Social Media

Do Offensive Social Media Posts Impugn the Criminal Justice System?

San Bernardino County investigator called Rep. Maxine Waters "a loud-mouthed c#nt" and mocked the victim of a police shooting. The DA appears unconcerned.

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The investigation of a San Bernardino County gang prosecutor accused of making some disturbing social-media posts has understandably become national news because of what it could imply about the county's fair administration of justice and level of professionalism. The recently defeated and controversial District Attorney Michael Ramos issued tough comments about the situation, but the remarks from DA-elect Jason Anderson reflect a lackadaisical attitude that's disappointing given his welcome promises to reform the department.

For those who missed the news, Deputy District Attorney Michael Selyem, the county's top hard-core gang prosecutor, is being investigated for a Facebook post about U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.): "Being a loud-mouthed c#nt in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now," Selyem reportedly posted a meme of a man wearing a sombrero: "Mexican word of the day: Hide." And after a police shooting, he reportedly wrote: "That s—bag got exactly what he deserved. … You reap what you sow. And by the way go f— yourself you liberal s—bag."

The now-deleted posts were captured on screenshots from posts with Selyem's name, in a report by the San Bernardino Sun.

In statements, Ramos said he is "aware of the negative comments and they do not represent" his department's views, and emphasized the importance of having "fair, ethical and unbiased" prosecutors. After public outrage, the DA's office placed Selyem on paid administrative leave while the department reviews the matter. However, the DA's office wouldn't tell the Orange County Register whether it even had a social-media policy for its employees. Selyem didn't respond to the newspaper's request for comment. Nor did his union.

But Anderson's response slays me. The incoming DA referred to the comments as a "little bit salty" and added that it's "not a reflection of the image I would like to portray." Dictionaries define salty language as "down-to-earth" and "coarse." The main problem with such language is one of tone and word choice, like when your lovable but crusty Navy veteran uncle drops too many f-bombs—a habit he got from all those years on the sea.

Having a top prosecutor allegedly use the worst word one could call a woman, joke about Mexicans who need to hide, and wonder why no one has shot a congresswoman suggest a much deeper problem than one of saltiness or bad imagery. This language undermines the department's fundamental mission, which is to fairly administer justice. Prosecutors help imprison people. The stakes are high, so the system should be above reproach.

Community groups have sought Selyem's firing, but union protections make that a longshot. Clearly, Selyem has every legal right to post any blather that he chooses. But in the private sector, people can easily be fired for inappropriate comments given how poorly they might reflect on the employer. In the government, firing is a tough road even though officials hold such powerful positions. My guess is that he'll eventually be reinstated after the brouhaha blows over.

"A prosecutor is different," said John Manly, a Newport Beach attorney who represents victims of crime. "Your job isn't to put people in jail. Your job is to administer justice." And the reported comments—about women, Mexicans, and a congresswoman—call into question whether a prosecutor can be unbiased. Manly agrees that the court system might end up revisiting some of the gang-related cases that Selyem has prosecuted. If district attorneys behave poorly, it has troubling results throughout our communities, as we see in Orange County after some mistrials were declared because of that DA's scandal involving the use of jailhouse snitches.

Prosecutors are supposed to be held to the highest possible standards. As the American Bar Association explains, "The prosecutor is an administrator of justice, an advocate, and an officer of the court; the prosecutor must exercise sound discretion in the performance of his or her functions." The above comments hardly epitomize the use of sound discretion. Furthermore, the ABA notes that "the duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict." Likewise, the reported social-media posts show no sense of justice, or even fairness or professionalism.

A local defense attorney defended Selyem to the San Bernardino Sun, arguing that he never saw these ideas influence Selyem's professional duties. That's certainly good to hear. But I'm more inclined to agree with the Los Angeles accountant who forwarded the social-media posts to this newspaper group: "A person that harbors these types of views, and feels such courage to espouse them with impunity, does not belong in the district attorney's office … . I fail to see how this man can be impartial in his solemn task of helping to seek truth and justice."

Indeed. It should go without saying, but it's hard to trust San Bernardino County's justice system if the district attorney's office doesn't deal firmly with this situation.

This column was first published by the Orange County Register. Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

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  1. Damn if he was investigating Donald Trump the Republicans in Congress would be all over this shit.

