Compassion! Crime! Betrayal! Law vs. Ethics! Illegal Aliens! Christmas Spirit! The Golden Rule! Five Golden Rings! (Okay, Only Three Rings, And One Was Junk, But Still…) The ‘Awwwww Factor’! Could This Be “The Greatest Ethics Quiz Ever Asked”?

[Special thanks to my friend (and the inventor of The Three Circles) lawyer/legal ethicist John May for alerting Ethics Alarms to this one.]

Sandra Mendez Ortega, a 19-year-old maid, stole three rings worth at least $5,000 from a house she was cleaning in Fairfax City, Virginia. Lisa Copeland, the client of the cleaning service, discovered her engagement and wedding rings were missing from the container where they were usually kept. The two rings were appraised at $5,000 in 1996, and a third less valuable ring was taken along with them. Fairfax City police  interviewed the three women who had cleaned the home, and they all denied seeing the rings, much less stealing them. Ortega, however, subsequently had second thoughts, and confessed to the theft. She told her boss that she had the rings and turned them over to him. He contacted the police,   Mendez Ortega confessed to them as well, saying she returned the rings after learning they were valuable. (Thus she only took them because she thought they weren’t valuable. Okaayyyy…) The police told her to write an apology letter to Copeland, in Spanish, in which she said in part, “Sorry for grabbing the rings. I don’t know what happened. I want you to forgive me.”

(I’m sorry, but I have to break in periodically so my head won’t explode. ” I don’t know what happened?” She knows what happened! She stole the rings because she thought she could get away with it.)

Copeland says she has never seen that letter, and that Mendez Ortega has never apologized to her in person. The maid was charged with felony grand larceny. At the trial, the jury found her guilty. (If she had confessed and was remorseful, why did she plead not guilty?)

But we are told that they felt sympathy for the defendant, who was pregnant with her second child, during the sentencing phase. “The general sentiment was she was a victim, too,” the jury foreman, Jeffery Memmott, told the Washington Post. “Two of the [female jurors] were crying because of how bad they felt.”  Although the  jurors convicted the maid of the felony, they agreed among themselves that it was just a “dumb, youthful mistake.” So they decided that her punishment would be only be her fee for cleaning the house the day of the theft, $60. Then they took up a collection and raised the money to pay the fine, plus and extra $20.

(Yes, she made money on the transaction. Crime pays.) Continue reading

From “The Good Illegal Immigrant” Files: If You Want To Enforce Our Laws Against Illegals, Apparently You Deserve To Die, And Democrats Will “Get You”

Texas state Rep. Philip Cortez (D) told the Washington Post,  “We were just on the floor talking about the SB4 protests, and [state Rep.] Matt Rinaldi came up to us and made it a point to say, ‘I called (ICE) on all of them. And this is completely unacceptable. We will not be intimidated. We will not be disrespected.”

Who is “we”? It Cortez an illegal immigrant? I hope not, because that would be illegal and a violation of the Texas Constitution. Why would he be intimidated and disrespected by an elected lawmaker reporting law breakers to appropriate authorities? It is clear that he wasn’t  intimidated or disrespected. What kind of elected official feels disrespected when he is told, “I just reported those people who are holding signs that say, ‘I broke the law, and I’m proud of it, nyah nyah nyah!.“?   This is just the unconscionable rhetorical slight of hand being habitually used by open-border advocates and unprincipled Mexican-American lawmakers to pander to their constituency.

It is not “completely unacceptable” to report illegal immigrants to ICE. It is completely unacceptable for an elected official to make the nonsensical, rule-of-law rejecting statement that doing so is unacceptable. Continue reading

The Good Illegal Immigrant

carlosThe New York Times placed on its front page this week a profile of an impeccable citizen of West Frankfort, Illinois:

Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco — just Carlos to the people of West Frankfort — has been the manager of La Fiesta, a Mexican restaurant in this city of 8,000, for a decade. Yes, he always greeted people warmly at the cheerfully decorated restaurant, known for its beef and chicken fajitas. And, yes, he knew their children by name. But people here tick off more things they know Carlos for.

