Overcriminalization

How Conspiracy Laws Let Prosecutors Abuse Their Power

Any meaningful criminal justice reform must include a reexamination of these draconian policies.

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@candoclemency/Twitter

Amy Povah was just 30 years old when she was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison for a drug crime she didn't even commit herself. The crime—manufacturing a large amount of ecstasy in both the United States and Germany—was committed by her then-husband, Sandy Pofahl. Her lengthy prison sentence was based on the entire amount of ecstasy Pofahl manufactured, even though five co-defendants provided affidavits stating Amy was not involved in his drug trade.

Because Pofahl cooperated with the U.S. prosecution by providing the government with information about other drug dealers, he walked away with just three years probation in the U.S. after serving four years in a German prison. Povah, meanwhile, refused to cooperate with the federal investigation into her husband's crime and, as a result, was indicted for conspiracy. The charges came with a mandatory 20-year to life sentence in federal prison. She was convicted in 1991. 

Charlie Strauss, an assistant U.S. attorney from Waco, Texas who had initially questioned Povah, told Glamour magazine in 1999, "Had she come to the table at that time—cooperated, been truthful, honest and candid—I would say there's a probability she wouldn't have been prosecuted."

Povah's predicament is far from rare. There are thousands of others like her in America, people who have received outsized sentences despite very minimal connections to the crimes of others thanks to our country's conspiracy statutes. These laws give broad discretion to prosecutors to charge just about anyone who "conspired to commit" a crime.

What "conspired" means, however, is largely up to interpretation, and the definition can be stretched to absurd lengths at the whim of the prosecution. It often is.

Worse, if a person is convicted of conspiracy, he or she is subject to the same sentence required for the actual crime itself. This allows for individuals to be convicted as high-level drug traffickers even if they have never physically touched any drugs in their lives.

Using conspiracy statutes, the government doesn't have to prove someone ever sold, trafficked, or even possessed drugs in order to sentence them to prison as if they had. It's a recipe for extremely harsh sentencing—sentencing that in some cases, like Povah's, can be substantially longer than the punishments doled out to those who actually committed the crimes. As Molly Gill from Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) puts it, "Being charged with a conspiracy means people are punished for drugs they didn't sell, guns they didn't possess or use, and bad behavior they may have had nothing to do with. Conspiracy makes small players look like big fish, and get mandatory minimum sentences to match. Judges know the difference but can't do anything about it, unless Congress changes sentencing laws."

Luckily for Povah, her case garnered a lot of media attention, and her sentence was eventually commuted by President Bill Clinton in 2000. At the time of her release, she had served over nine years in prison. Shortly after her release, she founded the nonprofit CAN-DO organization, which brings attention to other individuals who are serving harsh prison sentences. "First-time offenders used to get probation in a drug case," says Povah. "Now we have thousands of first time offenders serving 15 years to life, and almost everyone for conspiracy. … Like everyone, I have survivors guilt, which is why I do what I do."

Federal conspiracy statutes can be traced back to the Reagan administration, when laws like the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which expanded upon the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, were enacted. The 1986 law created a number of mandatory minimum prison sentences for various drug crimes, and it required individuals to actually be caught with a certain amount of drugs to be sentenced to the corresponding mandatory minimum prison terms. When it was amended in 1988, conspiracy was added.

"After conspiracy was added," Julie Stewart, President of FAMM, wrote in an email, "you could be held liable for all the drugs in the group (conspiracy) even if your part was exceedingly small and you had no idea of the total amount of drugs involved. This was an easy way to drive up drug quantity for each player and, in turn, subject them to long mandatory minimum prison sentences."

In the 1994 ruling of United States v. Shabani, the United States Supreme Court upheld the application of the law by unanimously deciding "conspiring to commit a narcotics crime can be a violation of Federal law even if the conspiracy is never carried out."

Alfred Anaya is another individual needlessly caught up in the justice system as a result of these laws. Anaya owned a small car stereo installation business in California, where he offered his clients a number of different services, including the installation of secret compartments in cars. He had no knowledge of what his customers were using the compartments for, and he thought that was enough to cover him from any accusations of wrongdoing.

But when one of Anaya's customers became the subject of a Drug Enforcement Agency investigation and was found with drugs, Anaya was wrangled in as a co-conspirator in a multi-state drug trafficking operation. Eventually he was convicted and sentenced to 292 months in federal prison, while the two men at the top of the trafficking organization received sentences half as long, according to a profile of Anaya that ran in Wired.

