Category: Uncategorized

The Bradley Cooper Railroad — and a Wonderful Woman Who Tempers the Cynicism That Has Become American Law

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

I will say as my time on this blog nears the end that I do become very discouraged with what I see in the American justice system, as it seems to produce liars and glorify the worst lies while denigrating truth. Nor does it matter if the players are atheists, Christians, or something else: the lie always seems to win.

At the same time, I am heartened by the mix of people I find who stand up against lies and promote truth, even if it places a personal cost upon them. That is why I so much appreciate reading posts by people like Radley Balko, Eapen Thampy, Lenore Skenazy, and more. These are folks who have a moral compass, despite their different backgrounds, and are not afraid to stand up and be counted. And I would rather be associated these people I have mentioned than a thousand people in Washington who have a hold on power.

I don’t wear my religious beliefs on my sleeve, but I am a Christian (of the conservative variety) and take seriously the admonition of Jesus who told his disciples not to seek power over others but rather to serve and have a servant’s heart. I cannot say that I am a very good servant or could be mistaken for a true Christian servant of others, but I do wish to be like that.

(And, yes, I am libertarian in my political views, and much of what Radley and others have said on this page also speaks for me.)

In closing out my posts, I wish to call attention to yet another wrongful conviction, that of Brad Cooper, but also call attention to a wonderful woman who has stood up for him, someone who is beyond special, a true hero (or heroine) for our day, Lynne Blanchard, who has defended a man she does not even know simply because she knows it is the right thing to do.

Cooper was convicted of murder in the killing of his wife in Cary, North Carolina, two years ago. The police misconduct in the case was awful from the beginning, and it was clear that Brad was the target of their investigation and that nothing — NOTHING — would get in the way of a conviction.

When I first read about the case, I had no opinion as to guilt or innocence. It would not have been the first time a husband had murdered his wife, and wrongful convictions in murders, I admit, are fairly rare, although they do happen.

There were others who had doubts, however, and one of them was Lynne Blanchard, who also lives in that area. After the conviction, she set up a blog, Justice for Brad Cooper. She has set up a very impressive site that looks in detail at how police lied, manipulated evidence, and how the judge constantly did everything he could to block Brad’s attempt at a defense.

The evidence that Cooper is innocent is compelling and Lynne has done a very good job in bringing that evidence to the fore. I would urge you to take a look. She writes:

For starters, there were serious discovery violations. The State used National Security as a reason not to share information about how computer evidence was handled, how files were retrieved and the master file table itself. It was a clear Brady violation and Judge Gessner permitted it. They were able to hide behind national security because the computer was analyzed by the FBI and the state submitted an affidavit stating that sharing the data could jeopardize national security. This should never be allowed and it basically prevented the defense from having the ability to properly address the computer evidence.

Brad Cooper was convicted based on the computer evidence, a Google search. The Cary police did not follow proper protocols in the handling of this evidence. They left the computer on for 27 hours and during that time files were altered, passwords were changed, email archives were accessed and the computer was not hashed until several weeks later. Protocols are crucial because it preserves the evidence so that it can not be tampered with. As it turns out, the defense experts did indeed find evidence of tampering. They found several indications of tampering that could not be explained by the State witnesses. However, the judge would not allow the jury to hear from the defense witnesses. He was clearly biased throughout the trial and the defense team’s inability to address the computer evidence put them at an enormously unfair disadvantage. The alleged Google search was never verified by a 3rd party, even though the FBI told Cary police to do this. It was never proven that the search was conducted on Brad’s computer and in fact the defense experts found evidence that the files were planted.

There is more, much more, and it is worth reading. If Brad Cooper’s wrongful conviction is overturned, it will be because Lynne Blanchard cared enough to fight for someone she did not know because she knew it was the right thing to do.

Yes, I wish there were more Lynne Blanchards in the world, just as I wish for more Lenore Skenazys, more Radley Balkos, and more Eapen Thampys. There are never enough, but I am thankful that these people are here, and I am thankful that Radley has permitted me to put my few inadequate words on a blog that has done so much good for so many people who had nowhere else to turn and who had no one else to fight for them. These are the people who temper my hardened views and who remind me that it really is a good thing to keep fighting, even if it really does seem that the bad guys are winning.

