Supreme Court

America 'Not the World's Lawgiver,' Justice Thomas Protests in 'Dracula' Sex-Trafficking Case

Can U.S. courts compel non-citizens to pay restitution to other non-citizens for crimes that took place abroad? Apparently so.

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Damion Baston

America is "not the world's lawgiver" and can't punish non-citizens for activity committed abroad, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas opined Monday. Thomas was the only Justice who wanted to consider an appeal from a Jamaican man convicted in U.S. federal court of sex trafficking and ordered to pay restitution to an Australian woman for crimes that occurred in Australia.

The man, Damion Baston, was found guilty in 2014 of multiple federal counts of sex trafficking and money laundering. The case earned a lot of attention due to Baton's unusual persona: gold-plated fangs, eerie contact lenses, and a nickname—"Drac"—to match. Baston was accused of using intimidation and physical and psychological abuse to coerce women into prostitution in Florida and overseas, including in Australia and United Arab emirates, and ultimately sentenced to serve 27 years in federal prison and pay restitution totaling around $99,000 to three of the victims. He appealed.

In March 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld the lower court's ruling in part. But it found that "the district court erred when it refused to award restitution to a victim of Baston's sex trafficking in Australia" because the activity too place outside the U.S. Thus, Baston was ordered by the 11th Circuit to pay $400,000 to the Australian woman, Katie Lang, who had accused Baston of forcing her into prostitution in her home country after the pair became romantically involved.

Baston then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the appeal, lawyers for Baston—a Jamaican national who had been deported from the U.S. once before and was traveling under a stolen identity—argued that American courts cannot compel non-citizens to pay restitution to other non-citizens for activity that occurred outside U.S. boundaries.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear Baston's appeal. Justice Thomas' was the sole dissenter who thought the Court should take the case. "I am confident," wrote Thomas, that "whatever the correct interpretation of the foreign commerce power may be, it does not confer upon Congress a virtually plenary power over global economic activity."

While Baston might not be a "sympathetic" figure, the "principle involved" in his case is "fundamental," and thus worthy of reconsideration, wrote Thomas. "Taken to the limits of its logic, the consequences of the Court of Appeals' reasoning are startling. The Foreign Commerce Clause would permit Congress to regulate any economic activity anywhere in the world, so long as Congress had a rational basis to conclude that the activity has a substantial effect on commerce between this Nation and any other. Congress would be able not only to criminalize prostitution in Australia, but also to regulate working conditions in factories in China, pollution from powerplants in India, or agricultural methods on farms in France."

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  1. alt-text:

    McDonald’s early character development prototype: The Grapist

    1. I figured it was Barney 2.0.

    2. Is he purple in front of yellow walls or regular african-american, black fleshtone in front of white ones?

      1. He bought his camera because it had “the most megapixels.”

      2. Are his fangs white and gold or blue and black?

    3. “Still from screen-tests of ‘Blade’ before Wesley Snipes took over the project.”

  2. You know what would be great? If coercing someone into sex slavery wasn’t made so lucrative because of the illegality premium.

    1. would that be commodification or commoditization? i’m leaning toward the latter.

      1. Canoodleization.

        Fuck you, Firefox. I say it’s a word.

        1. The Flying Spaghetti Monster has been known to Canoodleize his most devout followers, with his noodely appendages.

      2. It would only be commodification if purchasers only cared about the price of prostitutes above all other characteristics and if prostitutes were fungible. This will never be the case until standardized sex robots become the norm.

  3. “Baston then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the appeal, lawyers for Baston?a Jamaican national who had been deported from the U.S. once before and was traveling under a stolen identity?argued that American courts cannot compel non-citizens to pay restitution to other non-citizens for activity that occurred outside U.S. boundaries.”

    But they can still drone him, I guess?

    1. A few years ago there was something about citizens of central or south American countries suing American companies in American courts for illegal activity happening in central/south America. There were some environmental cases as well as something about ‘death squads’ and indiscriminate murders. Based on the comments above I guess this type of case is also forbidden?

  4. Good for Justice Thomas. If only he were as solicitous of the rights of non-citizens of the U.S. snatched from their homes by the American military and deposited in the Black Hole of Guantanamo.

    1. Speaking of “snatch,” That would be Justice Long Dong Silver.

    2. Obama promised to close Gitmo.
      Republicans wouldn’t let him do it.
      Trump says Obama broke his promise about Gitmo.

      1. DanO eats paste.
        Children eat paste.
        Paste is made with flour.
        DanO is a flour child.

        1. *spews milk out of nose

      2. It’s kind of funny that it only took a couple of days for DanO. to out himself as dajjal/AddictionMyth.

        1. Batshit lunacy isn’t all that easy to cover up.

  5. Why not? We’ve been engaged in “nation building” for years. Everyone wants to be just like US! And it’s the new “white man’s burden” to make sure they have every opportunity.