"The fact that I've been criminally charged in federal court for something I did not do has been devastating to me, and my two young sons, and family," Anaya wrote in an email. "I wonder what the outcome would have been if I could have been afforded a competent defense team."

Because he's served a little over four of his 24 years in prison, he doesn't meet the requirements laid out for Obama's clemency initiative, which requires those who apply to have served at least 10 years of their sentences, among other factors.

It's difficult to ascertain the exact number of individuals in federal prison for conspiracy crimes, since most readily available statistics lump all drug offenders together. We do at least know that the majority of those whose sentences were commuted by President Obama were convicted of conspiracy crimes. 

"I would hazard to guess that conspiracy is charged almost any time there is more than one person involved in a drug crime, which is usually," says Gill. "I would also hazard to guess that DOJ charges conspiracy as a way to run up the drug quantity to get longer sentences."

As long as these conspiracy laws on the books, individuals like Povah and Anaya will continue to be needlessly swept up into the criminal justice system on little more than the whim of the government. Conspiracy laws are basically everything wrong with the war on drugs and overzealous prosecution packaged into one, and meaningful criminal justice reform cannot possibly come without reexamining these draconian policies nationwide.

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  1. Good article.

    Conspiracy laws are basically everything wrong with the war on drugs and overzealous prosecution packaged into one, and meaningful criminal justice reform cannot possibly come without reexamining these draconian policies nationwide.

    Very true.

    1. Yes, this is true. Drug conspiracy cases are particularly rife with false incrimination against supposed co-conspirators. A higher percentage of people convicted of this crime are innocent than of the vast majority of crimes. Perhaps this is reason to revisit Supreme Court rulings like Bourjaily v. United States 483 U.S. 171 (1987), which made such convictions easier.

      Thanks to Reason for this timely article.

    2. So, would (cooperate)?

  2. However, I am outraged by the apparent conspiracy to not include alt text with the photo.

    1. I’m pretty sure the hat is committing a crime and the two guys are guilty of not knocking the woman out from underneath it.

  3. “Had she come to the table at that time?cooperated, been truthful, honest and candid?I would say there’s a probability she wouldn’t have been prosecuted.”

    What kind of fucked up jury voted to convict her?

    1. Or she could have just run for President.

    2. Wasn’t, at the time, the crime effectively ‘defending her husband’?

    3. What kind of fucked up jury voted to convict her?

      This kind..

    4. Juries would convict Mother Teresa with the right kind of prodding from the prosecutor. They are hand-picked morons.

      1. Think Strawberry Shortcake!

    5. That’s my take – the fuck is wrong with the idiots on the jury votig to convict someone like her or Anaya?

  4. Povah, meanwhile, refused to cooperate with the federal investigation into her husband’s crime and, as a result, was indicted for conspiracy.

    So… is spousal privilege no longer a thing?

      1. Maybe I got the terminology wrong, IANAL, but I thought wives couldn’t be compelled to cooperate with an investigation into their husband’s wrong doings. I know they can’t be forced to testify.

        1. “wives”… “husbands”… how quaint!

          I assume your copy of the BOR goes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6… too right?

    1. That just means they can’t hold her in contempt. Spousal privilege doesn’t mean you can’t be prosecuted for committing a crime with your spouse. Both reason and Glamour play pretty fast and lose with the facts of that case. The fact that the other conspirators say she wasn’t involved is hardly dispositive. Maybe the jury convicted her without evidence and over the denial of the other conspirators but I doubt it. They likely had evidence that showed she knew exactly what her husband was doing and participated in his business.

      Again, the problem here is the law that she was guilty of violating not that she was innocent of violating that law.

      1. So give her more than the actually perps?

        Yeah. Justice!

        1. If she was involved in the conspiracy, she was a perp. Again, your problem lies with the drug laws and the prosecutor’s decision to give good deals to the other people involved not with the conspiracy laws.

      2. The husband shouldn’t have been prosecuted anyway since the drugs shouldn’t be illegal.

        1. Yes. And that is the problem with the case.

    2. Neither the sexual nor the legal kind, apparently.

  5. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. Im using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I do,

    —————– http://www.richi8.com

  6. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. Im using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I do,

    —————– http://www.richi8.com

    1. Why should I take a pay cut?

  7. In Arizona, conspiracy to commit murder requires to act in futherance. So if a guy says, “Hey, lets go kill Tony.” Guy #2 says, “OK” Bam class 2 felony. Get less time molesting children. This banana republic is insane.

