Hypothetical Crime, Real Time

The things you learn…

On the news we have Bloggo being nailed to the cross for “political corruption” (18 counts IIRC) and getting a 14 year sentence. Couldn’t happen to a more appropriate guy, again IMHO. Selling an elected position is about as slime bucket as you can get.

http://news.yahoo.com/blagojevich-tells-judge-hes-sorry-crimes-171037565.html

Blagojevich tells judge he’s sorry for crimes
AP By DON BABWIN and MICHAEL TARM | AP – 2 hrs 6 mins ago

CHICAGO (AP) — In a last plea for mercy, Rod Blagojevich tried a tactic he never has before: an apology.

The disgraced former Illinois governor told a judge Wednesday that he made “terrible mistakes” and acknowledged that he broke the law when he tried to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat.

After protesting his innocence for years, Blagojevich’s plea on the second day of his sentencing hearing came as he hopes to avoid a prison term of up to 20 years. Judge James Zagel was expected to deliver his sentence Wednesday.

“I’m here convicted of crimes … ,” Blagojevich said, “and I am accepting of it, I acknowledge it and I of course am unbelievably sorry for it.”

While he apologized in the 19-minute speech that he delivered without paper in front of him, Blagojevich still said he did not know he was breaking the law. He told Zagel that he thought what he was doing was “permissible,” but that he was mistaken, and he “never set out to break the law.”

OK, going for the sob story. But it didn’t work. He still got a hefty sentence.

But “why” is interesting…

On one of the news channels, I think it was CNN, they had a lawyer ‘splaining it. Seems there is some Federal law, or ruling, or whatever kind of fermented sausage passes for decent “rule of law” these days that decided the Evil Drug Dealers were getting off too easy, as you could only sentence them based on the actual quantity of product they moved. If you busted a guy in a ‘buy’ for 10 kilos, you got to sentence him for the crime of 10 kilos. And that’s just not “good” enough…

So somewhere along the line they decided that if you TALKED about more, well, that was the same as SELLING more… So if you have an undercover cop who tries to buy 10 kilos, and you say “I only have one”, and he says “Can you get me 100?” and you say “Donno…. kind a big… never done anything like that. I’ll ask if I can score 100 kilos, but it’s outa my league”, at sentencing, you get “put away” for “selling 100 kilos”. Yes, that’s Federal Law. Real time for hypothetical crime.

Turns out that Bloggo had “talked about” a price of over $1 Million or $1.4 Million for selling Obama’s Senate seat (really, The Peoples Seat that Obama was abandoning… the politicians do NOT own their seats…). Turns out that there is a dollar threshold on ‘corruption’ that puts an enhancement or minimum sentence on things based on being over that price. Thus he gets the ‘over a decade’ sentence that puts him in Federal Prison not in Fed Lite Camp where most such ‘soft criminals’ go.

Now, again, I have NO SYMPATHY for Bloggo. He was being a typical Machine Politician Slime Ball and got almost what he deserved ( I’d be happier if he was subject to Sharia about now… but I digress).

What bothers me about this is the ever increasing shift to Hypothetical Crime leading to real hard core prison. Couple that with the increased tendency to have undercover cops and secret police just about everywhere and this is headed toward a police state of horrific form. Rather like Julian Assange (another guy I’m not keen on) being up for Rape because he didn’t use a condom during consensual sex and / or had one break: The opportunities for abuse of process are just way too great and the corruption of truth is evil.

This “penalty and crime inflation” is just stupid and evil. If you want to try a 15 year old kid under adult rules of murder, then make the JUVENILE penalties that stiff and see if folks really agree with it. IF you want to make ‘sex without a condom’ the same penalty as forcible rape then pass and publish a voted upon law with politicians names attached to the vote that says “Don’t use a condom, go to prison for 20 years and be a registered sex offender for life” and see if that is REALLY what the society wants. Want to put a politician away for 14 years for TALKING about selling a seat, pass a law saying “TALKING about it is a 14 year offense” and see if that passes muster with the first amendment freedom of speech folks. Hiding it in sentencing rules is just fraudulence in the criminal code.