  6. “The case earned a lot of attention due to Baton’s unusual persona: gold-plated fangs, eerie contact lenses, and a nickname?”Drac”?to match.”

    Drac missed a great opportunity to have diamonds in piercings all over, so that he could actually sparkle in sunlight.

    1. ‘Fucking Twilight ruined vampires!’

      -Drac

      1. At least Drac managed to turn his life into a better love story than Twilight.

        1. Look, just tell me now, does the Teenage girl get the vampire?

  7. Of course Thomas is sympathetic to these sex thugs.

    Clarence used to smear his pubes on some chick’s coco-cola.

  8. Thomas was the only one who wrote a dissent to the denial of cert. Was he the only one who wanted to grant cert?

    Dissents to denial of cert are extremely atypical. Those who wanted to grant cert would probably not write a dissent, so one cannot conclude that only Thomas wanted to grant it because only he wrote a dissent.

    Also, the Reuters article calls it an appeal. top kek, Reuters.

  9. “Congress would be able not only to criminalize prostitution in Australia, but also to regulate working conditions in factories in China, pollution from powerplants in India, or agricultural methods on farms in France.”

    Don’t give them ideas…

  10. So Thomas is writing porn for progs now?

    Congress would be able not only to criminalize prostitution in Australia

    yes…

    but also to regulate working conditions in factories in China

    Yes…

    pollution from powerplants in India

    YES…

    or agricultural methods on farms in France.

    OH YES!!! I’M COMING!!!!

    1. Coming, and going, and going, and coming, and always too soon…

      1. Just re-watched that last night; Madeline Kahn the Teutonic Titwillow; reminded that we could actually make [and take] a joke back in the 70’s and it would not result in a riot or a Title IX inquisition.

      2. It was a come for help.

  11. I am very today because i found the best roblox robux generator to get online and enjoy every time without any effort so you can easily get free robux this site..

    1. WTF is a robux?

  12. He appealed.

    …to some people, apparently.

  13. Thomas just just wants a chance to party with Drac.

  14. “Congress would be able not only to criminalize prostitution in Australia, but also to regulate working conditions in factories in China, pollution from powerplants in India, or agricultural methods on farms in France.”

    Justice Thomas is quite the Nostradamus.

  15. “America is “not the world’s lawgiver” and can’t punish non-citizens for activity committed abroad,”

    Well not in courts at least, we have drones to take care of this stuff.

    1. Drones have plenary power.

  16. The Foreign Commerce Clause would permit Congress to regulate any economic activity anywhere in the world

    It’s almost as if Thomas has forgotten what’s happened to the Domestic Commerce Clause.

  17. I’s sure the author ‘accidentally’ left out the 11th Circuit’s reasoning for justifying the $400,000 payment to an Australian citizen. To do otherwise could imply the author is ‘slanting’ the article toward the author’s own personal opinion. Is the ‘stolen identity’ involved? Should I guess? Clarence doesn’t provide any reasoning either. What is his motive? He clearly has a strong motive floating around somewhere. Some might even consider a ‘slanted’ article as ‘propaganda’.

  18. J. Thomas, showing his usual brilliance, casts a harsh light on our criminal system of justice – and legislation.

  19. Meanwhile the original 11th Circuit court opinion was written by Pryor–Trump’s also ran for SCOTUS vacancy?

    Someone explain to me how this is a conservative opinion:

    “We conclude that Congress has the constitutional
    authority to punish sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion that occurs overseas.”

  20. Okay so I read the original finding to see how this story could add up. The 11th circuit ruling establishes, that while he [Baston] was a non-citizen, he profited off and used US bank assets in concert with the actions that took place in Australia. Kind of different than say, if he had been living in Jamaica and getting wires to Jamaica AND then the US somehow tried to take action.

    I can see why SCOTUS refused to hear this case since it’s statutorily in the stupid act that he was prosecuted under:

    The government contends that the
    defendant must repay that money even if the prostitution occurred overseas
    because, under the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection
    Reauthorization Act of 2008, federal courts have “extra-territorial jurisdiction”
    over sex trafficking by a noncitizen who “is present in the United States.”
    Id.
    ? 1596(a)(2).

    It is neither arbitrary nor fundamentally unfair to exercise extraterritorial
    jurisdiction over Baston. The Due Process Clause requires “at least some minimal
    contact between a State and the regulated subject.” Baston’s contacts with the United States, to borrow the
    word the government used at oral argument, are “legion.” Baston portrayed himself
    as a citizen of the United States. He resided in Florida, where he rented property,
    started businesses, and opened bank accounts.

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