My Husband Is (Not Really) a Sex Offender

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Hi Folks! It’s Lenore Skenazy from Free-Range Kids, where one of the issues we visit often is the corruption of the Sex Offender Registry, and how many of the people on it pose no risk to children, yet have their lives ruined. Recently I heard from a mom whose slow-witted 19-year-old son (still a high school sophomore) was convicted of possession of kiddie porn because he was looking at kids his same mental age — under 18. Then I heard from another mom whose son is on the list, too. When young men date women a little younger than them who are legally minors, this is legally considered statutory rape. If it’s consensual sex, I consider it a relationship. Here’s a letter I just got that makes me believe we have to revisit and reform the sex offender laws. It is the perfect companion piece to the post  by William Anderson, about how sex crimes get treated in the media and the courts. Any ideas about how to change all this — fast! — are most welcome. – L.

I know the registry is a joke. I live it first hand, as my husband is on it for a false accusation from his ex-wife falsely who manipulated her 13-year-old daughter into signing her name to an email that the mother wrote lying about him touching her. The reason the ex wanted retaliation was because he was given custody of the kids during a divorce because she is mentally unstable and a drunk. She showed him! He would not get custody anymore because of the accusations which she is now trying to do with her next oldest daughter in line…who told us what was going on and that she refuses to go along with it, because it’s not true. She now wants to live with us, but guess what? Se can’t, because her dad is on the registry and the courts will not allow it.

The older daughter that originally went along with the false accusations is now 18 and wants to see her dad. But she has told the next-oldest daughter that she can not come forward and tell the truth because she would “lose everything” she has. She doesn’t understand that she was a minor at the time and nothing would happen to her. Though it would possibly put her mother away for perjury.

My husband had a great job of 7 years and when they found out he was on the registry they canned him. He has not been able to find a job since. It’s been 8 months. No one will hire him because he is on the registry. He is not in the same category as a rapist, but is treated as if he is. The registry needs to be revamped.

I used to think the same as the general public: “Oh, he’s on the registry. He must be a child molester.” I no long believe that. There are many men and women on the registry that are harmless and should not be in the same category as a violent sex criminal.  - Stacie in Nebraska

 

Standing by her man.

Is Prosecutorial Misconduct a Product of a “Few Bad Apples,” or is the Barrel Mostly Rotten?

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Whenever I read articles dealing with prosecutorial misconduct, I invariably find a statement similar to this: “Most U.S. prosecutors are ethical and try to do the right thing, but there are a few who engage in unethical behavior.” In other words, every barrel has a few rotten apples, but most are just fine.

I used to believe that myself, but no longer. In fact, given what we know about human nature and the functions of boundaries, when prosecutors know that they face no consequences for their own behavior no matter how illegal or despicable it might be, we can expect stories like what recently was posted on this blog.

A bit of history is instructive here. For all of the talk of 1776 and the Constitution, the intellectuals, politicians, and voters of the United States essentially abandoned the constitutional republic that had existed since 1787 and embraced what this country is today: a Progressive democracy. One cannot understand modern law (and especially federal criminal law) and the role of bureaucrats and elected officials without understanding the tenets of Progressivism.

The U.S. Constitution and its Declaration of Independence were written on the premise that individuals are flawed characters that need any number of boundaries in order to keep baser instincts in check. Call it Original Sin or just the way things are, but deep down, most of us realize that we are capable of doing a lot of evil if no one or no thing stops us. Furthermore, there seems to be no limit to the human capacity of excusing or justifying the wrongness of our deeds.

Many of our original institutions were built upon this notion. On the “private” side, we have markets in which consumers can put even the most powerful companies out of business (i.e. General Motors) by refusing to purchase their products. Because government institutions are not consumer-driven entities (voters are not the same as consumers), they have to face different constraints, since governments are given a monopoly on deadly force. Because government agents can do an immense amount of harm to others while acting under the “color of law,” it is imperative that those agents be given consistent boundaries in order to keep them from using their legal positions to deny rights to others.