Now string some of these things together…

Can an undercover cop TALK to you about maybe blowing something up, ask if you would like $1 Million for helping, maybe just driving his car to the scene… You, not wanting to get shot by this Nut Job (by saying “get away from me you crazy”, for example); mutter something like “Hey, maybe, but I think that’s outta my league… oh, look at the time, gotta go. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” (while thinking: ‘Gotta dump that guy from the contact list…and make sure he doesn’t know where I live.”) Time passes. Then you get picked up for “Conspiracy to Treason, plotting mass murder with weapons of mass destruction, and acceptance of $1 Million Bribe”… with mandatory sentencing rules to apply.

After all, you did “conspire” in that you talked about it with another person. You did “accept a $1 Million” payment as it was talked about. It was a “weapon of mass destruction” as it was talked about using explosives. You didn’t immediately tell the guy to stuff it (and risk being shot…) so the use of “maybe” is agreement to participate in the incitement / conspiracy. And you didn’t call the cops right after it (having no evidence and not wanting a civil suit for slander…) so clearly you “did the crime”, now “do the time”…

Can’t happen? I’m not so sure. All the individual pieces are in place. The example is a bit ‘over the top’ in that for all practical purposes you would likely need more than just one interaction. But COULD it happen with just one? Perhaps. Or what if the guy goes to your church (or mosque) and you can’t really avoid him and it takes you a couple of times to decide to just swap places of worship and leave all your family and friends behind…

This slow slide into ever more sloppy use of language, especially in the definitions of crime and punishment, is just wrong. If there is any place where we need to be honest and careful in what we define words to be, it is the definition of crimes. I don’t care if the goal is noble or the desire is to help catch terrorists or whatever. The ends do not justify the means.

One more example: In California, at least, the definition of “Loaded Gun” was expanded. The idea behind the basic law was that folks caught committing some other crime while in possession of a “loaded gun” were The Really Bad Guys. Picture some slime bucket with a pistol holding up a poor girl at an all night grocery store… Yeah, NAIL THEM to the wall… But now, having a big hammer, the police and more importantly (IMHO) the political prosecutors wanted to really swing it.

So they rounded up a sympathetic judge and expanded the use of the hammer with Case Law… It is now a “loaded gun” if you have bullets (cartridges) in contact with a MAGAZINE even if not in or even near a gun. Put a (functionally useless without a gun bit of bent sheet metal) magazine in the same pocket with a single cartridge and have the gun locked in a gun case on the back seat – doing what WAS the “right thing” of separating the gun from the ammo – and you are now committing the crime of possessing a “loaded gun”. Never mind it’s only got one shot, that it would take some effort to get the cartridge into the magazine and find the gun. No, you are pointing a loaded gun at someone as far as the law is concerned. Now, if they can just find some OTHER law you are breaking too, then you are up for ‘enhancement’ sentencing for possession of a loaded gun during the commission of a crime.

One can only hope the magazine and bullet are not in a night stand next to the bed when you have a condom failure during consensual sex… Otherwise you are committing Armed Rape and in possession of a loaded gun during the commission of rape…

Anyone think if you are in court on “Rape, possession of a loaded gun during rape” charges that you will be able to explain to anyone on the jury that the rape wasn’t rape and the loaded gun wasn’t a gun? Yeah “good luck with that”… Especially when the Judge announces that, under case law, what you are charged with WAS rape and you DID have a ‘loaded gun’… And that is the whole INTENT of the “law inflation”. To make it impossible to defend yourself so the police can have an easier time picking you up and making it stick. (There isn’t any doubt about this, in the gun case it was stated as a reason for asking for the ruling, usually stated as “give the police the tools they need”.)

In Conclusion

That’s the end of my rant on this (but only the beginning of problems for ‘the justice system’).

