he has a higher duty as county judge to maintain order in the community.

“I call on the media and others involved to go to the public record to get the facts of the case before they rush to judgment,” Superville said Saturday.

< ...>

“If Shaquanda had been white, the outcome would have been the same,” Superville said. “My decision was based on facts and law and I am confident this was the correct decision based on the facts I was presented.”

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Superville said he gave the 14-year old an indeterminate sentence up to seven years — her 21st birthday.

“Once I set the indeterminate sentence, Shaquanda holds the key to her jail cell,” Superville said. “It is up to the child and TYC.”

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“The juvenile officer said the mother refused to cooperate and said he had no reason to believe the mother would cooperate if Shaquanda received probation,” Superville said.

“That theme was repeated witness after witness—that the mother made it impossible to help Shaquanda,” Superville said. “She blamed everyone except the child for misbehavior.”

So we have a mother that refuses to hold her child accountable and, if I may indulge in a stereotype, appears to be playing the “angry black woman” card. We have the national media and organizations like the NAACP getting ahold of the story and turning it into a federal case. We have a town with apparent race issues. But none of that matters. At the end of the day, we have a now 15 year old girl who will quite possibly be in jail until her 21st birthday because everyone failed her. The system, her community, and her family. How is Shaquanda doing now? From the Trib story:

Inside the youth prison in Brownwood where she has been incarcerated for the past 10 months–a prison currently at the center of a state scandal involving a guard who allegedly sexually abused teenage inmates–Shaquanda, who is now 15, says she has not been doing well.

Three times she has tried to injure herself, first by scratching her face, then by cutting her arm. The last time, she said, she copied a method she saw another young inmate try, knotting a sweater around her neck and yanking it tight so she couldn’t breathe. The guards noticed her sprawled inside her cell before it was too late.

She tried to harm herself, Shaquanda said, out of depression, desperation and fear of the hardened young thieves, robbers, sex offenders and parole violators all around her whom she must try to avoid each day.

“I get paranoid when I get around some of these girls,” Shaquanda said. “Sometimes I feel like I just can’t do this no more–that I can’t survive this.”

Shaquanda needs someone to give her the help she’s not received from the places I listed above. Somehow I doubt playing the race card and turning this into a national Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton media spectacle is going to get her that. On top of that, a system that allows a 14 year old with no prior record to be sentenced to 7 years in prison for shoving is seriously broken, regardless of race.

A lot of stuff is wrong in this case, and it doesn’t appear that any of it is going to get better anytime soon.

h/t: Chap. More here, including some good thoughts about the failure of the community to help Shaquanda.

Police Arrest 7-Year-Old — Including Fingerprints & Mug Shot

What did this little hellion do? Murder a fellow child? Burn down the elementary school? Nope…

He rode a dirtbike on the sidewalk.

Police in the eastern state of Maryland arrested a 7-year-old boy and hauled him to jail, where his mug shot and fingerprints were taken on a charge of riding a motorbike on a sidewalk.

A spokeswoman for the Baltimore police department told AFP that the incident, which has sparked controversy, took place on Tuesday after a police officer noticed the boy riding the dirt bike.

“The officer confiscated the bike and it was towed while the 7-year-old boy was taken into custody and transported to juvenile booking,” said the spokeswoman, who did not want her name used.

Wow, I feel safer.

I hope this kid learned his lesson. No, I don’t ask that he learns a lesson about not flouting the law. I hope he has learned the true nature of government.

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficial. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

When our government will blindly arrest, fingerprint, and book a 7-year-old in the name of “safety”, perhaps our government needs a little reminder that they’re here to serve us, not control us.

Raich’s Options: Die or Go to Jail

Doug has already written about how our courts have denied Angel Raich her right to life but I think this is such a fundamental miscarriage of justice that it deserves further discussion. Angel Raich suffers with a brain tumor, chronic pain, seizures, Scoliosis, TMJ and other medical conditions; her physician has determined that cannabis is her only effective treatment option for these conditions. According to Raich’s website, from 1996 to 1999 she could not move the right side of her body and had to use a wheelchair. After smoking the cannabis as recommended by her doctor, she was able to ditch the wheelchair and better manage her pain.

