Newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón issued a directive that his office’s “default policy” would be not to attend parole hearings and to submit letters supporting the release of some inmates who had served their mandatory minimums. Now Sirhan B. Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, will be a beneficiary of the policy as he faces a California parole board for the 16th time tomorrow. in a prison outside San Diego. Unlike the first 15 times, no prosecutor will oppose his release.
Sirhan is now 77. He escaped execution when California, being California, abolished the death penalty and his sentence was reduced to life with the possibility of parole. Instead of death, then, his punishment for murdering a possibly transformational U.S. political leader might be only 53 years behind bars. It could have been fewer: under the California law in effect when the assassin struck in 1968, a life sentence with parole would have made Sirhan eligible for release after only seven years. Now the parole board will evaluate him as an inmate who has had no disciplinary violations since 1972, and has expressed remorse, sort of: at one, “I have feelings of shame and inward guilt … I honestly feel the pain that [the Kennedys] may have gone through.” On the other hand, he has never expressly admitted his guilt and now claims not to remember shooting Bobby.
Funny, you’d think he would recall something like that.
Emory University Hospital in Georgia had scheduled kidney transplant surgery for a 2-year-old boy to take place on October 3. The organ donor, however, the boy’s father, Anthony Dickerson, violated his parole. Hospital administrators then postponed the surgery until Dickerson could comply with parole requirements for an additional three months.
The boy’s mother, Carmella Burgess, received a letter from the hospital that said Dickerson would be re-evaluated as a donor in January after it receives documentation of his success.
What warped reasoning is going into this decision? The boy’s health care needs are the same. The kidney being donated is the same. The father is still a willing donor. Why would the hospital care whether Dickerson had violated parole or not? Why would anything Dickerson did change the hospital’s medical duty to his son, or warrant postponing life and death surgery? So the father was discovered eating puppies. So he was found to be a convert to Isis. So he is caught saying nice things about Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump or Satan. In fact, Dickerson violated parole in September and was charged with possession of a gun. So what?
“They’re making this about dad,” Burgess told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s not about dad. It’s about our son.”
That seems to be an accurate analysis.
If anyone can explain how this can possibly be ethical conduct by the hospital, please do.
It is misleading to describe this story as a Democratic governor letting an convicted armed robber escape punishment so he can stay in the US, though that is how it is being reported.
The world has gone mad, but the pardon issued to convicted bank robber Rene Lima-Marinby by Governor John Hickenlooper isn’t necessarily proof of that, though Lima-Marinby’s weird story is.
He came to the U.S. as a toddler in the 1980 Mariel boat lift from Cuba, and had obtained legal residency. His 2000 criminal conviction for armed robbery when he was 19 caused that status to be revoked. Lima-Marin was sentenced to 98 years in prison for the robbery.
Let me pause. He was 19, and they sentenced him to 98 years in prison.
Then he was mistakenly paroled from Colorado state prison in 2008, 90 years early. I’ve written about these cases before. I hate them. Releasing a prisoner then coming back years later and saying, “Oopsie! Sorry! Our bad! Back you go!” turns a gaffe into cruel and unusual punishment. Unless a prisoner is a serial killer or a terrorist or breaks the law after he is released, the authorities should bear the burden of such incompetence, and any early release should stand.
Lima-Marin is a good example of why this should be the practice. he married, had a child and got a steady job installing glass. It took six years for the state authorities to discover their mistake, and in 2014 they sent him back to state prison for the remainder of his 98-year sentence.
My favorite Nakoula arrest meme: Funny, but wrong.
The Congressional hearings regarding what increasingly appears to be intentional dissembling by the Obama Administration to minimize the political fallout from the Benghazi terrorist attack have, predictably, sparked renewed attention to the fate of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the creator of the anti-Islamist Youtube video that Hillary, the President, and Susan Rice pretended was the reason an ambassador and others ended up dead.
Nakoula is in prison, and his arrest for violating the terms of his probation was certainly well-timed for Obama Administration spin purposes; purportedly (and if true, outrageously) Hillary Clinton told the family of one of the slain Americans that the filmmaker responsible for the video would be punished. This is only hearsay, but I am inclined to believe it: it is pure Clinton, masterful deceit. Nakoula couldn’t be punished for the video, of course, because of that darn old First Amendment. But Hillary may have known that he was headed for punishment and prison for something else, so it was a perfect ploy to make the victims’ families and any offended Muslims think this was why he was going to jail. Me, I think that oh-so-clever ploy is a betrayal of American integrity and values, but that depends on what the meaning of is is.
More than a week ago, one of my blogging, legal, ethics idols, Ken at Popehat, took issue with my post stating that the midnight questioning of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (the alleged producer of “Innocence of Muslims,” the crude anti-Islam film then being blamed by the Obama administration for all the violence that erupted in the Middle East on September 11) would appear both abroad and at home to be in retaliation for his exercise of his free speech rights, and should have been avoided even if it was otherwise justified by his parole violations. Ken wrote:
“…What separates us from the mob is the rule of law. We shouldn’t ignore the rule of law by violating First Amendment principles in what Eugene Volokh correctly points out would be an utterly vain attempt to appease a mob. On the other hand, we shouldn’t hinder the rule of law to avoid the appearance of appeasement, either. That’s still letting the mob dictate our actions and our adherence to our own laws. “We would normally do X, but we mustn’t because it might enrage the mob” is just the flip side of “We would normally do X, but we mustn’t because it might embolden the mob.” Both are a sucker’s game. The mob’s actions are going to be driven by its own culture and by the people manipulating the mob for their own political gain. Jack, and others, seem to be saying that the mob will misunderstand the orderly administration of the law in this instance: but is there really any chance that the mob will ever make an honest attempt to understand, or will care, or that the forces manipulating them will react honestly? Respect the rule of law and fuck ’em if they don’t like it.”