Progressives, on the other hand, believed that people were advancing through the evolutionary process, and that formal education and the “professionalizing” of various occupations would help create individuals who not only would be able to identify what was the “public good,” but also would carry out actions that would promote public welfare. Not only did they embrace legal institutions that would empower people who worked within government to impose their will whenever they believed it necessary to do so, but they also dismantled many of the boundaries that the law had created to keep government in check because, after all, educated and professional people did not need such constraints.

Living in an age where many, if not most, occupations require a license or some sort of formal training in order for people to engage in providing such services, we forget that occupational licensing and the establishment of credentials a “proof” of expertise and, more important, professional competence, really was a product of the Progressive Era. For example, before law schools became the powerful and influential and prestigious entities that they are today, at one time many lawyers did not even go to law school. Instead, people who wished to practice law would work as apprentices under practicing lawyers to learn their occupation.

Such a state of affairs would seem foreign to us, given that in our political economy, one cannot even cut hair without approval from a state-run agency.The bureaucratic hoops that exist for nearly every occupation might be formidable, but to many of us, they also are the New Normal. In fact, many people could not imagine a political economy in which many people from whom they purchase goods and services were NOT state licensed or approved by an official agency.

There are some among us who are True Believers in this system, those who believe that state-empowered agents, when given proper training and guidance, generally will do the right thing. Furthermore, because individuals outside of the legal system lack the expertise and good sense to be able to understand the law and how to apply it, society then must depend upon the “professionals” who will be well-trained and will have the proper educational and occupational credentials.

In other words, the people in the system really don’t need constraints because their professionalism and their training will ensure that they already know beforehand where the edge of the cliff might be. Such a system of selection, I have seen it argued, ensures that most of the people who become prosecutors are competent (they passed law school and the BAR exam) and ethical (they took at least one ethics class in law school), so nothing else is needed.

Obviously, we are dealing with a huge clash in how people regard human nature. On one side, we have the “good people” (prosecutors) going after the “bad people” (anyone arrested and charged with a crime). Because the “bad people” are so bad, we must give extraordinary tools to those who are performing the public service. Yes, it is true that every once in a while, a public servant becomes overzealous in a good cause and either stretches the law or takes some liberty with the truth.

Like many others, I would like to believe that the rash of prosecutorial misconduct that infects our courts today is just the product of overzealous people who sometimes get carried away going after the bad guys. However, I would be believing a lie if I were to say that is what is happening.

No, what is happening is much darker. First, it is true that most people in the system are guilty, and I would not dispute that point. Second, the actual number of truly innocent people is relatively small compared to the truly guilty, and I have no doubt that the “I am a hammer and you are a nail” syndrome takes effect in prosecutorial circles as it would elsewhere in a bureaucratic system.

But the cynicism I have witnessed in cases of actual innocence, from Janet Reno’s false child molestation prosecutions of 30 years ago to Mike Nifong’s cynical pursuit of rape charges against three Duke lacrosse players, charges he knew were false, to what I witnessed in Tonya Craft’s trial in 2010, tells me that something much deeper is happening. Don’t forget that Reno was rewarded by being named U.S. Attorney General (from where she touched off the biggest U.S. Government domestic massacre since Wounded Knee in 1890). Furthermore, when Nifong was spouting off in his interviews and when he was declaring he had no doubt of the players’ guilt, prosecutors across the country lined up in support of him. The forsook him only after he was caught red-handed in a lie during a December 15, 2006, hearing.

The Duke case was one in which the falsity of the charges was transparent from the beginning. We were expected to believe that three young men could beat a woman for thirty minutes, rape her, ejaculate on her, force her to have oral sex, and then not leave on speck of DNA? And U.S. prosecutors went along with that nonsense? Are we dealing with people who are so stupid that they cannot even understand the basic laws of time and space?