  8. There is nothing wrong with punishing people for conspiracy the same way you charge them for the act. If I hire a hit man to murder my wife and go to prison for it, I could truthfully say “I am being punished for a murder I did not commit”. I would however deserve whatever I got and be just as morally culpable for the act as the person I paid to pull the trigger.

    Is there a problem with current conspiracy laws? Maybe. The cases given seem to be more of a problem with sentencing and the underlying drug laws than they are with conspiracy. The case of the guy who put secret compartments seems outrageous because the drug laws or outrageous. Imagine instead if he were building secret compartments to assist his customers in committing murder or theft or a real crime? Then the case becomes much less outrageous.

    1. What if he was building secret compartments in his customer’s cars because they paid him to and he didn’t ask or care what they were for?

      1. In this case the guy knew what they were for. If you read the linked article, he found the huge piles of money when he was fixing the car and they told him what the compartment was being used for and he agreed to fix it none the less.

        Take the issue of the justice of the drug laws out of it. Suppose that instead of finding cash in the compartment, he had found a human hand and the owner told him “yeah, I use this to hide the body parts of the children I murder” and the guy had agreed to fix the compartment anyway. Would his conviction for conspiracy be so outrageous then? Maybe because it seems like his crime is more aiding and abetting than conspiracy. But he would clearly be guilty of one or the other.

        I understand why you find the guy being in jail unjust. I find it unjust as well. But you should find it unjust because the drug laws are unjust not because it is wrong to punish someone who conspires with or aides someone else in the commission of a crime.

        1. Once again, there is a huge difference between finding a pile of cash and finding a human hand. A human hand (barring some highly unlikely voluntary self-mutilation) indicates someone’s rights have been violated. There are all sorts of valid reasons for hiding a chunk of cash.

          1. In some sense there is a difference but for the purpose of the issue there is not. In both cases you find evidence of the person committing a crime and in both cases the owner admits that he is using the compartment to commit a crime. I only use the hand as an example to take the injustice of the drug war out of the discussion.

            You guys get so fixated on your objection to the drug laws, it causes you to think anything associated with criminal law must be wrong. No. Drug laws are wrong. Conspiracy laws are just fine.

            1. How is finding a pile of cash evidence of a crime? Maybe the car belongs to a stripper that is driving home from a hard day at work.

              1. How is finding a pile of cash evidence of a crime?

                When the owner tells you that he got it from drug dealing like they did in the case we are talking about.

                1. I guess you missed this part:

                  “He had no knowledge of what his customers were using the compartments for, and he thought that was enough to cover him from any accusations of wrongdoing.”

                  1. I guess you didn’t read the article.

                    Esteban Magallon Maldanado and Cesar Bonilla Montiel scrambled to haul armfuls of money from the F-150 to the Ridgeline’s trunk. They wanted to stay in Anaya’s good graces, because men with his skills are extremely valuable in the narcotics trade. To distribute product from wholesalers to retailers, drug-trafficking organizations need vehicles equipped with well-disguised traps so that loads aren’t routinely seized while in transit. The word in the California underworld was that no one built more elegant traps than Anaya, a perfectionist who made sure his hiding spots were invisible to even the most expert eyes. Maldanado and Montiel, key players in a smuggling ring that was sending large quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine to the Midwest, were eager to use his services again.

                    He claims he didn’t know but the circumstances show that he had to have known and the jury concluded that he was lying when he said he did. Just because claims “I didn’t know” doesn’t mean he is telling the truth or that a jury can choose not to believe him.

                    You choose to believe him but the jury didn’t. So this case does not stand for the proposition that you don’t have to know a crime is being committed. You still have to know. It is just that when you claim not to know, you better hope the jury believes you.

                2. When the owner tells you that he got it from drug dealing like they did in the case we are talking about.

                  Yeah, because that’s of course what criminals do: they go to their car mechanics and tell them about the felonies they are going to commit! Get real and start living in the real world. When someone tells you for no good reason that are going to commit a crime, almost always they are just joking, even if you can’t quite tell.

                  The principles of justice you advocate amount to turning the entire population into government police informers, and not just informers, but informers that are legally forced to get their accusations of planned illegal activity right. That is utterly ludicrous, and it is completely incompatible with living in a free country. Furthermore, such a conception of justice has nothing to do with libertarianism.

