Law and order continues its rapid collapse in the United States, not only because of criminals but also because of prosecutors and police.
Those declining crime rates you have been hearing about might be nothing but public relations propaganda. On February 20 the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that an audit released that day concludes that Atlanta crime reports have been suppressed in order to protect the city’s image for tourism.
Before you decide to avoid Atlanta or any big city, know that one reason crime is exploding is the over-criminalization of behavior. Today a woman who pushes away a male who is annoying her can be arrested for assault. A school child can be arrested for eating on public transportation. You can even be arrested for using politically incorrect words or phrases.
Two Alabama seafood importers are currently serving eight years in prison because lobsters that they imported from Honduras arrived in plastic bags instead of cardboard boxes, and 3 percent of the lobsters were one-half inch too short in length. Moreover, the cardboard/size regulations were Honduran, not American, and have been overturned in Honduras.
Many Americans refuse to believe that US law enforcement would put Americans in prison for such flimsy reasons, but the case is now before the US Supreme Court.
Many of the worst crimes are committed by police and prosecutors themselves. On February 12, Congress released a transcript that shows that FBI agents protected their mob informants from indictments, helped mobster gunmen to murder their rivals, and then framed innocent men for the murders.
And this was 40 years ago when honor and integrity were still words with meaning.
Today law enforcement integrity has hit rock bottom. Steven and Marlene Aisenberg reported their five-month year old daughter missing on Nov. 24, 1997. Instead of looking for the baby and the abductor, the police in Hillsborough County, Florida, decided to frame the parents. Police eavesdropped on the couple’s conversations for two years, wrote out a transcript allegedly based on the recordings and indicted the couple.
When federal district judge Steven D. Merryday demanded the actual recordings and compared them with the police transcript, he found "the disparity was shocking."
Judge Merryday ordered $2.7 million to the Aisenbergs for "bad faith prosecution" and ordered the grand jury transcript released to the public as a way of holding the corrupt police and prosecutors accountable.
To protect themselves, "law enforcement" appealed. The 11th Circuit appeal panel reduced the award to $1.3 million and overturned the district judge’s order to release the grand jury transcript. If the transcript is released, "law enforcement" cannot pretend that the wrongful prosecution of the parents was a mistake. The appeal panel evidently decided that a whitewash was needed in order to protect the public’s confidence in law enforcement.
Police and prosecutors are increasingly aggressive and unaccountable. Recently, police in Columbus, Georgia, blew out Kenneth Walker’s brains with a submachine gun, leaving his widow with a three-year old child. Walker, an insurance manager, was in a SUV with friends, a Columbus high school basketball coach and a probation officer. Their vehicle was mistaken for that of a drug dealer, and that was the end of Kenneth Walker’s life.
Last December the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit forcefully ordered the release of Thomas Lee Goldstein, wrongfully convicted for murder 24 years ago. A California state court has also thrown out the murder conviction.
The only evidence against Mr. Goldstein was a notorious jailhouse fink, appropriately named Edward F. Fink, who on nine occasions testified for prosecutors against cellmates, claiming they had confessed their crimes to him. In exchange for his testimony, Fink received leniency on numerous felony convictions.
Americans should be outraged that they live under a criminal system in which prosecutors are able to convict people on the sole basis of purchased perjury.
The Los Angeles County district attorney is defying both the state and federal courts, claiming that he is going to retry Goldstein and refusing bail on the grounds that he would run away. Be prepared to read a news report that Goldstein, after confessing his guilt to another paid jailhouse snitch, committed suicide in his cell.
The federal appeals court has ordered a federal district judge to determine whether the Los Angeles district attorney is guilty of contempt of court for refusing to comply with the order to release Goldstein. Of course the DA is in contempt. He should be promptly arrested. The corrupt police and prosecutors who framed Mr. Goldstein should be indicted and put on trial.
But it won’t happen. The purpose of "criminal justice" is to protect the government, not the innocent public.
In the meantime, smile no matter what the provocation as you undergo airport security screening. You can now be arrested for "having an attitude." A snide remark can get you placed on a "no fly" list for life.
Be very careful what you have in your luggage as fines have been instituted for "inappropriate items." That decision is a subjective one at the screeners discretion. According to USA today, a bride recently drew a $150 fine for having a wedding gift in her baggage — a silver cake server. Expect no consistency. Just because you clear one airport with an item, don’t expect the next screener to have the same view.
The brand new Transportation Security Agency has already turned fighting terrorism into the business of robbing the public.
Whatever you do, don’t get mad. You will be arrested for disturbing the peace and carted off to jail.
Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.