Just before Thanksgiving, Michael Vick reported to jail, even before he was sentenced to federal prison for his role in having a dogfighting business. Having gone through this case once before (condemning the federal prosecution, of course), I will not plow the same ground again.
However, given that I believe that the federal case was unwarranted and unjust, I now turn to the State of Virginia, which has charged him as well. Once upon a time, the courts might have seen this as a case of double jeopardy, which that document formerly known as the Constitution of the United States expressly prohibits. However, since the 1920s, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that since federal and state courts cover two theoretically different areas, trying someone for essentially the same "crime" is not double jeopardy.
That is a farce, and a dangerous farce, as federal criminal law today is so broad and nebulous that just about anyone can be charged with a federal crime, should government prosecutors choose to be creative. Furthermore, the weapons (prosecutors call them "tools") that federal prosecutors wield today are such that it actually endangers a person to try to mount a defense.
For example, federal prosecutors threatened Vick with RICO charges, which meant that the feds would have frozen his assets, making it almost impossible for him to pay his attorneys. (A friend of mine who was RICO’ed ended up representing himself, as the feds gave him a "public defender" who spent all of his time pleading out drug cases.) Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to beat a RICO charge, since one does not actually commit the "crime" of "racketeering." (People do not "racketeer" one another. "Racketeering" is a legal term that exists only to improve the chances that prosecutors will win their cases.)
In other words, federal prosecutors do not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual charged with "racketeering" actually committed any crimes. That is because "racketeering" actually is the bundling of other so-called bad acts for which the person is not charged. That was the Alice in Wonderland set of charges that Vick faced, and that is why he realized he was in a fourth-and-forever situation, so he punted to the prosecutors and threw himself on the mercy of the court.
To make matters worse, to demonstrate that he somehow was "contrite," the feds had him attend mandatory workshops run by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an organization begun by the infamous Peter Singer of Princeton University. The people at PETA believe the following:
- Humans and animals are no different spiritually, morally, or otherwise;
- Harming of animals in any form is wrong, including the eating of meat;
- Human beings can and should be aborted, and Singer has held that "defective" children up to one year old should be killed.
According to Singer:
Human babies are not born self-aware or capable of grasping their lives over time. They are not persons. Hence their lives would seem to be no more worthy of protection that the life of a fetus.
As for children born with Down’s Syndrome, he writes:
We may not want a child to start on life’s uncertain voyage if the prospects are clouded. When this can be known at a very early stage in the voyage, we may still have a chance to make a fresh start. This means detaching ourselves from the infant who has been born, cutting ourselves free before the ties that have already begun to bind us to our child have become irresistible. Instead of going forward and putting all our effort into making the best of the situation, we can still say no, and start again from the beginning.
Thus, the feds in demonstrating their "commitment to animals" also demonstrate an absolute anti-human life ethic, in promoting PETA and Singer’s ideology. So much for the Bush Administration’s so-called "commitment to human life."
If that were not bad enough, now the State of Virginia has jumped into the fray, which means that Vick faces a separate set of criminal charges that could land him in state prison, once he has finished his federal sentence. Lest anyone think that the charges that the state has filed against him are different in substance, keep in mind that state investigators will be using the same information that federal investigators used in the state case.
While the wording of the charges will be different, their substance will be the same. This is double jeopardy, pure and simple, and even a blessing from SCOTUS will not change that fact, except to further emphasize that the courts today no more care about the U.S. Constitution than does a foreign government.
In a world where there was rule of law, there would have been no federal charges. Michael Vick and his friends, if they were to be charged, would be charged in state court, and there they could defend themselves before a jury of their peers. That would be the only just and fair way to seek justice. Instead, we had the feds making sure that there would be no defense, and I doubt seriously that Vick, already having pled to federal charges, will take any chances with a jury that already would believe him to be guilty.
People from PETA and elsewhere have argued that the charges against Vick — breeding fighting dogs and killing some of them — are so heinous that he should not be permitted to defend himself. The charges themselves, these people argue, are such that simply to be charged is bad enough.
Yet, that is not rule of law; it is rule of people, and it is political rule at that. Michael Vick, as far as I am concerned, is a political prisoner. No, he did not support the "overthrow" of the U.S. Government, but nonetheless the political clamor for him to be charged was so great that prosecutors figured they had a winner. Furthermore, by threatening Vick with RICO charges, they knew he would cave and give them what they wanted.
This is a disgrace, and the State of Virginia has further disgraced itself. No, I do not believe that cruelty to animals is acceptable behavior, and if the State of Virginia wishes to have laws against it, more power to its legislature. However, by engaging in de facto double jeopardy, the State of Virginia has demonstrated it has no real commitment to law. We already knew that to be the case with the feds.
The Vick case has showed me that once the authorities target someone, there is no way for the person targeted to mount any kind of real defense. In the Duke Lacrosse Case, for example, it took millions of dollars spent to officially debunk charges that on their face were not true and not credible. It is the state über alles, and woe to the person who forgets that fact. If anything, we see in the Vick case that we have government of the prosecutors, by the prosecutors, and for the prosecutors. There is none other.
November 28, 2007
William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services.