For that matter, was Janet Reno so utterly dense that she actually could believe that an adult could stick knives and even swords into the rectums of little children and not leave even a solitary mark? That adults in day care centers could be molesting children literally all day and no one who came into the place actually witnessed these terrible acts. And no one was missing the proverbial child who had been microwaved to death?

That a person who could believe this nonsense would be named the Attorney General of the United States tells us more about the state of American politicians than anything else. (Hillary Clinton claimed that Reno was good on “children’s issues.” Reno was so good that she managed to massacre a number of youngsters just a couple months after taking office.)

Furthermore, if Michael Nifong was a “rogue prosecutor,” then why did so many prosecutors speak on his behalf in the early days of the case? As Jonathan Turley noted in a column in the Washington Post, why in the world is someone like Nancy Grace, a former prosecutor who now is a legal commentator, become respected for her views on the law? He writes:

Consider the career of Nancy Grace. Before becoming a CNN and Court TV anchor, she was a notorious prosecutor in Alabama. In a blistering 2005 federal appeals opinion, Judge William H. Pryor Jr., a conservative former Alabama attorney general, found that Grace had “played fast and loose” with core ethical rules in a 1990 triple-murder case. Like Nifong, Grace was accused of not disclosing critical evidence (the existence of other suspects) as well as knowingly permitting a detective to testify falsely under oath. The Georgia Supreme Court also reprimanded her for withholding evidence and for making improper statements in a 1997 arson and murder case. The court overturned the conviction in that case and found that Grace’s behavior “demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness and was inexcusable.” She faced similar claims in other cases.

You might have expected Grace to suffer the same fate as Nifong. Instead, she has her own show on CNN, and the network celebrates her as “one of television’s most respected legal analysts.” On TV, she displays the same style she had in the courtroom. (In the Duke case, her presumed-guilty approach was evident early on, when she declared: “I’m so glad they didn’t miss a lacrosse game over a little thing like gang rape.”)

The Grace effect is not lost on aspiring young prosecutors who struggle to outdo one another as camera-ready, take-no-prisoners avengers of justice. Grace’s controversial career also shows how prosecutors can routinely push the envelope without fear of any professional consequences. Often this does not mean violating an ethics rule, but using legally valid charges toward unjust ends.

So, why do they do it? They do it because they can, and because no one tells them they can’t. Nancy Grace is exposed as a liar and a cheat, so she gets her own TV show and lots of wealth. If Grace had been honest, does anyone think she would be a celebrity?

Indeed, for most prosecutors, crime pays and it pays quite well. Robert Frost, in “Mending Wall,” writes of his neighbor who says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Good fences also would make for better police and prosecutors. Unfortunately, they don’t exist and the walls that are there constantly are torn down by people who claim we don’t need them at all.

What Passes for Idealism

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

“If we were highly idealistic, we might say rising living standards are not enough: A child’s background should have nothing to do with where the child ends up,” suggests David Schmidtz in Elements of Justice, p 126. It’s an idea he ultimately does not endorse.

And he shouldn’t. Every feasible method of achieving the goal is also perfectly repugnant. We could ensure that background and outcome were entirely unrelated by making everyone exactly equal, or by distributing wealth and social station by lottery, or by empowering some sort of vast wealth-confiscation bureau that was only permitted to act at random. But I can’t think of too many other ways to do it.

So why does it seem intuitive to call this an “idealistic” project? Why does it have the appeal, however momentary, that it does? Why, when we want to exclude certain forms of person-stunting, to do we so often reach for the ideal of equality of opportunity?

 

–Jason Kuznicki

“…the basest of all things is to be afraid”

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

-Eapen Thampy

I have had occasion at many times and in many contexts over the years to go back and read the immortal words of William Faulkner accepting his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950, who feels more relevant today than ever:

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work – a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

 

School Tells Deaf Boy, “Hunter,” to Change His Name — It’s Too Violent

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Folks — It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids where one of our objectives is to make society LESS STUPID — especially when it comes to wildly inflating threats to our children’s safety. If you wonder just how inflated those threats can get, here’s a letter I received yesterday. Read it and gnash:

A Deaf child named Hunter is not allowed to use his name sign because the sign for “Hunter” (a dictionary word) uses the thumb and first two fingers in a gun shape and suggests a shooting motion. Here’s the story.

