Short Circuit: A Roundup of Recent Federal Court Decisions

Poppy seed chips, the Codfather, and secret lynching records.


Please enjoy the latest edition of Short Circuit, a weekly feature from the Institute for Justice.

New on the podcast: A cert grant, a cert petition, sanctuary cities, and pilfered Spanish gold. Click here for iTunes.

  • Posing as Russian mobsters seeking to purchase a business, federal agents hop on a plane to the Azores with "The Codfather," a fishing magnate, accompanied by a Bristol County, Mass. officer who helps the Codfather smuggle unreported cash. First Circuit: No need to reconsider the officer's conviction. (The officer gets eight months home confinement. The Codfather gets four years in prison.)
  • Ghanaian man seeks asylum, claiming that his father and neighbors beat and threatened to kill him after learning of his same-sex relationship. Feds: But they didn't actually kill him, so the persecution wasn't "imminent or menacing" enough to qualify the man for asylum. Third Circuit: "We find it odd for the Government to make this argument here considering that [the man] was threatened with death by fire or decapitation while being assaulted, doused with fuel and exposed to a cutlass. All that was left for the mob to do was to cut off his head or set him on fire."
  • In 2014, Baltimore police tracked down an attempted murder suspect with a cell-site simulator—a device that intercepts information from cell phones by mimicking the infrastructure that phones connect with. After winning a motion to suppress, the suspect turned around and sued the police, alleging a high-tech illegal search. The district court: The police had a warrant, so no dice. Fourth Circuit: But we still have to decide whether using a simulator was reasonable, and we have no idea how it works. How many other people's phones did it search? What data can it see? Remanded for fact-finding.
  • Can a contract's choice-of-law provision choose what law decides if the contract was validly formed in the first place? Missing the chance to use "beg the question" correctly, the Fifth Circuit says no.
  • Allegation: Motorist observes another driver driving erratically, unsafely. He flicks his high beams on and off, activates LED security lights on his windshield, follows the driver home, and asks if she is okay. Yikes! She is an off-duty Calcasieu Parish, La. sheriff's deputy. She says he flashed a fake badge, and he gets prosecuted for impersonating an officer. He spends 29 days in jail (and then another seven months on house arrest awaiting trial). A jury acquits after 27 minutes. Fifth Circuit: The deadline to file his malicious prosecution claim started running when he was acquitted, not when he was released from jail. The case should not have been dismissed.
  • The feds offer grants to states to help them fight DUIs, including financing overtime pay for troopers writing citations to impaired drivers. Gadzooks! Two Mississippi highway safety officials learn of an internal investigation probing whether state troopers were writing ghost tickets to tap into that sweet overtime pay. The two officials tell the feds, the feds stop funding Mississippi, and the two are fired. First Amendment retaliation? Fifth Circuit: Nope. Their statements were made within their job duties and thus are not protected by the First Amendment.
  • After the Civil War, Mississippi enacted a new state constitution that provided for a "uniform" system of public schools. But in 1987 the uniformity requirement was scrapped. Allegation: And that has resulted in schools in high-income white communities having nicer facilities and better resources than the schools serving plaintiffs' low-income African American communities (where school ceilings have wet spots, paint is chipping off the walls, among other things). Fifth Circuit: Sovereign immunity does not bar plaintiffs' request for a declaration that the 1987 amendment violates an 1870 federal law readmitting Mississippi into the Union. That claim may proceed.
  • Just before a mother gives birth, Kentucky hospital staff test her urine, which comes back positive for opiates. Social workers visit, tell parents that all of their children (including the healthy new baby) will be removed unless they agree to a prevention plan prohibiting the mother from spending time alone with her children. They reluctantly agree. Subsequent testing reveals the test to be a false positive, but the social workers refuse to release the family from the prevention plan for two months. In the meantime, they interview the other children at school without warrants, asking them about "mommy using drugs." Sixth Circuit: Our precedent is unclear about the constitutionality of the interviews, so qualified immunity. But going forward, be on notice that that violates the Fourth Amendment. As for the prevention plan shenanigans—no qualified immunity.
  • Saudi undergraduate student at a U.S. university emails his adviser to ask whether it's safe for him to enter the country on his current visa, and the adviser gives him the go-ahead despite the fact that a problem with the school's computer system means the visa has actually been suspended. A hilarious mix-up—which results in the student spending a month in ICE detention. Can the adviser be sued for his role in the debacle? This Sixth Circuit panel says yes.
  • Nightmare fuel for any litigator, courtesy of the Sixth Circuit: "After eight years the parties now concede that the district court lacked diversity jurisdiction all along."
  • Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, car repossessions are unlawful if the repo company has "no present right to possession of the property." And in Indiana, a repo company has a present right to possession only if its actions "proceed[] without breach of the peace." Repo company arrives at woman's Indianapolis home, begins to take possession of her car. Woman protests. Repo men call cops. Officer arrives, slaps cuffs on the woman until after her car is towed. Seventh Circuit: Sure sounds like the woman might have breached the peace, in which case the repo men would have had no right to take the car, in which case taking the car would have violated the FDCPA. Her case can proceed.
  • President of private college pleads guilty to accepting public funds for the college and kicking a portion of them back to the Arkansas state senator who procured them. (The president gets a 3-year sentence, and the senator gets an 18-year sentence.) But wait! On the eve of trial, the lead FBI agent on the case destroyed a hard drive that contained undisclosed surreptitious recordings from an informant. Dismiss the indictment? Eighth Circuit: No. It's mere speculation that anything helpful to the president's case was destroyed, and, besides, the court barred the feds from using the recordings and calling that agent as a witness.
  • Congress has barred lower courts from issuing injunctions restraining the operation of immigration removal proceedings "other than with respect … to an individual alien." So was a district court right to issue a class-wide preliminary injunction requiring bond hearings for noncitizens who have showed a credible fear of persecution in their home country and are currently held separate from their families in substandard facilities without adequate access to medical care and supplies and with limited access to attorneys? Ninth Circuit: Yes. Individual alien just means it cannot be an organization, and the class is filled with individual aliens. Dissent: Such a reading renders "individual" superfluous.​
  • Allegation: Buckeye, Ariz. officer mistakes 14-year-old autistic boy who is repetitively flicking a piece of string in front of his face (a comforting behavior called "stimming") for a drug user. The boy shows the officer the string and tries to walk away; the officer takes him to ground, causing, among other things, a serious ankle injuryNinth Circuit: No qualified immunity.
  • In 1946, an Athens, Ga. grand jury hears 16 days of testimony from "countless" witnesses to the Moore's Ford lynching, in which a crowd dragged four African Americans from a car and murdered them. No charges were ever filed, and the testimony remains secret. Eleventh Circuit (2019): Release it. Eleventh Circuit (en banc): Reversed. It stays secret. (We discussed the original panel decision on the podcast.)
  • Does clearly established law prohibit a police officer from pepper spraying a handcuffed detainee for three to five minutes? The Eleventh Circuit says yes.