For whatever reason we are running full tilt into “penalty inflation” and “definition inflation” such that just about anyone can be trivially entrapped into decade scale penalties. For doing things that once WERE “the right thing” or that ARE “reasonable”. (What can the meaning of ‘consensual’ be once it is also ‘criminal rape’?) The end result will be a Police State and all the chilling of freedom that comes with it.

Hypothetical? Unlike the “crimes”, not at all. There are people presently sitting in jail for the crime of a ‘loaded gun’ because they had a PART of a gun touching a cartridge (and it doesn’t have to be a cartridge that is of the right size to work in the gun..). There are people in prison for TALKING about crimes, not doing them, and getting sentence enhancements for what was talked about. Bloggo is now one of them. The fact that I think he belongs there, and for at least that long, does not make me comfortable with how he got there…

If Consensus says Global Warming is real, can I be persecuted for saying “No, it isn’t” as I’m now advocating a “Crime against humanity”? AND ‘with a loaded gun’ AND in a conspiracy too? (Silly? Nope. We’ve already got ‘warmers’ advocating punishment for the crime against humanity of being a skeptic. We’re one Nutty Judge ruling away from case law… then ‘weapons’ and ‘conspiracy’ enhancements can start to apply…)

And I find myself wondering if criticism of this state of affairs is somehow “incitement” to something. Is sharing my opinion with others now “conspiracy” to something or other. Have I committed a “hate crime” by not having a positive attitude about something or other. When negative speech can be a crime, and can be enhanced by doing it with others, and can be enhanced if the topic in some bizarre way can be construed as “incitement”, is anyone free? Is anyone not “chilled”?

(For example: Is criticism of condom use ‘incitement’ to some kind of ‘hate crime’ as it might cause someone to be at risk of HIV? Or someone might find it offensive to Gays? Realize that also under California Law “offense” is in the mind of the offended. So if a person says “I’m unhappy, I’m not feeling very gay today” (as they remember and use the OLD meaning of gay as ‘happy’, maybe because they learned the word 50 years ago…) and some Gay Guy finds that offensive the law says you offended and it is an act of harassment. No, no finding of ‘intent’ is needed. Only the offended person gets to decide if they are offended. So does that put me up on a ‘hate crime’ charge? If I have an empty magazine touching a bullet in a drawer somewhere in the house does that make it “Committing a hate crime with a loaded weapon”? Well, actually, yes… Not exactly the same as lynching a black guy at gunpoint, but the same ‘crime and punishment’ rules apply… But don’t worry, I’m sure the prosecutor would never bring such a charge and the judge would never let it past the first day if they did… Unless, of course, you were a person out of favor…)

Yes, I find myself pondering just which of the things I’ve typed here MIGHT be just snuggled too close to some redefined crazy law of which I’m completely unaware. I find myself pondering if I ought to ‘snip’ it a little. But that’s sort of the whole point, isn’t it…

An unfair act against anyone, even a ‘criminal’ is an unfair act against all. An injustice to anyone (even Bloggo) by legal overreach is an injustice to all. It is better if a dozen Bloggo’s get a 5 year sentence than to have a ‘sentence enhancement’ that lets hypothetical crimes be applied to all of us. It’s the hard path to take, but it’s the right one.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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26 Responses to Hypothetical Crime, Real Time

  1. Serioso says:

    I agree with you completely, for once! And I hope you are a contributor to the ACLU.

  2. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Mat be there is not enough real crime to keep cops and prosecutors busy. They need to create nuances of crime.
    Actually this is a disease of bureaucracy, they will always expand their reach, they can’t help themselves. Generally a wise judge will tell them to get out of their court room. But there is always one pet judge that will say “sure, go for it”. There needs to be a way to limit these people with teeth. pg

  3. Jerry says:

    Don’t forget to add contempt of court (and the judge) to your list of charges. :) and de Man can just throw you in the slammer for that.