Cannabis has done more than restore Raich’s mobility and alleviate pain. According to her physician Dr. Frank Lucidio, taking her off her cannabis regimen would cause “imminent harm” which would likely lead to her death by starvation or malnutrition. Yet somehow the powers that be in their infinite wisdom have determined that Raich’s life is not worth saving. Their precious prohibition of marijuana is more important. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a medicinally legal area and you frequent dispensaries, you may want to change up how you buy your cannabis while also adding to the collection of strains you can smoke if you buy weed online instead.

It seems that Raich will have to risk going to jail if she wants to live. This isn’t the first time Raich has had legal setbacks regarding this issue. Back in 2005, SCOTUS ruled against her 6-3 in Gonzales vs. Raich. The majority opinion even acknowledged that without the cannabis she could die. The following is a post I wrote on June 9, 2005 at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds in reaction to this disastrous ruling.

State, Economic, and Individual Rights Up in Smoke
I cannot say that I was surprised with the unfortunate 6-3 Supreme Court ruling (Gonzales vs. Raich) in which the court determined using marijuana for medicinal purposes violates federal law. In the process of fighting the war on drugs, civil liberties of this great country have been compromised over and over again from courts all across the land. My interest in this case initially was due to my opposition to the war on drugs. The reasoning this court used to justify the ruling, however; should disturb every capitalist, supporter of states’ rights, fiscal conservative, constructionist, and those who value limited government, irrespective of how each views the war on drugs.

In the majority opinion delivered by Justice Stevens (joined by Kennedy, Souter, Ginsberg and Breyer; Scalia wrote his own opinion concurrent with the ruling), the ruling recognized that Respondents Raich and Monson may indeed benefit from using marijuana for their conditions, written as follows:

They [Raich and Monson] are being treated by licensed, board-certified family practitioners, who have concluded, after prescribing a host of conventional medicines to treat respondents’ conditions and to alleviate their associated symptoms, that marijuana is the only drug available that provides effective treatment. Both women have been using marijuana as a medication for several years pursuant to their doctors’ recommendation, both rely heavily on cannabis to function on a daily basis. Indeed Raich’s physician believes that forgoing cannabis treatments would certainly cause Raich excruciating pain and could very well prove fatal. (p. 3, paragraph 2)

So what’s the problem then? If Raich’s condition could become fatal because she stops using marijuana, she now has to risk arrest by federal agents or chose to die by following the law? What happened to this ‘culture of life’ conservatives like to talk about?

Despite the benefits as determined by the court’s majority, the court still managed to find reason to rule against a law passed by the people of California. As disturbing as denying medication to those who truly need it is, the reasoning is even more cause for alarm. The ruling reads:

Our case law firmly establishes Congress’ power to regulated purely local activities that are part of an economic “class of activities” that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce…As we stated in Wickard, “even if appellee’s activity be local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce…When Congress decides that “’total incidence’” of a practice poses a threat to a national market, it may regulate the entire class. (p.13-14, paragraph 3)

What kind of flawed reasoning is this? This so-called interstate commerce is grown, sold, and used locally. How does this local activity affect commerce in other states? It appears that this bad court decision is based on a few other bad court decisions, loosely interpreting the ‘commerce clause’ (Section 8; Clauses 3 and 18) of the U.S. Constitution. The obvious problem is that the court is granting power to the congress to manipulate the economy however it sees fit regardless of if the commerce is interstate or not. This is frightening. Using this line of reasoning, any activity one could choose to participate in or not participate in could be considered an ‘economic activity,’ subject to the will of the U.S. Congress!

If you think I am being an alarmist, read Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent. Thomas gets straight to the point writing:

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything-and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers. (Justice Thomas Dissenting, p.1 paragraph 1 or p.62 paragraph 1 in the pdf. format)

What does Thomas mean when he states that “…under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything…” ? Thomas continues:

If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison’s assurance to the people of New York that the “powers delegated” to the Federal Government are “few and defined,” while those of the States are “numerouse and indefinite.” (Justice Thomas Dissenting, p.13 paragraph 1 or p.74 paragraph 1 in the pdf. format)

It is truly amazing the lengths our Federal Government will go to continue fighting the war on drugs. The casualties in this battle are people such as Diane Monson and Angel Raich who must find an alternative treatment for their conditions (though by the court’s own admission, marijuana is probably the best treatment available for these women), the California voters who passed the proposition, the free market, the States, the Constitution, and ultimately, everyone who believes in limited government.

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