NEXT: "Ordered to Self-Quarantine with Ankle Monitor Due to Coronavirus"

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  1. In addition to the four years in prison, the Codfather was forced out of business — he had to sell all his boats and is banned from his trade (fishing) FOR LIFE.

    Memory is that he isn’t even allowed to be employed in the fisheries — what is he supposed to do for a living?

    1. Write his memoirs? A lot of idle people looking for entertainment.

      Seriously, that sounds excessive.

      1. If a mechanic was using his repair shop to part out stolen cars, is it reasonable to require him to sell his shop, all the cars he accumulated, and find a new line of work?

        If a farmer grows pot, is it reasonable to require him to sell the farm and find a new line of work? Apart from whether growing pot should be illegal in the first place, of course.

        If a plane owner uses his fleet to smuggle parrots or paintings, is it reasonable to require him to sell the planes and find a new line of work?

        1. Yes, put it like that, it seems excessive.

          Maybe even cruel and unusual, but don’t quote me.

        2. Prohibited from even riding in a car?

        3. In those circumstances, the government would simply seize the repair shop, the farm, and the planes.

      2. “Seriously, that sounds excessive.”

        even fishy?

      3. I’d day if it’s a position of trust and the crime involved intentional betrayal of that trust, a lifetime restriction might be appropriate.

        In other cases, seizing illegal proceeds or “tools” on hand is fine but not a restriction on starting over straight.

        Examples for lifetime restriction: CPA embezzling, lawyer taking money from both sides in a lawsuit, doctor intentionally harming patients.

        Examples that shouldn’t count: CPA robbing a liquor store, lawyer punching his wife, doctor committing arson for the insurance money. Fishermen in general.

        1. A schoolteacher breaking into his ex-wife’s home to steal his baseball card collection (which he personally prized) led to the state revoking the teacher’s credentials for life. Happened to someone whom I know.

