Monday, November 10, 2008

Judge gets it right for a change

Nine gun-toting tough guys, most wearing casual, thug-like street clothing, suddenly appeared from out of the darkness and stormed into Buzz's Mobil Gas Station in Bridgeport, Connecticut at closing time. One employee was grabbed and quickly hustled aside. John Bell, the second employee, showed more moxie. Attempting to defend his boss’s business from the invaders he whipped out a revolver and fired twice. He missed. The lead intruder shot back. So did his cohorts. Over 17 shots rang out.

When it was all over, John Bell was shot twice, hospitalized, arrested for trying to kill the lead intruder, Detective Scott Murray of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, and convicted by a federal court jury of charges that could have earned him up to ten years in the slammer.

All this because of a gambling investigation against the station’s owner and son, who have never been charged. All this because we live in a society in which government claims the right to impose its will on its citizens rather than the other way around as our founders intended. All this to enforce a victimless crime law.

And let’s not parse words here like some sweet-talking Texas lawyer. When libertarians say victimless crime they are talking in the context of criminal law. When people gamble voluntarily, initiating neither force nor threat of force nor fraud against one another or anyone else, there is no victim in the criminal sense. If his wife and children go hungry and homeless because of him they are victims in a social sense, and criminal law in a free society has no business trying to enforce social issues.

Sure, we need tough, brave cops for real criminal situations like bank holdups in progress and kidnapping and imminent rape, but not a small army of Night Raiders wasting time and resources and taxbucks investigating a victimless crime like gambling.

Senior U.S. District Judge Alfred V. Covello overturned Bell's conviction and, while not outright acquitting him, did the right thing in ordering a new trial. If more judges insist that cops act like public servants rather than midnight marauders we’ll have fewer of these gung-ho macho cock-o-the-walk strutting exhibitions, and more lives will be spared on both sides of the law. And if that doesn’t make the police more polite, massive numbers of people packing concealed just might.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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