These school officials have lost their ability to reason if they believe stripping a child of his name is necessary for safety under a weapons policy. Educators who are unable to use logic and critical thinking have no business educating.

I just sent a letter to the school board expressing my outrage. Everyone else can too at  http://www.gips.org/contact_us

Thanks, Rachel 

Lenore here again: The video link is beyond belief. The situation is beyond belief. But apparently the idea that a pre-schooler’s fingers are as dangerous as a REAL GUN is NOT beyond belief to some school bureaucrats.

 

In the matter of the United States of America v. One Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Eapen Thampy, Americans for Forfeiture Reform

Over at the Americans for Forfeiture Reform website, policy analyst Scott Meiner reports on the federal civil asset forfeiture complaint in the matter of United States of America v. One Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton. This is an unusual case as the government’s case nakedly asserts, with no supporting evidence, that Eric Prokopi, owner of this particular dinosaur skeleton illegally imported the skeleton from Mongolia (Prokopi has manifests indicating he imported the skeleton from Great Britain). Additionally, the US government’s legal argument is premised on the impossibility of anyone in Mongolia owning fossils as private property, a claim that stems from the Communist-era First Mongolian Constitution, which prohibits the ownership of private property. Prokopi’s motion to dismiss notes:

“However, the Soviet-era constitution and regulations have been superseded by other laws that  recognize private property and the wording of the later laws fall short of what is required to establish state ownership under applicable case law. While the Complaint relies upon a 1924 Soviet era constitution to establish state  ownership over fossils, it fails to mention that this constitution and its communist era successors were superseded in 1992 by another constitution that recognizes private property rights and which sees the State as a protector—not sole owner—of cultural objects.

In particular, the Government cites Article Three, Section One of the First Mongolian constitution, enacted in 1924 for the proposition that “all assets and resources…shall be under the possession of the people, thus making private property of them prohibited.” (Complaint ¶ 10.) On the other hand, Article Sixteen, Section Three of Mongolia’s post-communist 1992 constitution explicitly protects “[r]ight to fair acquisition, possession and inheritance of movable and immovable property.” 1992 Constitution Art. 16 (3), Tompa Decl.Ex. B. And while “mineral wealth” shall be the “property of the state” nothing is said of paleontological objects found on or in the soil.”

In case this isn’t all clear, the US Government thinks it can seize and forfeit your property, if it believes that said property has been illegally imported, without evidence, and can rely on defunct Communist laws of other nations to substantiate claims of illegal importation. As Meiner notes:

“One is left to wonder whether the prosecution believes in property rights-at all. The argument seems to be that the property is forfeitable to the government, at the want of the government, if the government says so.”

 

School Outlaws Cartwheels (via Free-Range Kids)

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Hi! Lenore here from Free-Range Kids. And yes, you read the headline right: A school in Australia has decided that kids can only do cartwheels (and handstands and headstands) if they are  under the direct supervision of a gymnastics teacher, on an appropriately safe surface.

God forbid kids should spontaneously get some exercise — and joy — in their lives. Just think of the lives ruined by cartwheels and you’d understand the school’s concern.

Oh wait… Actually, the principal is NOT concerned about lives being ruined. She’s concerned about following the RULES, as she interprets them, laid out by the Dept of Education over there. According to the Telegraph in Sydney:

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Communities said school playground rules were set at school level, based on Work Health and Safety considerations, the terrain and layout of the school and the level of supervision.

And speaking of terrain: The school in question was recently outfitted with new, soft ground cover to make the playground even more safe. But safe is never safe enough. You knew that. Here is  an ADORABLE RE-ENACTMENT OF THE BAN! 38 seconds of fun! – L.

Blueberry the Clown on Stranger Danger (Like…Beware of Clowns Who Make Stranger-Danger Videos?)

