Thou Shalt Speak No Ill of the Police

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In medieval English law, the crime of “high treason” included the offense of “compassing” (or imagining) “the death of our lord the king, of his lady our queen, or of their eldest son and heir.”

The equivalent practice in imperial America consists of making any comment, however flippant or implausible, that can be construed by professional paranoids in federal employ as expressing even a transient interest in harming the holy person of the President.

As American statism curdles into outright totalitarianism, it’s becoming a crime in some jurisdictions to express violent or hostile intentions toward the state’s armed enforcement agents.

Antavio Johnson of Lakeland, Florida was recently sentenced to two years in prison for a purported crime described as “corruption by threat of public servant.” His “offense” was to record a rap number (the word “song” is inapposite) entitled “Kill Me A Cop,” in which the parolee mentioned by name specific police officers with whom he quite obviously had serious grievances.

Johnson’s rap offering was posted last February on the MySpace page of Hood Certified Entertainment, a record label catering to a particular slice of the hip-hop market.

It’s never a good idea to harbor, much less express, a desire to murder another human being (the Sermon on the Mount describes this as a sin as grave as the act itself). But in a society in which freedom of speech is supposedly protected by law, this cannot be considered a crime.

Furthermore, it’s not necessary to threaten or even to criticize the police in order to find one’s self in jail facing charges of “threatening” those poor, cringing little creatures.

Elisha Strom, a 34-year-old blogger from Virgina, is currently in the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail on a charge of seeking to “coerce, intimidate, or harass” police officers by publishing the address of an undercover narcotics agent on her blog, “I HeArTE JADE.”

The title of that blog refers to the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement (JADE) task force, whose personnel and activities have been subjected to whimsical mockery therein.

If convicted of the offense, which is a sixth degree felony under the recently revised state statute, Strom would face a mandatory six-month jail sentence.

Mrs. Strom became interested in the doings of the JADE Task Force because one of its members was involved in the arrest of her husband Kevin, who was found guilty  of possessing child pornography. She points out that the statute’s applicability depends on proving that the personal information she published — which is publicly available — was provided to readers with the intent to “harass” or “intimidate” a given police officer.

4:33 pm on August 1, 2009
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