          But this doesn’t prevent him from teaching Sunday School, should he ever want to.

          1. Heh. I was feeling kind of sad because I thought yesterday’s daily episode of Dr. Ed’s Made Up Anecdotes had somehow been preempted. Nope. I just hadn’t tuned into the correct thread.

    2. What is any ex-criminal supposed to do? Just because he was a fisherman before his conviction, so what? Maybe he shouldn’t have committed the crimes.

      Every criminal conviction punishes more than just the criminal — the taxpayers have to pay his prosecution and confinement, his family loses his support, friends lose his presence. So what? Don’t commit crimes.

      This isn’t any different from any other criminal. Think the taxpayer should rehabilitate them, train them for a non-criminal occupation? Good, agitate for it. But why single out this one particular criminal?

    3. I don’t know, retire?

      He’s at least 64 (came to the US in 1968 as a “teenager”). He’s got a 4 year sentence, so he’ll be at least 68 when he gets out.

    4. It might make sense if his crime was related to the actual trade of fishing. I have no problem saying that criminal lawyers (that is, lawyers who are criminals) may be forced to give up their licenses in addition to serving their sentences for perjury or some other law-related infraction. And I have no problem saying that doctors who commit criminal malpractice can’t be doctors anymore. But if I’m reading that right, he was committed of moving some cash without the right permissions. What’s the connection to fishing?

      1. There are Federal limits on the types of fish one can catch — and once you exceed that limit, that type of fish has to be thrown overboard. It’s rather asinine because the fish is dead and hence is being wasted, but this is the Federal government.

        What he did is record & sell one type of fish as another. For example, saying he had 10 tons of Haddock when he really had 10 tons of Cod (which he wasn’t allowed to catch). He’d then sell those 10 tons of Cod (as Haddock on the paperwork) with a lot of other games going on as well.

        This winds up as Cod dinners that never existed, with neither the restaurant nor anyone in the supply chain paying any taxes on it.

        The cash, which also never officially existed, was being moved back to his homeland so he could go there in retirement.

  2. Ghanaian man seeks asylum, claiming that his father and neighbors beat and threatened to kill him after learning of his same-sex relationship. Feds: But they didn’t actually kill him, so the persecution wasn’t “imminent or menacing” enough to qualify the man for asylum.

    Put the witch in a burlap sack and throw her in the river. If she sinks and drowns, we’ll know she was innocent of being a witch.

  3. “Sovereign immunity does not bar plaintiffs’ request for a declaration that the 1987 amendment violates an 1870 federal law readmitting Mississippi into the Union. That claim may proceed.”

    The remedy is to kick Mississippi out of the Union? The Rev would salivate at the prospect.

    1. Mississippi might too. Might be smiles all around, and other states ecstatic that now they know how to do it too.

      1. You figure Mississippi would wish to be an unincorporated territory (much like Puerto Rico)?

        That would have been a sound course, but the time for addressing that point was a century and one-half ago.

        1. So, you would kick the state in the union out with the highest % of African Americans in the country?

          Mmm. Sounds racist.

          1. Hmmmmm. That. On the other hand, two fewer R senators.

            What to do…what to do…?

      2. Nah, Mississippi runs on federal money. They’d starve.

    2. Both MA & NH are dealing with the same issue.
      Short version, wealthy suburbs build Taj Mahals and then the poorer districts (rural & urban) then demand the state build equally excessive buildings for them too.

  4. “Ghanaian man seeks asylum, claiming that his father and neighbors beat and threatened to kill him after learning of his same-sex relationship. Feds: But they didn’t actually kill him, so the persecution wasn’t “imminent or menacing” enough to qualify the man for asylum.”

    I have to say, this justification seems more than a little absurd; Were “the Feds” trying to lose the case, in order to have a court order compelling them to give him asylum in violation of policies being promulgated by the administration?

    I mean, some quick research indicates that homosexuality is illegal in Ghana, so he qualifies on the basis that he’d be persecuted anywhere he moved to in his own country. But Ghana is a heck of a long way from the US, why didn’t he just move to a neighboring country? The US would hardly be the obvious first refuge for somebody fleeing Ghana. OTOH, for somebody fleeing Ghana’s economy? It probably would be.

    1. “this justification seems more than a little absurd; Were “the Feds” trying to lose the case,”

      More likely, the federal advocates were (or at least were working for) the type of anti-immigrant gay-bashers with whom (1) attempts to reason are futile and (2) self-awareness is absent.