How one night last fall, when the Fire Department was battling a two-alarm blaze, Mr. Hernandez suddenly appeared with meals for the firefighters. How he hosted a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the restaurant last summer as police officers were facing criticism around the country. How he took part in just about every community committee or charity effort — the Rotary Club, cancer fund-raisers, cleanup days, even scholarships for the Redbirds, the high school sports teams, which are the pride of this city.

Now, in part due to a record of two drunk driving arrests, Hernandez  has been  arrested, and is facing deportation. He is, after all, an illegal immigrant, one who crossed into the United States from Mexico in the late 1990s and  never completed efforts to legalize his status. His friends and neighbors, the Times reported, are flooding officials with letters and calls for leniency and forbearance. The mayor of West Frankfort wrote that Hernandez was a “great asset” to the city who “doesn’t ask for anything in return.” The fire chief described him as “a man of great character.” Richard Glodich, the athletic director at Frankfort Community High School, wrote, “As a grandson of immigrants, I am all for immigration reform, but this time you have arrested a GOOD MAN that should be used as a role model for other immigrants.”

“I knew he was Mexican, but he’s been here so long, he’s just one of us,” The Times quotes a West Frankfort resident as citing what she says is a distinction between “people who come over and use the system and people who actually come and help.” “I think people need to do things the right way, follow the rules and obey the laws, and I firmly believe in that,” added the owner of a local beauty salon. “But in the case of Carlos, I think he may have done more for the people here than this place has ever given him. I think it’s absolutely terrible that he could be taken away.” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Kidneys of Orlac

Kidneys, okay, maybe...BUT NOT THE HANDS! NEVER THE HANDS!!!

Kidneys, okay, maybe…BUT NOT THE HANDS! NEVER THE HANDS!!!

One individual who may be having complicated sentiments this Thanksgiving is Ronald Phillips, who is current residing on Ohio’s death row. He was supposed to be dead by now, but was spared at the last moment when Governor John Kasich issued a stay of execution to ponder Phillips’ unusual request, which had been rejected by prison officials. Phillips, you see, is not a nice guy, as his current address might suggest. He was convicted of raping and killing the three-year-old daughter of his girl friend. (They subsequently broke up. It was him, not her.) He had experienced a change of heart, however, or rather, wished to facilitate one. His sister needs a heart transplant, and he wants his to be passed over to her after his execution by lethal injection. He also wants his kidneys donated to his mother, who is on dialysis because hers are failing, and any other parts of him that might save a life given to others.

Presumably this will not include his hands, because there are a couple of horror movies, one old one in particular, about what happens after that operation, and they are pretty scary. There are no horror films that I know of, however, about the aftermath of getting an executed murderer’s kidney.


Gov. Kasich, who is a nice guy, has explained that as heinous as Phillips’ crime was, the state should try to accommodate his desire to save innocent lives. The tentative plan is to hollow Phillips out, execute him in July, and then harvest anything that’s left.

Have you seen that movie, by the way?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Should such a request by a condemned prisoner be granted?

I’ll play devil’s advocate here, except that the advocate for the child rapist deserves the title more than I do. I think Kasich is confused, and that Phillips or his lawyers have figured out one more way to foil the criminal justice system. Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck In A Little Teapot

I don’t understand this story at all.*

Not THAT Larry Storch! That Larry Storch made sense to me.

Larry Storch is no relation to the late comedian of “F Troop” fame, but is a defiant, uncivil 89-year-old scofflaw who insists on driving around his North Carolina community with his sound system at eardrum-popping levels. “They’ve been giving me noise tickets for years,” Storch said. “I guess they thought their tickets would deter me, but every time I paid off a ticket I’d stop by the speaker place on the way home and add a little more boom to my zoom.” Good for you, Larry; by the way, you’re an asshole. His latest arrest for breaking noise ordinances brought him before a judge who was ready to throw the book at Storch, but who had a peculiar way of doing it. Lenoir County District Judge Robert T. Ironside—who is no relation to the wheelchair-bound Robert T. Ironside played by post- “Perry Mason” Raymond Burr in a CBS detective show—told him:

“You’ve come before this court many times over the years Mr. Storch. In the past I’ve fined you, sentenced you to community service, and at one point even forced you to watch the fourth hour of the ‘Today Show.’ Since none of those punishments have done anything to curb your jackassory behavior, I’ve decided to get medieval on where your butt — if you had one — would be.” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Case of the Human Cat

This is not only an ugly story, but also one that many people are incapable of analyzing dispassionately, or even rationally. I’m going to try.