                  1. “See Something, Say Something. Or else!

                    Why does that sound so familiar?

                    I admit that I’m just kind of poking John for fun, but ultimately if the drugs were legal who would really give a shit about building legal storage compartments into cars? No one. I think John might agree with that.

                    1. “See Something, Say Something. Or else!”

                      I don’t think that’s what is at play here. Per the article he learned what he was contributing to and made the decision to continue to do so.
                      If he had said, no I’m done, I don’t want to be a part of this, then perhaps he wouldn’t be in prison.

                      Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t convict him on anything. But it doesn’t seem like he was punished for not alerting the authorities, but rather continuing with full knowledge of the crime he was enabling. Probably some darn good money to be made.

                    2. What I find interesting is how much more forgiving the Hit & Republicans are towards John”s bullshit then Tony’s.

                    3. Tony is a filthy traitor faggot cookie. John is a good American, and near as I can tell a rational, decent person.

                  2. Have you met any drug dealers? Just like a car salesman at a party who brags about how many cars hey sold this month, these guys are proud of their accomplishments and at 3 am after a few drinks they are happy to tell you all about them.

        2. Take the issue of the justice of the drug laws out of it. Suppose that instead of finding cash in the compartment, he had found a human hand and the owner told him

          In our system of justice, we don’t try to make sure that laws are written so that guilty parties are found guilty at any cost, but rather that most people who are innocent will not be at risk from the law. So, the examples of the form “consider this horrible case where someone might go free” are the wrong examples. You should be looking at examples “consider this innocent case where someone might get convicted”.

          Your view of conspiracy amounts to the notion that merely knowing of someone’s intended crime and having any kind of economic connection to them can subject them to massive criminal penalties. That would turn most of the population into criminal informants.

          And even in your obscene example, it’s more likely that this is a doctor with a bad sense of humor than a mass murderer.

          1. Your view of conspiracy amounts to the notion that merely knowing of someone’s intended crime and having any kind of economic connection to them can subject them to massive criminal penalties. That would turn most of the population into criminal informants.

            My view of conspiracy is in line with pretty much every judge who has ruled on it over the last 400 years or so. If I know you are committing a crime and I assist you in committing it, I am part of the conspiracy. Its really that simple. I have to know about the crime and intend to further it. So if I sell you a car and you go out and commit a crime with it, I am not a conspirator. But if you come to me and say “hey, I am running a criminal operation and I need fast cars, if I send you the cars I use can you retune them to them?” and I say yes, I am part of the conspiracy.

            1. 400 years huh? Which other countries laws are you looking at here?

              1. England. Conspiracy is a common law crime. Its as old as our justice system. This is not some new thing that was passed as part of the Patriot Act or by BUSH!!

                1. Interesting. I didn’t know English common law applied to the United States.

                  1. He didn’t say it does.

                2. England. Conspiracy is a common law crime. Its as old as our justice system. This is not some new thing that was passed as part of the Patriot Act or by BUSH!!

                  You’d be surprised how many things that are “as old as our justice system” are bad ideas.

                  Now, I get it: you are a conservative, so you worship everything that’s old and traditional. But you are not going to convince libertarians with that kind of bullshit.

            2. My view of conspiracy is in line with pretty much every judge who has ruled on it over the last 400 years or so. If I know you are committing a crime and I assist you in committing it, I am part of the conspiracy.

              Now you are hiding behind weasel words. In fact, the notion of “conspiracy” that we are talking about here does not necessarily involve any crime actually being committed, and “assistance” may amount simply to staying married to someone. And whether that has been true “for the last 400 years or so” is irrelevant: it is a dangerous principle and incompatible with liberty.

            3. But if you come to me and say “hey, I am running a criminal operation and I need fast cars, if I send you the cars I use can you retune them to them?” and I say yes, I am part of the conspiracy.

              “Hey, why do you need these cars tuned like that?” “Obviously, because I’m a big time drug lord! Now mind your own business and do what I’m paying you for.”

              “(To her pharmacist husband:) Honey, how did you pay for this new car?” “Sweetie pie, drug dealing is very lucractive.”

              Almost always, such remarks are innocent and merely sarcastic. But occasionally, the sarcasm may cover up truth. Evidently, you think that everybody in this society ought to have a legal obligation, under severe penalties of law, to weigh every remark for its legal implications, plausibility, and truth; people should refuse to do business with, or stay married to, people where there might even be a hint of a possibility of criminality. Personally, I don’t want to live in such a society. And such a society is certainly in no way libertarian.