    1. What a stupid comment. Especially given today’s environment of leftist outrage.

      1. But everyone knows that various forms of speech are serious crimes, even punishable by prison, when perpetrated by ordinary individuals, but perfectly permissible when employed by law enforcement personnel. They include the use of pseudonyms and impersonation?not okay when used to impugn the reputation of a New York University department chairman who also serves as a prominent envoy of our nation’s Orthodox Jewish congregations to the Vatican; perfectly okay in our efforts to combat global terrorism. In this regard, see the documentation of America’s leading criminal “parody” case at:

        https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    2. “loud-mouthed cunt” ? Check.
      ” in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now”? Check.
      “Mexican word of the day: Hide.” – Check.
      “That s?bag got exactly what he deserved. ? You reap what you sow. And by the way go f? yourself you liberal s?bag.” – Hmm. Might be a problem here… unless the guy was a shitbag who got what he deserved. In that case: Check.

      Sounds to me like he’s got the right idea.

      I don’t see any problem with calling a loud-mouthed ghetto cunt a loud-mouthed ghetto cunt, or wondering why no one has shot her. Nor with suggesting that (implicitly) criminal aliens from Mexico should “hide”, nor with suggesting that a shitbag got what he deserved when he was blown away.

      I pretty much share his impression of Waters, think we should shoot criminal invaders at the border – and give those already here six months to get out – after which we hang them. As for shooting shitbags – that should be the National Sport.

  2. “Being a loud-mouthed c#nt in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now.”

    Well, no wonder people are upset. He’s calling every reader of that post “a loud-mouthed c#nt”!

    1. Chashtagnt? I think that’s Mongolian for “goat-milker.”

      1. Khoisan languages are best known for their use of click consonants as phonemes. These are typically written with characters such as ? and ?.

        1. Wait, Selyem is a San Bushman?

  3. The kids use “salty” different now.

  4. “This language undermines the department’s fundamental mission, which is to fairly administer justice.”

    It’ perfectly possible for a prosecutor to be fair despite saying stupid things.

    It does raise the potential of defense attorneys citing these statements as evidence of malicious prosecution and, thus, using them to help establish reasonable doubt in cases where the defendant is a liberal, a black woman, a Mexican, etc.

    1. It’ perfectly possible for a prosecutor to be fair despite saying stupid things.

      “The Strzok Defense”

      1. The problem with Strzok is we have evidence of biased actions. Immunities like candy in midyear exam. Granted immunities are now being handed out in the manafort case, to connected democrats like podesta at least.

        Just look at the process crimes difference. We know for a fact Mills and Huma lied on both written and oral statements as compared to found emails from them. Not a single threat of a process crime.

  5. Was this his personal account? Does he present himself as he is speaking for the position he holds? I don’t think there is any doubt that if he worked in the corporate world and that came out he would be fired immediately. Worse case for him in government is a long paid vacation.

  6. I do wish more people would use there social media ‘inside voice.’

    1. Nah, social media is awesome. There has never been a more efficient way for supposed authority figures to demonstrate the futility of trusting in authority figures.

      1. It also makes it easier to tell who the assholes are. Before social media you had to rely on easily denied second hand accounts of authority figures saying shitty things. Now it’s out there on the internet for everyone to see, forever.

    2. Ok, this ^ made me smirk.

  7. “This language undermines the department’s fundamental mission, which is to fairly administer justice.”

    Like ignoring laws we don’t like, and vigorously enforcing laws we know to be unconstitutional?

    What is required is ‘reasonable social media control’ laws. People should have to get an expensive permit, take expensive classes in laws about free speech, the press, the Bill of Rights, and social responsibility, get a background check, and be fingerprinted to assure they use their real name in all posts. The permit should only be granted if the local sheriff agrees to it. I mean, ALL constitutional rights are subject to the same level of controls in the name of public safety, right?

    1. Nobody needs more than 140 characters.

  8. Prosecutors are supposed to be held to the highest possible standards.

    LOL

    Oh, you were serious?

    1. Yeah – that one made me laugh too.

    2. Supposed to be –
      but aren’t

  9. The statements are disturbing and concerning – not because he called Ms. Waters a “loud-moutged c#nt”, but because of their apparent acceptance of shooting as a way of responding to people who are disliked.