On this blog, commenter tgt was more succinct:
“Jack’s view of law is that if you are enough of a dick, you should be immune from prosecution for any action.” Continue reading →
No, really, this has nothing to do with the President blaming this guy’s film on the attacks on US embassies; it’s just a parole violation thing. Unrelated. Really. Of course, if violent Muslims think we’re cracking down on him because he insulted their prophet, that’s a bonus, right?
Ken at Popehat applies his experience as federal prosecutor to make this observation (among others) in the Federal questioning—I regard it as political harassment that happens to have a convenient non-political justification—of the hack ” Innocence of Muslims” film-maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula:
“I think the situation bears careful watching. Based on 6 years as a federal prosecutor and 12 as a federal defense lawyer, let me say this: minor use of a computer — like uploading a video to YouTube — is not something that I would usually expect to result in arrest and a revocation proceeding; I think a warning would be more likely unless the defendant had already had warnings or the probation officer was a hardass. But if I had a client with a serious fraud conviction, and his fraud involved aliases, and he had the standard term forbidding him from using aliases during supervised release, and his probation officer found out that he was running a business, producing a movie, soliciting money, and interacting with others using an alias, I would absolutely expect him to be arrested immediately, whatever the content of the movie. Seriously. Nakoula pled guilty to using alias to scam money. Now he’s apparently been producing a film under an alias, dealing with the finances of the film under the alias, and (if his “Sam Bacile” persona is to be believed) soliciting financing under an alias. I would expect him to run into a world of hurt for that even if he were producing a “Coexist” video involving kittens.”
Ken ends up where I do on other aspects of this incident, and I yield to his analysis here as far as it goes. But Nakoula Basseley Nakoula did not produce a “Coexist” video involving kittens. He produced a cheesy film that has provoked foreigners to violence, and also to demand that the creator of the film be punished by the U.S. government because of the film’s content; that voices on the left in this country are arguing should be censored (as well as that its maker be arrested); that the Obama Administration itself has tried to censor by persuading Google to ban it, and that Jay Carney is claiming, absurdly, is the sole target of all the Arab unrest. Continue reading →
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a.k.a. “Sam Bacile,” was interviewed by Federal parole officials at the police station in Cerritos, California, where Nakoula lives. Supposedly they investigating whether Nakoula has violated the terms of his five-year probation for various financial crimes, which could cause a judge to send him back to prison.
What has he done to justify such an investigation?Why, he made a film insulting to Islam, which is being cited by the White House as the provocation for the protests and attacks at American embassies in Islamic nations! Yes, he also may in fact be in violation of his parole, which included prohibitions on using computers and aliases. If anyone really believes this is the reason the Feds are swooping down on him now, in the wake of the Obama Administration explicitly using his film as its scapegoat for the embassy protests and attacks, I need to talk with them about this Nigerian prince I know.
Is making a film insulting to Islam a violation of his parole by any stretch of the imagination?No. It is a protected act for any American citizen, and no matter what crimes he may have been convicted of in the past, completely irrelevant to them.
So why is he being questioned now? Three reasons: 1) To indicate to Islamic nations that the U.S. government is “doing something” to the miscreant who dared to make an offensive film (trailer, actually) 2) To intimidate him and other citizens who intend to exercise their right of free speech that Big Brother is watching, and if you displease him, or cause embarrassment to his misguided foreign policy, you will be sorry and 3) To prove a genuine violation of his parole , so he can be jailed in close proximity to his supposedly protected exercise of free speech, which the foreign critics demanding punishment for the maker of the film will take as official sanction for insulting Islam, which, in truth, it will be.*
“How much did all these hacks get paid to do this? What a waste of money. Are they bothering somebody? Leave them alone. They obviously want to be together, and who are we to say that they shouldn’t? How much did this judge and all the hacks get paid to issue this decision? Somewhere, somehow this waste has to stop.”
—“Brad,” a commenter on NECN.com’s story about Lisa Lavole, a former teacher who was out of jail on parole after three years for the offense of having sex with her 15-year old student and running away with him. She was taken back into custody when the same student, now 18, was discovered hiding in her closet. One of the conditions of her parole was that she had to stay away from her former victim.
Lisa Lavole, doing her Norman Bates imitation
While perusing the comments to news stories often gives me more insight into the state of our culture’s ethics than reading the stories themselves, there is always the downside that many comments make me want to chuck ethics as a futile and pointless career choice and begin honest work as a bookie or a pimp. “Brad’s” comment is a case in point.
It would be difficult to pack more flawed ethical reasoning and rationalizations into a mere 60 words. The woman was hired to teach, and instead used her authority, age and power to entice a child into a sexual relationship, and then take him away from his parents and his home. By the most charitable interpretation she is a sexual predator and a rapist, as well as the betrayer of the community’s trust. Of course part of her punishment involves keeping her away from her victim, whose mind and emotions she had damaged and warped. To Brad, however, it is a “waste of money” to enforce legitimate laws, protect children from predatory adults, and make certain that at very least adults who prey on the children in their charge don’t benefit from it. She turned a child into a sex object and lover, and Brad thinks it’s a waste of time and money for society to make certain that she can’t keep reaping the benefits of her crime after her prison sentence. Continue reading →