              1. R.E., I should tell you if you didn’t already know; John is a Trump supporter. I think we both know that means he isn’t a conservative or a libertarian, but rather a useful idiot.

                After this election perhaps he’ll settle down and remember his principles if indeed he has any viewpoints of his own.

                1. BYODB,

                  If you think this anything to do with Trump or I am doing anything other than trying to explain the law and why it is how it is to you people, you are a moron.

                  1. John, I’m sorry, but the discussion seems to have gone over your head. Let me explain. We don’t need you to explain either what the law is or why it is what it is. What we are discussing here is whether it is good that it is the way it is.

              2. This is what juries are for.

              3. John;s original point is right though. Get rid of the underlying stupid laws that shouldn’t exist i the first place and the rest of it gets a whole lot simpler to deal with. I also agree with him that a lot of you here want no form of legal system or law enforcement of any kind.

    2. There is a huge difference between hiring a hitman to kill someone and being the hitman’s roommate. One has a chain of causation that leads to a violation of rights, and the other does not.

      1. Sure there is. But you are not guilty of conspiracy for being his roommate. You are guilty of conspiracy when you actively participate in his business. No one gets convicted for being a room mate, despite what reason claims. You get convicted on evidence that you were an active part of the operation.

        1. Did you miss this part?:

          “Her lengthy prison sentence was based on the entire amount of ecstasy Pofahl manufactured, even though five co-defendants provided affidavits stating Amy was not involved in his drug trade.”

          She was not an active part of the operation.

          1. The conviction was based on the fact that the guy made so much meth in that apartment the jury did not believe that there is any way she did not know about it and participate in it. That is not an unreasonable conclusion that the jury made. You just don’t like it because you don’t like the drug laws. If it involved a crime that you think should be a crime, you wouldn’t find it so unreasonable.

            1. “”Her lengthy prison sentence was based on the entire amount of ecstasy Pofahl manufactured…”

              Minor correction there, but yeah if it were meth it would have been virtually impossible not to have known. I have no idea how ‘obvious’ Ecstasy production is, and I’d wager neither do you.

              That being said, without evidence that she did know how could she be prosecuted when there is at least some type of evidence, admittedly from criminals, that she was not involved? Additionally, why was her sentence longer than the person who actually did the drug production and on top of it if he was willing to sell out others to reduce his own sentence why not rat her out too?

              1. I don’t think it matters if you actually get your hands dirty. Suppose I finance and run the operation but never actually touch any meth. I think I am more culpable than some guy I pay a few hundred dollars to mix it up. He is just the worker bee. I am the guy behind the whole thing.

                I am not saying she was that. i don’t know. My point is that she could have been just as or more responsible than the guys who were actually doing the grunt work.

                Yeah, I missed that. They must have had evidence that she was involved that caused the jury to not believe the other people when they said she wasn’t. Maybe the jury was wrong about that. I don’t know. But if they were, the problem is the jury got it wrong not that she is the victim of some evil conspiracy statute.

                1. I don’t think it matters if you actually get your hands dirty. Suppose I finance and run the operation but never actually touch any meth. I think I am more culpable than some guy I pay a few hundred dollars to mix it up. He is just the worker bee. I am the guy behind the whole thing.

                  And you may well be culpable. That doesn’t mean the legal system should automatically be able to convince you. Even for the limited set of circumstances where conspiracy should even be chargeable, the bar for a criminal conviction should be that beyond a reasonable doubt you didn’t just provide the money, but did so with full knowledge and intent of producing meth, and without any coercion. A mere inference about your knowledge and intent based on circumstances should not be enough.

                  1. ^convince^convict

              2. Minor correction there, but yeah if it were meth it would have been virtually impossible not to have known. I have no idea how ‘obvious’ Ecstasy production is, and I’d wager neither do you.

                I do know and the difference is moot. Ecstasy is a methamphetamine derivative. Unless the house is in the multiple kitchen/several thousand square foot range, you aren’t *manufacturing* either drug in your kitchen without the whole house knowing about it. And, even if he/they were just cutting, pressing the pills, and bagging… transnationally with any reasonable amount strongly suggests that, again, it was hardly *secret* to anyone in the house. Explicit knowledge of *what* was being produced on the other hand…

                1. Thanks Mad, good to know.

              3. You are basing your argument on what the article stated, which I suspect is orders of magnitude less detail than what the jury heard.