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Hi Folks — Lenore from Free-Range Kids with a video that just defies description: Two minutes of a blue-haired, baby-tawking clown who warns children all about stranger danger, right down to that nature-damning bit of advice, “Never go in the woods!” Seconds after kids take heed and turn tail, who should slip out from behind a tree but a dumpy, middle-aged woman in sunglasses? They’re everywhere, preying on your kids!

Hey, I agree that you should teach your kids never to get in a car with a stranger. But there has to be some less nauseating way to get that message across. I guess if your kids are not easily frightened by blue-haired clowns with “fun” lisps and zero acting skills (other than an amazing ability to creep viewers out), this is the Stranger Danger video for you! - L.

 

 

Two College Presidents Beg Parents to Hover Over Their Snowflakes…In a New Way

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Hi Folks — Lenore from Free-Range Kids. Just wanted to share this brilliant oped that’s running in tomorrow’s Washington Post. It’s by the president of Northwestern University, Morty Schapiro, and the president of Lewis & Clark College, Barry Glassner, who is author of the book (turned phrase) The Culture of Fear. They came up with a new idea: Instead of telling parents to quit helicoptering their hot-house kids (which they have seen does not work), they tell parents DO helicopter. DO step in when your child gets an unacceptable roommate, class or grade. But instead of immediately calling the college to complain,  call upon your child to BUCK UP.

…parents can help by gently pushing their children to embrace complexity and diversity and to stretch the limits of their comfort zones. Some of the most important learning we provide is uncomfortable learning — where students take classes in subjects they find intimidating, and live, study and play with classmates from backgrounds very different from their own.

At last, helicopter parents have something constructive to do: Support their kids in a time of difficulty, instead of striving to make the difficulty disappear!  The parents win because they are doing something that truly helps their kids. The students win because they have parents who believe in them enough to stop swooping in. And the college wins because their deans are no longer dealing with, “My son doesn’t like the dressing options at the salad bar. Plus he got an A-minus in Econ.”  Win. Win. Win. – L.

 

U.S. Attorneys and the Contrived Prosecution of Victoria Sprouse

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Although much of my writing on prosecutorial abuse centers deals with how state prosecutors time and again deliberately pursue false charges in so-called sex crimes, I actually began this part of my writing career as a critic of federal criminal law and how federal prosecutors enthusiastically find ways to turn legal actions into “crimes” that are accompanied with harsh prison sentences.

There is one connection, as federal law – specifically the various Mondale Acts (or CAPTA) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – has destroyed due process and emphasized the mere accusation without corroborating evidence being the standard for conviction and made it easy for state prosecutors to gain wrongful convictions of innocent people. Ever since the Progressive Era of a century ago, Progressives have claimed that federal intervention into state law is a solution, not a problem, and even now many people refuse to believe that federal criminal law has become an instrument of tyranny.

Yet, time and again I have found myself astounded at the ease by which federal prosecutors are able to target anyone they like and pursue criminal charges accompanied with the loaded term “fraud” to make these actions sound much worse than they really are. Teaming with an attorney friend of mine, Candice E. Jackson, the two of us wrote papers and articles demonstrating how U.S. attorneys recklessly cut a swath of human and economic destruction, and how the supposed government watchdogs, such as the mainstream media, have enthusiastically endorsed this tyranny. Even though dedicated attorneys such as Harvey Silverglate have written enlightening books such as Three Felonies a Day that clearly outline the abuses, the media tends to turn a deaf ear.

From Rudy Giuliani’s relentless pursuit of Michael Milken more than 20 years ago to the government’s imprisoning of Martha Stewart to its refusal to help free wrongfully-convicted federal prisoners in North Carolina, incarcerated because the lawyers of the U.S. Department of Justice did not know the law and federal judges looked the other way, government lawyers have engaged in reckless and brutal acts against innocent people. If I could boil all of my writings about federal prosecutorial abuse into a case against one person, that individual would be Victoria Sprouse.