    Did you see the ‘Big Bang’ where Sheldon goes to traffic court and ends up in jail for telling the judge that he, Sheldon, is at the top of his profession while the judge is at the bottom of his. Bad Idea!!

    I don’t even want to get started on ‘process crimes’ – gets me irate and ranting.

  4. Matthew W says:

    Blaggo got screwed.
    I was at first delighted when Fitzgerald was appointed years ago and investigated Illinois Gov. Ryan. I “knew” Ryan was guilty and was glad he went to jail, but having paid a fair amount to the trial, I still don’t think that the prosecution proved their case. Fitzgerald disappointed me even further when he continued investigating the Plame “leak” even after he knew who the leaker was. This case against Blaggo is part of Fitzgerald’s failure trifecta.
    Ain’t no way, no how did they prove the case.

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jerry:

    Yeah, I saw it ;-)

    “Contempt” is another one of those laws I think ought to be scrapped. It’s just a “Let the judge spank who he doesn’t like” rule. Some things DESERVE contempt and it ought not be a crime.

    Process crimes… things like ‘misprision of felony’ and the related incarnation of being found guilty of a criminal act because you OUGHT to have known about something even if you didn’t… Yeah, I won’t get you started on that ;-)

    Our tax code is just full of that that kind of ‘enforcement’…

    @Matthew W:

    I find myself in the strange position of agreeing that he got improperly screwed, but enjoying watching it… Sometimes it’s so hard not to be evil ;-)

  6. Jason Calley says:

    As you point out, hypothetical crimes exist. Suppose you are arrested for drug manufacture and there are some chemicals in your home that COULD have been used to make drugs. These days, that could include something like baking soda or drain cleaner. The reasoning is, “Hmmm…if we had not caught you, you could have made an extra ten ounces of crack with these, therefore, even though you never made the ten ounces, we will add that to your charges.” Or perhaps, you have some fireworks or a black powder rifle in your home. “We found black powder and his house has pipes as part of the plumbing. He could have used the pipes and the powder to make a pipe bomb, so we will charge him with ‘possession of bomb making materials’.”

    This is so wrong…it would be like charging all women with prostitution. After all, they possess the needed material to commit the crime!

    We sometimes look down our nose at the poor benighted schmoes of the Middle Ages, those guys who were forced to buy indulgences from, and pay penalties and tithes to the priestly class of religious interpreters. The common guy could not have a direct relationship with God. The black robed Priests had to intercede and interpret. Poor average schmoes! Couldn’t they see through the scam? And yet, we do the same thing today with the law. The law is made to be arbitrary and incomprehensible. The only way to protect yourself from its wrath is to buy indulgences from the lawyers and pay tithes to the state. Heck, the judges even wear black robes…

    Regarding Blago, yeah, I just assume that he probably deserved prison. My default assumption (barring concrete evidence to the contrary) is that anyone who reaches high public office has committed felonies to get there, and somebody has a file proving it. Which leads to what I think is an interesting question in Blago’s case.

    Most people have forgotten that he held a press conference the afternoon before his arrest. There was a window manufacturing company in Illinois that was in the news at the time. The company was getting ready to shut its doors and lay off a bunch of workers because the bank with which it was associated had decided rather arbitrarily to withdraw the company’s credit line. The company was otherwise operating normally, not failing, etc. Blago appeared at the company and announced that unless the company’s bank (I think it was Bank of America) resumed normal lending procedures, that he, Blago, was going to withdraw all Illinois funds from the bank. I remember thinking, “Whoa! A Governor who is supporting people in defiance of the banks?! Wonder where this is going to go?”

    The next morning he was being marched in handcuffs.

    My questions are: Did Blago know he was going to be arrested and try to play the populist card and raise public support before they took him into custody? Or did the big banks decide, “This guy is a loose canon and is not playing how we want him to. What do we have on file to take him out with? Let’s make a few phone calls.” Or maybe I am wrong and there is no connection with his announcement the day before. Still, it is an odd coincidence of timing.