                Kinda silly to focus on one sentence.

                Not saying justice was served here, but the argument is classic peanut-gallery crap.

              4. Conspiracy charges are one of the tools prosecutors use to stack up potential punishment and give them more leverage to seek “cooperation” and plea bargains. If she really was only marginally involved, she couldn’t roll over on anyone even if she wanted to. If the prosecutor didn’t believe her protestations of innocence (of if he was more interested in padding his conviction numbers than justice), she could get hammered harder precisely because of her lack of involvement.

            2. Even if she knew about it, there is no libertarian obligation to inform the police if you know a crime is being committed. Fuck that with a capital F. That is involuntary servitude.

            3. So, if your Mommy’s a Commie, you gotta turn her in?

              1. Yep. Faggot cookies gotta go.

        2. An active part of the operation like…not testifying against your husband?

        3. John, come on. They’re piling on. The sentences relative to the crime are absurd. Anaya’s case is even more so. Everyone knows it’s bull shit and yet they still do it ‘because’ hey we can do it!

          Even if he knew, how the heck does it end up he does more time than the people who actually commit the crimes? In what civil society claiming to be just would this even remotely be considered acceptable? Man, do you not see what kind of a loooonnnng leash that gives prosecutors? Let’s get real John. The war on drugs has made American justice loopy.

          I know one thing, if I were a juror in these cases, I’d be snickering to the point they’d kick me out.

          It’s just another way of railroading people.

          1. I agree Rufus. But that is a problem with sentencing not with conspiracy laws. You guys and reason are mad about the wrong thing. The problem with these cases is not conspiracy. The problem is the drug laws and the sentences that go with them.

            Notice, reason can’t find a single case of a prosecutor abusing the conspiracy laws that doesn’t involve drugs. That is because the injustice here is the drug laws and reason is confusing the issue.

            1. Fair enough.

            2. I more or less agree but I can be outraged at more than one thing at a time.

            3. But that is a problem with sentencing not with conspiracy laws.

              You seem to view this as a black and white issue: conspiracy laws, good or bad.

              But the problem is with conspiracy laws: they are far too widely applicable and too general. That is, if conspiracy laws were limited to capital cases and massive ($1b+) financial cases, and if they required physical evidence of knowledge and intent, most of these cases wouldn’t even get off the ground. Furthermore, conspiracy laws should make a big distinction between crimes that were actually carried out and ones that were only planned.

              So, the problem is neither that drug laws exist, nor that conspiracy laws exist, but the fact that both kinds of laws encompass behaviors that they shouldn’t reasonably encompass.

            4. They wouldn’t have been able to indict her without conspiracy laws. So the problem isn’t just with sentencing.

    3. There is nothing wrong with punishing people for conspiracy the same way you charge them for the act. If I hire a hit man to murder my wife and go to prison for it, I could truthfully say “I am being punished for a murder I did not commit”. I would however deserve whatever I got and be just as morally culpable for the act as the person I paid to pull the trigger.

      Unless a murder has actually been committed, there is no murder for you to be guilty of, either directly or conspiratorially.

      Furthermore, the reason for limiting prosecution and punishment of conspiracies to commit crimes or crimes that haven’t been committed yet is not because we somehow like the people guilty of such deeds, it’s that their prosecution is risky and invites massive prosecutorial abuse, problems that we seem to have a hard time dealing with.

      1. nless a murder has actually been committed, there is no murder for you to be guilty of, either directly or conspiratorially.

        No. You are involved in a conspiracy the moment you stop talking about it and take active steps to make it happen. If the cops bust the hit man on the way to kill my wife or he is a bad shot, we are both still guilty of conspiracy. And we should be guilty. The fact that my wife got lucky and didn’t die doesn’t make our actions any less criminal.

        And conspiracy was a crime at the common law. Its been prosecuted for hundreds of years. It never has been and should not be limited to only cases where the conspiracy is successful.

        1. No. You are involved in a conspiracy the moment you stop talking about it and take active steps to make it happen.

          You said “I am being punished for a murder I did not commit.” as if every conspiracy to commit murder involved an actual murder. I’m pointing out that many conspiracies involve no actual murder or other crime beyond the conspiracy itself.

          And conspiracy was a crime at the common law. Its been prosecuted for hundreds of years.