I met Vickie Sprouse three years ago, just after she was convicted by a federal jury in Charlotte, North Carolina, for “mortgage fraud.” Her conviction was a huge story in North Carolina’s self-described Queen City. Television news reporters breathlessly declared that she had “made millions” from her fraud, and that her actions had helped to create the housing meltdown that inundated Charlotte. The Charlotte Observer, a newspaper with “proper liberal credentials” that prides itself on having a heart for justice, wrote an account that – save its lead paragraph in which the reporter noted that Sprouse burst into tears – that was little more than a rehash of the press release given by the U.S. DOJ on its website.

If one only watched the news and read the Observer, Sprouse’s guilt would be an open-and-shut thing. I followed her trial through the Observer’s website and knew there was no chance for her acquittal. I spoke to one of North Carolina’s best-known attorneys before the trial and he told me, “She is going to get screwed.” And she did.

Yet, the government’s case against Vickie Sprouse was a true house of cards, constructed upon a façade that was supported by judicial rulings that ensured that Sprouse would not have an adequate defense. The irony is that it would not have been difficult for a good attorney to have blasted apart the federal charges and there was enough exculpatory evidence available to have shot the case full of holes. However, federal prosecutor Matt Martens was able to rig both the prosecution and the defense by seizing Sprouse’s assets and forcing her to drop her experienced attorney and having to depend upon public defenders that had no intention of mounting a real defense.

I go through the details of the original conviction in this post I wrote three years ago for Lew Rockwell’s page. (I am grateful that Lew provided a forum by which I could write on such issues even though my harsh words have enraged state and federal prosecutors.) When the original article was published, Martens flew into a rage, claiming first that I was a fictitious character and that Sprouse had written the piece herself, and later saying that Sprouse had dictated every word to me. Neither statement was true and the prosecutor’s words demonstrated to me that Martens (like many other U.S. attorneys) was both an egomaniac and a fundamentally-dishonest character.

There is a postscript to the original conviction which further demonstrates the lengths of brutality that the government will go in order to target, convict, and incarcerate someone. While Sprouse was convicted for so-called mortgage fraud, the prosecution relied upon the malleable federal statute of Honest Services Fraud to make its case. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned much of that law, the legal basis for Sprouse’s conviction collapsed. (I argue in my LRC post that the government did not even prove Sprouse had committed any kind of fraud.)

Government lawyers were demanding Sprouse be incarcerated for 42 years, and she was held under house arrest pending her appeal. When a federal judge overturned her conviction, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins (the same Anne Tompkins who declared her office could not be “outcome-driven” when confronted with the fact it had illegally-charged dozens of people with statutory crimes that did not exist) and her underlings fashioned bankruptcy fraud charges in retaliation.

I have written a short post on the current set of charges, but that post was incomplete. The feds have used tricks like claiming Sprouse reported fraudulent numbers for rental properties when, in fact, they used gross revenue while Sprouse employed net income. The feds also claimed that a defense fund set up by Sprouse’s sister, a fund of which Sprouse had no personal access and proceeds went directly to pay attorneys, constituted an illegal secret “slush fund.”

One of the ironies in this sorry case has been the fact that Sprouse herself hardly fits the demonized profile that the feds have created and the media have dutifully regurtigated. She is a friendly, kind woman whose mannerisms and language are a throwback to the formal culture that existed in the South many years ago. In all my conversations with her, I never have heard her curse or even use inflammatory language. She seems genuinely confused as to why the feds would pursue her in a Javert-like manner, and I and others who know her all agree.

The sad thing about the personal destruction of Victoria Sprouse is not just in the lost income and opportunities that she and her family have experienced. No, it also has been the very ease by which federal authorities can use the alleged-watchdog media to create caricatures of people that do not fit their real character. Her persecution also is a reminder that any one of us can be targeted in the same manner, and no matter how much proof we produce to demonstrate that federal officials are wrong, the American news media will follow lock-step behind the bureaucrats, even when it is obvious the bureaucrats are not telling the truth.

On Carrying Water

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Adam Ozimek touches on a theme that’s close to my heart every four years:

[W]here in my post arguing for more immigration does [Brad DeLong] find evidence that I “carry water for a Republican Party that simply does not exist in modern America”?