    1. Works in the ‘hood.

  10. Okay Reason, now do Peter Stzok.

    1. should have read yours before I commented

  11. I am conflicted because I agree with his assessment of Maxine Waters but I disagree with the suggestion that she doesn’t reflect her community.

  12. but when the DOJ says something about the president there is no bias in their work

    1. Or FBI agents.

  13. Take home message for today, and almost every day for the past few years is if you are a cop or prosecutor, you can get away with just about anything, including murder. But somehow the prog outrage over all this seems disingenuous when you consider that tough cops are somewhat responsible for the fact that their favorite yoga studios and wine bars are no longer crack houses or used tire dealers.

  14. Some of us are old enough to remember when “justice” had some connotation of truth. So calling Waters a loud-mouthed cunt might be uncivil and unprofessional, but certainly not false–and thus not unjust.

    Unfortunately, in our post-rational society the core concepts of new-age justice, such as feeling good and de-victimization coincide with cognitively retarding social media, so we can re-tweet the non-PC rants by unwoke cavemen.

  15. Hey, Steve, familiarize yourself with this–

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    We don’t have crimethink yet, you mendacious cunt.

    1. Coming soon to an internet near you!

    2. Rankin v. McPherson: a public sector law enforcement officer stated that she wanted Ronald Reagan to be shot and killed. She was fired for it. The Supreme Court held that her termination violated the First Amendment.

      1. I’m not sure I agree with that decision, actually.

        1. Anyway, IIRC the Supremes went out of their way to point out that the public couldn’t hear the remark, only fellow govt employees.

          This guy’s on Facebook.

          1. I am not sure that would be a controlling distinction if the comment had had a disruptive effect on the workplace.

            The point is that the mere fact he wished Maxine Waters harm, standing alone, is not enough. It must be shown that the comment had an adverse effect on government operations. What is more, based on a subsequent Ngu it must be shown that the calm and had an adverse effect on government operations. What is more, based on another Supreme court decision, the name of which I cannot recall right now, his employer must demonstrate that it’s thoroughly investigated the matter and reasonably determined, based on the investigation, that an adverse impact on government operations existed.

            1. Subsequent Ngu???

              That should have been: ” A subsequent supreme court decision, the name of which I cannot recall right now”

              I have no idea where Ngu came from.

  16. re: “the worst word one could call a woman”

    It’s kinda sweet that that’s the worst insult the author knows. Who says innocence is dead? Okay, it’s not a nice thing to say but I can think of a half dozen that are worse. The author really does need to get out more.

    Re: the underlying issue – I have no problem with what was said. The First Amendment is a high standard and it is most important to defend speech that we dislike. I am disturbed, however, that the people giving this government official a pass have not held ordinary citizens to the same standard. Protected speech or not, I am sympathetic to the “hang him high because he’s a hypocrite” argument.

    1. It’s not the word “c#nt” which is the main problem (though it’s a problem), it’s the talking about someone being killed as if that were some kind of natural consequence of that person’s speech.

  17. “Being a loud-mouthed c#nt in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now”

    This is the account of a prosecutor?

    Sorry, Supreme Court, I don’t think the government, as employer, has to put up with public servants talking about killing members of the public.

    In fact, the government, as employer, actually bears some responsibility for the words of its employees, since these words may be seen as implicating the government. What *is* the government (at least in practice) if not a collection of government employees?

  18. IANAL, but from what i can tell in the article, the social media posts fall under 1st amendment protection. He poated them as a citizen and they do not materially interfere with the workplace function.

    1. Try this on for size:

      If a government official says something which can be tied to his job (eg, a gang prosecutor talking like a gangster), then we can argue that it’s the government itself that’s speaking.

      And if the government says something dumb, it must have the authority to retract and walk back the dumb thing it said.

      But if it can’t fire the employee who said it, how convincing will the retraction be?

      1. Disclaimer: I have no (bleep)ing idea if the Supreme Court would agree with this.

  19. So that’s makes this DA’s office pretty much like any other, except for the getting caught part.

  20. Do Offensive Social Media Posts Impugn the Criminal Justice System?

    No, the Criminal Justice System impugns the Criminal Justice System.

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