      1. It’s another one of Brett’s conspiracies, Rev.

        1. It’s hardly a fantasy that government employees sometimes try to deliberately lose court cases in order to have court orders compelling some action they wanted to take contrary to administration policy or law. The EPA, for instance, has a long history of this sort of tactic.

          It’s known as “sue and settle”.

          1. Do they, Brett? Do you have any evidence, or just your supposition?

            Because the government lawyers I know are pretty professional.

            1. So you believe “sue and settle” is a myth?

              1. It’s actually a pretty devious tactic under the Obama administration. The EPA and administration wanted to change a rule or regulation. But doing so in a normal manner required transparency, openness, and balancing of the competing interests, as per the law. It would take time, and might not happen due to the need to balance interests.

                So, instead they invited a friendly environmental group to sue them. One sued, the EPA didn’t fight the lawsuit, but instead settled, and used the settlement to change the regulation or rule like it wanted to, behind closed doors, as part of a legal settlement. They’d also pay the friendly environmental group’s legal fees (Thanks US taxpayers!). In this way, the EPA could get what they wanted to, without needing to be transparent or balance the various interests, as needed to by law.

                1. How is this different from _Lord v. Veazie_???

              2. Sue and settle (sometimes hyphenated as sue-and-settle) is a term used to describe cases in which a federal agency is sued by an interested party, declines to defend itself in court, and negotiates a settlement with the plaintiff in a non-adversarial process. Through sue and settle, outside groups sue an agency in order to reach a settlement on terms favorable to the regulatory goals of both. These settlements may require the agency to issue a rule on a particular subject or within a certain timeline.

                Not quite what Brett described.

                1. Not *precisely* what I described. But the general tactic is well known: You’re a bureaucrat who wants to do something, without having to take responsibility for it, and want to entrench it beyond easy reversal.

                  So you arrange for somebody on the outside to sue you, and you deliberately lose the lawsuit. Bingo, you’ve now got a court order compelling you to do what you wanted to do all along.

                  The argument they’re using in the case against this guy is laughable, (Let him come back after they’ve actually killed him, and we’ll agree he’s got a case…) and and they have to know it. When somebody goes into court with a laughably bad case, and there at least facially seem to be better arguments they could use, it’s reasonable to wonder if they mean to lose.

                  1. But that’s *exactly* what Lord & Veazie were trying to do — they were suing each other for the right to drive logs on the Penobscot River so as to preclude others from doing so

                    Memory is that Lord owned the timberland and Veazie owned the mill, so it really didn’t matter who had the monopoly on driving logs into Bangor as all of Lord’s logs were going to be sold to Veazie regardless — they were both just trying to prevent a Boston bank from having the right to drive it’s logs down the river (and possibly building a competing sawmill).

                    Veazie is the same guy who got tired of paying property taxes to Bangor so he sent his mill foreman down to Augusta as a state rep one session to get the precinct in which his mill was located set off into a separate town, known to this day as the Town of Veazie, one of the geographically smallest in the state.

                    SCOTUS ruled that Lord & Veazie couldn’t “sue & settle” — and why isn’t that precedent binding here?

                2. Of course that description leaves out critical context.

                  The fact that both parties want to achieve the same goal is implicit in the entire sue-and-settle effort. But it’s an illegitimate scheme, a conspiracy even.

                  Achieving a common goal that for some reason… Whether it be political, legal or simply inconvenience… Cannot be achieved through legitimate means, is the entire purpose.

                  Brett’s theory fits squarely within that context.

                  1. The sue-and-settle definition didn’t require a conspiracy to initiate the action, only an unwillingness to defend against it. Barr’s DOJ refusing to defend DACA or Obamacare, for example.
                    Here though there is no conspiracy and no lack of defense, but because this is an appeal the government is defending the argument that succeeded with the Board of Immigration Appeals. If you’re looking for a scandal ask how the BIA, a majority of whose members were appointed by Barr, has gotten to a state where such an argument could have prevailed.

    2. And in fact, he fled to Ecuador. But then somehow made he way to the US after being in Ecuador….

  5. “On the eve of trial, the lead FBI agent on the case destroyed a hard drive that contained undisclosed surreptitious recordings from an informant. Dismiss the indictment? Eighth Circuit: No. It’s mere speculation that anything helpful to the president’s case was destroyed,”

    Wouldn’t exactly that speculation properly be treated as a “spoliation inference”, and thus practically be mandated, rather than impermissible?