  7. bwanamakubwa says:

    We have the same creeping legal malaise here in the UK, with certain “offences” being made absolute with no legal defence available.

    http://www.thisissurreytoday.co.uk/Ex-soldier-faces-jail-handing-gun/story-12659234-detail/story.html

    This ex-soldier was given a 12-month suspended sentence for possession of a firearm at Reading Crown Court after handing in to the Police a shotgun he’d found discarded in his garden.

  8. Pascvaks says:

    Sometimes ‘Things’ get so BIG they take on a ‘Life of their Own’.

    It’s true that, over time, folks generally buy a ‘pig’ in a poke, or two, and take home gift horses they don’t take the time to look in the mouth, or ask about the ‘papers’ or the ‘brand’ on the rump. Over time, we get lazy. Over time we let others worry about all those big issues we don’t have the ability to study on our own, and defer to their interpretation of which way the Sun otta’ come up tomorrow morning and who’s bad and otta’ go to Sing-Sing.

    In the past things were different, really they were. If you were going to amount to anything you had to do everything yourself. Really!

    OK! So things aren’t do different. Really.

    Hummmm, what’s “different”?

    Maybe… ahhhhhh… maybe “we” are?

  9. John F. Hultquist says:
  10. R. de Haan says:

    In addition I think it is good to take notice of this interview about the
    US prison system from an insider
    http://rt.com/usa/news/death-sentence-mumia-abu-jamal-269/

  11. R. de Haan says:

    Climate deniers are now a danger to humanity according to Barbara Boxer.
    http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/197815-boxer-to-climate-deniers-you-are-endangering-human-kind

    There is no proof of climate change, let alone there is any proof climate change would pose any danger to humanity.
    To claim that deniers endanger human kind is far fetched.

    This is the kind of insane State hubris that was typical of communist nations like the DDR and the USSR where people who disagreed with the political system got a show trial and were send off to Siberia.

  12. R. de Haan says:

  13. Jerry says:

    Speaking of definitions slipping and sliding, here is an article that I just noticed about the FBI redefining rape to make it easier to get a conviction.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/fbi-change-definition-rape-time-1929-article-1.988510

    Re: Blago, I must admit to sharing the sentiment of some others here that I think he belongs in jail (probably for life) but I really don’t know for exactly what crimes. No way to run a ‘justice’ system. Given what this guy knows I will say it is even money whether he gets a pardon from Dear Leader or a sharp object thru the heart. The long arm of Chicago Sleaze at work!

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    Yeah, I kind of wonder if he forgot to pay off the right folks to keep HIS protection in place… or stepped on the toes that could pay off his paid off folks… or…

    Then again, as I understand it, he was trying to squeeze his political position to get campaign support… Oh, wait, that’s SOP for all politicians…

    @John. F. Hultquist:

    Hadn’t heard of that one. A great example of why I think “hate crimes” and control of speech is just wrong. It grants the ability of some groups to be more ‘special’ than others… Maybe I’ll go out and find some odd allele in my genome that is rare in Europeans but not in Native Americans so I can claim I’m an Indian… they get special perks here, too. (right to run a casino being the biggest right now). As “genes wander” and it’s all a probability thing, odds are there’s some OOPART gene I can latch onto…

    But anyone talking about it, well, that must be a crime…

    @R. de Haan:

    Trying to keep me busy for the next hour? Or just awake nights? ;-)

    Thanks for the links… I think… ;-)

    @Jerry:

    Look for a pardon upon the exit from office, but not before…

    I used the Swedish rape definition mixed with US / California laws for exactly the reason that once ONE place has a bogus definition, all the other police states start drooling over it and try to get one of their own… Didn’t know the FBI was already headed that way… Sigh…

  15. An animated movie from more than a decade ago ably skewers aspects of communism, including making great fun of communist slogans.