          And because of that, any law labeled a “conspiracy law” should be off limits for discussion for perpetuity? Or what?

          It never has been and should not be limited to only cases where the conspiracy is successful.

          Did I say it should be? I took exception with your statement that “there is nothing wrong with punishing people for conspiracy the same way you charge them for the act”. In fact, there is a lot wrong with that. Conspiracies are different from the actual crime, and unsuccessful conspiracies are different from successful ones, and the law should reflect that; punishing people “the same way” for these different situations makes no sense.

  9. It’s worth noting that the brother of one of the San Berdoo shooters, his wife, and her sister were all arrested yesterday on some seriously trumped up conspiracy charges.

    1. On social media, he published a desperate post admitting he was involved in terrorist plots and might go to prison for fraud, court records show.

      Holy Fuck!

      What Fucking encryption did he use to post it? Was he working alone or as part of a larger organization?

      Holy fucking christ!

      1. What Fucking encryption did he use to post it?

        ROT13

    2. “Federal prosecutors said they determined Marquez was paid $200 a month for marrying Chernykh, who took part in the wedding only to gain legal status in the U.S. FBI agents interrogated Chernykh as part of the inquiry into the terror attack, and prosecutors say she lied during those interviews by pretending that she lived with Marquez when she actually resided in Ontario.”

      They’re basically being accused, and are probably guilty of, ‘staging a marriage’ for citizenship.

      I’m sure Obama will step in and argue for this poor woman to be a Citizen because reasons! After all, he’s consistently for things until he isn’t for it anymore maybe except for that time when he was against it perhaps unless he was.

      1. They’re basically being accused, and are probably guilty of, ‘staging a marriage’ for citizenship.

        Remember when we fixed all those problems with traditional marriage? Libertarian moment!

        1. Yeah, I guess it’s all well and good to make people citizens by executive fiat but boy howdy if you try to do it yourself look out boy.

          I’m not sure what the terrorism slant is on that story, I either missed it or it didn’t say. Either way, a few $200 payments seems criminal only in that you could have charged a lot more for American citizenship; the American government thinks that only they should be allowed to charge cash money for it.

    3. The FBI can’t be trusted to foil plots it didn’t conspire to create, whines about being unable to spy on fellow citizens, and when they do nail some scalps to the wall, it’s over bullshit like this. Thanks, I guess.

    4. At least we know conspiracy laws were not abused in this situation.

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  11. The drug war needs its Nuremberg trial. Hang the bastards.

      1. Nixon is dead? No way. I just saw him speaking very animatedly as a talking head on Futurama.

    1. Let’s start with the progtards. Is it a good time to discuss my plan to euthanize the progtards?

  12. Is it even possible to be a good person and be a prosecutor at the same time?

    1. “Is it even possible to be a good person and be a prosecutor at the same time?”

      The answer would seem to be ‘no’ to both questions, but I imagine we don’t hear about the one or two good ones in the news. It’s not very attractive click bait.

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  14. This is a small part of a much larger problem in our judicial system that I believe does not get enough publicity. It is no longer enough to convict persons for their crimes, we have had to add a laundry list of other charges, and many are arguably redundant. It is not enough to convict a person of murder using a firearm, we have to add charges of possession, wielding, illegally discharging, noise pollution, hate crime, terroristic threats, looking at your victim the wrong way, et cetera, et cetera. And of course each individual charge has it’s own mandatory minimum. All that is accomplished is more money for the Prison Industrial Complex, and unduly long sentences that lessens the chances of rehabilitation.

  15. If there was consistency in the application of this age old legal principle these conspiracy laws could be turned around and used against these prosecutors, cops and other government agents for the crimes they enable though their actions. But I realize there is no consistency nor fair application of the law.

    1. Therefore the law is not only as ass but un Constitutional

  16. The greatest threat to individual liberty is Obama’s centralized socialist state and the GOP elite, who have refused to impeach Obama for his numerous and well documented crimes against the US Constitution.

  17. It’s not just drug crimes that can be charged under conspiracy laws. In fact, almost every public official in the United States would be convicted if charged with conspiracy to violate rights under color of law (18 USC 241)!

    Almost every police officer, prosecutor, judge and mayor is aware of something, has done something or has looked the other way on something illegal — that’s enough for a conviction as a conspirator or accomplice.

    Isn’t it funny how seldom those people charge themselves with the crimes they actually have committed?

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