    1. Yeah, I don’t get this at all. The whole rationale behind spoliation (I thought) was that: If you deliberately destroy evidence, it’s a really really bad thing, and you–the bad actor–do not get to get away with a “but I destroyed nothing relevant” excuse. “Mere speculation” is what a court *should* do . . . to tell governmental and non-governmental actors, “Do NOT destroy evidence, or will will assume that the destroyed evidence contained *the evidence Most damaging to your case.*” Certainly in cases of deliberate destruction…I’m more agnostic if the evidence was lost through negligence.

    2. You may be missing this bit:

      “and, besides, the court barred the feds from using the recordings and calling that agent as a witness.”

      So what was destroyed had already been ruled inadmissible and therefore was not evidence. So no evidence was destroyed. Since no evidence was destroyed, no spoliation.

      1. No, that’s not what happened at all. The videos were very much evidence when Agent Cessario wiped his laptop. The district court barred the prosecution from using the recordings and calling Agent Cessario as a witness because of his “reprehensible” conduct.

        “Agent Cessario must not have been too keen on the idea. After falsely telling prosecutors that the laptop’s hard drive had been erased earlier, he paid a local computer shop to actually do it. Apparently unsure about whether a forensic examiner could still recover the data, he scrubbed the hard drive again—this time on his own—before finally delivering the laptop as requested.”

        I’m guessing Agent Cessario was dumb enough to keep kiddie porn, or something else similarly incriminating, on his laptop.

        The big problem for the defendant was that Agent Cessario’s laptop wasn’t the source of the videos, the only way for him to get the videos on his laptop was to download them from a Dropbox folder that showed no evidence of having been tampered with. The defense received copies of all of the videos prior to the trial, and the ones that it received late were late because a legal assistant for a private attorney representing a different corrupt politician trying to get a deal messed up when initially uploading the videos.

        1. Was FBI Agent Cessario prosecuted and jailed for evidence tampering?

          1. I have no idea. They address the risks he was taking is discussing why they don’t believe his claim that he did it all to protect some personal medical information, but the case isn’t about his punishment.

        2. “After falsely telling prosecutors that the laptop’s hard drive had been erased earlier, he paid a local computer shop to actually do it. Apparently unsure about whether a forensic examiner could still recover the data, he scrubbed the hard drive again—this time on his own—before finally delivering the laptop as requested.”

          That strikes me as several criminal violations right there, starting with lying to a government official, and then destruction of Federal property (the data on a government-owned laptop).

          Why would I be surprised to learn he wasn’t prosecuted….

      2. “So what was destroyed had already been ruled inadmissible and therefore was not evidence. So no evidence was destroyed. Since no evidence was destroyed, no spoliation.”

        Sure, wipe your laptop after it’s requested as evidence, and no spoliation so long as you claim it only had stuff the other side already had. After all, it’s been wiped, they can hardly prove you wrong.

        The point of spoliation rules is that, if you destroy the evidence, it has to be presumed hostile to your side. NOT irrelevant. If the defendant had wiped a laptop, that’s absolutely what would have happened.

        1. “The point of spoliation rules is that, if you destroy the evidence,”

          If what was destroyed was ruled inadmissible before it was destroyed, is it evidence?

  6. Apparently pre-1987 Mississippi schools had identical resources in black and white areas.

  7. Ninth Circuit: “Yes. Individual alien just means it cannot be an organization, and the class is filled with individual aliens.

    This is absurd, and another nonsense decision from the 9th Circuit designed to twist the law into a pretzel to obtain the policy decision the 9th Circuit wants. The law was passed precisely to prevent a class action by district courts on immigration.

  8. I’ve been waiting for the news story about bad guys using a cell phone simulator (Stingray). It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sure it will come.

    Think of the cartel with a Stingray outside DEA headquarters, or terrorists with a Stingray outside NSA headquarders. Or Reps(Dems) with a Stingray outside Dem(Rep) headquarters.

    1. I’m sure it’s happened, but it might be hard to detect, and if it did happen, they’d be highly reluctant to acknowledge it.

      1. The US Federal government has already stated that it found cell interceptors in DC that did not belong to any known source.

    2. I’m wondering what happens when two Stingray’s fight.

      Both Stingrays would be pretending to be a cell phone tower, and cell phones work by switching back and forth between towers. If the internal clock in either stingray (neither connected to the network) were to be off by a little bit, I can see it potentially causing major problems with the entire network.