    At one point, the notion of a sort of virtual crime and its punishment were discussed, beginning at 7:45 in this segment:

    Weaver (along with neighboring soldier ants) has just been awakened by his friend Z. He’s alarmed at Z’s suggestion of swapping jobs:

    Are you nuts? … Do you know how much trouble you can get into for talking about impersonating a soldier? You can get into trouble for even listening to someone talk about impersonating a soldier!”

    At that moment, the soldiers in the next cubicles instantly decide that they were asleep all along, and heard nothing.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  16. R. de Haan says:

    It’s the money stupid
    Just connecting the dots
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2011/12/06/more-u-n-insanity-paid-for-by-u-s-taxpayers/

    Talking about real crime, real time financed by US tax payer money

  17. Mathew W,
    “Blaggo got screwed.”

    Yeah! He got screwed because his attorney failed to get all the evidence thrown out.

    Penalties for corruption by elected officials should automatically be doubled. Actually that is way too soft. We need to follow the lead of the Republic of China where stealing public money can be a capital offence.

    Taking this idea a little further, you can walk around the seedier parts of Taipei late at night and no one will lay a finger on you. Could that have anything to do with the fact that armed robbery is a capital crime too?

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    @galloping camel:

    BTW, hope you’ve taken The Mug to The Brewhaus ;-)

    I was talking with a guy (who I think was an agent of Jordanian Secret Service… but that’s a whole ‘nother story ;-) about this a couple of years ago. He pointed out that in Saudi there were shop owners who sold gold trinkets who pulled a simple cord across the front of their stall when they went to lunch, leving thousands of $$$ of gold on display.

    Not a lot of worry about theft when the penalty was loss of a hand and public humiliation.

    I wanted to disagree with him and tell him how wrong it was to chop off a hand for theft… But I just could not. The “reality just is”.

    Am I in favor of Sharia? No way. Not at all. Not for even a heartbeat.

    Could I live comfortably under Sharia? Yup. Not much of an issue at all. (Other than that ‘no beer’ thing. But I could swap to MJ if pushed…)

  19. gallopingcamel says:

    Chiefio,
    Executing people convicted of armed robbery may seem a little harsh until you think of all the people who become victims thanks to laws that encourage criminality (e.g. in the UK). The victim ends up in jail being sued by the burglar!
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2600303.stm

    I was very impressed by the restraint that the Taiwanese officials showed when one of my friends surprised a burglar in the act of robbing his house. The burglar made the big mistake of pulling a knife in the course of making his escape. The police went over and over the evidence from the witnesses because they were very reluctant to file armed robbery charges unless the evidence was rock solid.

    Frankly, I feel a lot safer in Taiwan than in the UK.

  20. gallopingcamel says:

    Chiefio,
    I am just leaving for Charlie & Jake’s with that fine mug in hand!

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    @GallopingCamel:

    Fill a bit’o the hump for me, mate!

  22. Jerry says:

    Just ran across this article – UN wants a Climate Court. WOW talk about making up the law/rules as you go – and this a combination wish list and blank slate. Folks are saying nothing will come of it, just a pipe dream, etc…. well, once the statists get an idea they never give it up and just keep on bringing it back. How many people believed it would one day be illegal to buy a 100w incandescent light bulb in the United States of America.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/12/10/un-floats-global-climate-court-to-enforce-emissions-rules/?test=latestnews

  23. P.G. Sharrow says:

    These NAZIES just won’t quit. They just keep on creating their one world structure as if it were real and “someone” keeps then on target and finds them funding, often from the tax moneys of the rest of us. No elections, self appointed “Rulers of You All”.
    WE will need to try them all for “Crimes Against Humanity” pg

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jerry & J.G. Sharrow:

    Well, I think we now know why…. Given the Tallbloke rate, can you imagine what they would do with a UN / unfettered “climate court”?

    I think I smell a tyranny in the making, and the UN is in the middle of it. What looked like “mild paranoia” a few weeks ago is looking like “Page 4 below the fold” now. i.e. so common it isn’t even much news…

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