Michael Puerling is a landlord…some would call him a slum lord…in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.  A tenant in the upper unit of his property had adopted a black and brown stray cat, which she named Sage. Puerling told the woman she couldn’t keep a cat, so she evicted the feline, which eventually took up residence in the vacant lower unit. Puerling discovered the cat had after it had been making itself at home for months, tearing up furniture and generally making the apartment a giant litter box. According to the landlord, he opened the doors and windows and tried to get Sage to leave, but the cat hid under the kitchen sink. Then Puerling tried to remove the cat by hand…not a good idea, as any cat owner could have told him. When he couldn’t grab the scruff of Sage’s neck, he yanked the cat out by his tail, with the predictable result–the cat went crazy, and attacked him.

So Puerling bashed the Sage’s head in by swinging him by his tail against a slab of concrete outside. Continue reading

Punishing Corrupt Companies Without Punishing the People Who Make Them Corrupt

By all means, fine corrupt companies, but we need a new dress code for their management.

From The National Law Journal, December 8:

“The Justice Department has announced that Wachovia Bank N.A., now known as Wells Fargo Bank N.A., will pay $148 million to federal and state agencies after admitting to anti-competitive activity in the municipal bond investments market.”

I understand why the Justice Department, the SEC and other federal agencies fine companies huge amounts for what is essentially criminal conduct, choosing negotiated settlements rather than engaging in time-consuming trials that would cost taxpayers money and risk failing for reasons ranging from investigator error to skillful defense strategy. Nevertheless, the policy encourages rather than discourages unethical conduct by corporate decision-makers. It  does nothing to improve a culture that tends to define a bad business practice as a gamble that doesn’t work, or a scheme that gets discovered. Continue reading

Standards, the Salahis, Bluto, and Us

A sane culture discourages ethical misconduct by condemning and punishing it. The American culture, thanks to greed, intellectual rot and an irresponsible media, rewards unethical conduct by making it profitable. This isn’t a trivial matter.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi are about as despicable a pair as one can imagine, redeemed only by the fact that they haven’t caused any oil spills, aren’t abusing children and haven’t killed anyone. They are full-time grifters, and are diligently working to profit by exploiting America’s sick obsession with media celebrity. They crashed a White House dinner in November, costing several people their jobs, and launching multiple investigations that added to the tax-payers’ burden. None of that mattered to them, of course, because the irresponsible escapade advanced their idiotic, pathetic and selfish goal: joining the likes of Jose Canseco, Corey Feldman and Gary Busey on TV’s equivalent of belching, a reality show. Then, being completely shameless, they recently stalked a White House dinner again, getting themselves stopped by the Secret Service as they rode in a rented limousine, dressed in formal attire, with an “Inside Edition” camera crew in tow. This was just an “incredible coincidence,” they explained…wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Continue reading

Ethics, Punishment and the Dead Child in the Back Seat

Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten received a Pultitzer Prize for his feature, “Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?” Focusing on the grief of parents who caused the deaths of their own children by negligently leaving them locked in over-heated cars, Weingarten, to his credit, doesn’t advocate a position in his article, although it would be impossible to read it without feeling compassion and empathy for his subjects, both those who have been prosecuted and those who have not.

The article squarely raises a classic ethical conflict, as well as the question of the role of punishment in society. As always with ethical standards, the issue ultimately encompasses how we decide what is in the best interests of society. Weingarten points out that there is no consensus on whether parents who inadvertently kill their children in this way should be brought to court: some prosecutors bring charges, others do not. Which is right?

I don’t like my answer much, but I think it is inescapable, once the emotion is left behind. Continue reading