      1. Stingrays take your phone connection away from the real cell tower by having the stronger signal: Cell phones are programmed to communicate with whatever tower has the strongest signal, and thus, theoretically, is closer.

        So, if two Stingrays are in the same area, whichever has the strongest signal at a particular cell phone wins contact with that cell phone.

  9. The interpretation of the Debt Collector law is absurd. The entire point of the law was to improve public safety. It gives a perverse incentive to threaten public safety to anyone who is getting their car repossessed. Make enough of a stink and the repo guy has to back off.

    1. When I worked as a car repossessor in Jersey, circa 1990, I was told that if we caused the disturbance of the peace, we’d be unable to take the car. More specifically, that meant if we attempted a retrieval private property, and the owner prevented a clean get away by say, blocking the driveway, we were SOL if the cops arrived.

      But if the car was on the street and a ruckus arose, the car was ours.

      1. Don’t trespass laws apply to private property?

    2. You might not agree with the policy, but it’s not absurd. It means the repossessor can only take the property Through self-help if the owner doesn’t put up a fuss. If the owner puts up a fuss, you have to go through the usual channels.

      It’s no more inherently absurd then the filibuster rule in the Senate in the old days when senators actually had to make endless speeches to keep the filibuster going, and if the filibusterer got off guard or fell asleep, that was that. The owner has to do more than just object (what the filibuster rule became later). The owner has to actually put up a fuss, and actually has be on guard to do so.

      It serves a purpose similar to the filibuster rule. It gives someone who really cares about the issue – cares enough to put up an actual fight – an extra defense that someone who just wants to object perfunctorily doesn’t have.

      If the filibuster rule is rational, this is.

      1. Also, it isn’t clear that the woman blocking her driveway was a breach of the peace, and it is by no means necessary to her case. It is entirely possible that her conduct was entirely legal, and it was the police officers, by seizing and handcuffing her, or perhaps the towing company who called them without a valid basis for complaint, that were the proximate cause to the peace’s breach. All that has to be proved is that a breach of the peace occurred.

        She could pursue both this case and a case against the police officers who handcuffed her for unlawful arrest, without contradiction.

        Indiana law suggests a property owner has a right to object if repossessors enter their property to seize something. If the repossessors attempt to restrain her rather than accept defeat and go away to pursue judicial remedies or try again later, THEY are the ones breaching the peace by doing so.

  10. Damn, only semi-reasonable QI rulings this week because of none coming out of the 5th Circuit? I am disappoint.

    1. That’s OK, the 9th circuit is still on it’s insanity

  11. Regarding the Codfather case, how is a sentence of home confinement appropriate for a law enforcement officer who uses their position to knowing help someone break the law? He should be spending years in prison, at the least. It should be considered WORSE when law enforcement breaks the law, because they are violating a duty they voluntarily undertook to enforce the law, and because they have special powers and trust that others lack.

    Contrast this “home confinement” punishment to the five years in prison that another defendant (from last weeks Short Circuit) got for mistakenly voting when they had been released from prison after serving time for felony tax crimes, but were still under supervision.

    Here, we have an intentional crime. By a member of law enforcement, no less. There, we had what was (according to the Texas Appeals Court) possibly an unintentional mistake.

    There is something very wrong with the way we treat law enforcement when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Home confinement? Really??? You mean the exact same fate all of us are experiencing now due to the coronavirus???

    One gets the sense that there is an entirely different set of consequences for law enforcement when they break the law than the rest of us. And there should be. But it should be the exact opposite of what it seems to be now; law enforcement should be treated more harshly when they violate the law, because they took a specific oath to uphold it.

    1. “the five years in prison that another defendant (from last weeks Short Circuit) got for mistakenly voting when they had been released from prison after serving time for felony tax crimes, but were still under supervision.”

      I’ve got to take exception to your description here. Her defense was that it was a mistake. The court didn’t find that defense believable. Accordingly, she got five years for doing it deliberately, not by mistake.

    2. That said, your larger point is exactly right. Police, indeed all the government’s employees, typically get a slap on the wrist when caught breaking the law.

    3. I agree completely — and the ongoing saga of the Mass State Troopers and overtime fraud is but yet one more example. Were you or I to have stolen that amount of money, we’d be looking at actual jail time, like *inside* a jail…

      But wasn’t the officer in this case a cooperating informant? The Feds give breaks to people who help them make cases, and shipping the money home was a small part of what the guy was doing.

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