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.
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”.)
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.