This is very puzzling to me. Nowhere in my article do I praise Republicans or their policies….

Mr. Ozimek goes on to catalog several posts in which he has disagreed with Republicans and their policies. He insists that he’s not carrying water for them. I sympathize. I even believe him.

Demurral though will not solve his problem. Now, having written what he has, and having called attention to his criticism of Republicans, he will stand accused of carrying water for the other side, whether or not he wants to be.

My reading of him suggests that he’s primarily trying to talk about how economics works, for example in a post like this one — and not trying to boost one party or the other. Hard to believe, I know.

This is not to say that he doesn’t have a preference. I presume he does, and he’s entitled to have one, though if he’s published an endorsement, I’ve missed it. But I think any fair impression of Mr. Ozimek would at some point have to include noting the obvious difference between him and, say, Sean Hannity.

Nevertheless in an election season there is virtually no way to be nonpartisan while simultaneously writing anything at all about public policy. Someone has always figured you out, and they’re always intent on laying bare your secret partisan heart.

This would be amusing to me — if I could convince anyone of my sincerely nonpartisan alignment. And then maybe we could commiserate. I really am nonpartisan, in that I dislike both parties about equally. I think a change in political culture is needed — in both parties — before we can reliably start seeing the kind of government I prefer.

I do like the Democrats for some things, some of the time — mostly cultural and civil liberties issues. But I know perfectly well that their deeds aren’t what you might infer from their rhetoric. I like the Republicans for some things, some of the time — mostly that they often do speak up for free market economics, for keeping taxes low, and for cutting government spending. Though again, their deeds typically don’t match their rhetoric, either.

I meant that last paragraph to be balanced, but I know — I know — that someone is going to suss out some subtle bias in it, which will reveal to all the world what a partisan hack I really am. And they will post a comment about it in 3… 2…

Bumbo Baby Seat Recalled Because It Is Only 99.999475% Safe

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Hi Folks! Lenore Skenazy from Free-Range Kids, alerting parents to a horrible danger that could be lurking in your living room: The Bumbo Seat!

As I explain on my site: 

Bumbos are little seats that look even safer than normal seats because there’s a big, hmmm, I guess “bumbo” in front of the crotch, wedging the child in. (See below.) About 4 million — that’s 4,000,000 — have been sold. A few years ago, they were recalled because if you placed them on a table, sometimes they’d fall off. So a warning was added. Now they are being recalled for retooling — basically adding a safety belt — after reports of 2 baby skull fractures. (Two, that is, while the seat was on the ground.)

Now, look, nobody wants a baby’s skull fractured. (Do they?) But listen to this quote in USA Today:

“Too many children were injured while using this product,” says Consumer Federation of America product safety director Rachel Weintraub. “The fact that the manufacturer is changing the product by including restraints is incredibly significant.”

It is INDEED significant, in that it indicates that any manufacturer can be coerced into a product recall if someone insinuates that without it, the manufacturer DOESN’T CARE ABOUT BROKEN BABY SKULLS. The specter of a lawsuit, or boycott, or just a glaring TV talk show host is enough to make any company quake in its booties.

But when something is safe 99.999475% of the time, is that not SAFE ENOUGH? Apparently not to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Read (a little more) here. – L

 photo

Ye gads! Won’t someone save that poor endangered baby?

The Jail Dogs of Gwinnett County

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

This is a bit surprising, given where it’s taking place.

But credit where credit is due. This is a truly wonderful program.

(–Radley)

 

A Quick Observation

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Over just the last 10 days or so . . .

  • John Boehner referred to those of us who opposed the TARP bank (executive) bailouts as “knuckle-draggers.”
  • Video emerged of Paul Ryan enthusiastically supporting George W. Bush’s stimulus package.
  • The GOP’s main talking point has been to criticize President Obama for (allegedly) cutting money from an entitlement program.
  • When asked about his foreign policy credentials, Ryan responded that he has voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. Because foreign policy is all about invading other countries.

Remind me again why libertarians and Republicans are natural allies? Because I’m not seeing it.

 

–Radley