July 31, 2012 Comments Off
USA Today reported recently on yet another female teacher/teenage high school student sex scandal. It’s all right here. Generally, the newsworthiness of this genre of criminal law seems to be waning. This one involves a teacher whose last name is Jones. She was a pro-football cheerleader at some point in her life, which appears to make for better headlines at USA Today.
What did interest me was this paragraph, buried in the inconsequential last 1/3 of the article.
Jones, who has previously defended herself on her lawyer’s radio show, is slated to go on trial in October amid charges of first-degree sexual abuse and unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor, felonies that are each punishable by up to five years in prison.
Radio? Show? Lawyer’s? Defended? Abuse? Felonies?
So, let me get this straight.
She is pending serious charges. While I have not read her state’s statutes, the crime of first-degree sexual abuse and inducing a minor, followed by the word “felonies,” indicates some top-quality deep doo doo.
She has the right to remain silent. This includes not admitting or speaking of anything related to the charges. Anything she does say can and will be………..you know the rest.
She “defended herself” on a radio show. I assume this radio show could be taped and heard by her town’s people of prosecutorial persuasion. Did any of them call the station with questions. That would be enterprising if they did.
The radio show belongs to her attorney. Presumably, he was running the whole shebang.
Can you see why I’m tasting a bit of vomit right now?*
*The vomit is my own. No, I was never a drummer for Spinal Tap.
July 28, 2012 § 1 Comment
July 28, 2012 § 8 Comments
Today, I received an Information/Notice of Violation from the City of St. Louis, Photo Enforcement Program. Evidently, while enjoying a lazy Sunday in Kentucky, I was also not stopping fully before a right turn in St. Louis.
I replied as follows (H/T to Eric Turkewitz, who I paraphrase in paragraph 9)(actual plate numbers removed to protect the asshole driving the Ford):
City of St. Louis – B110061
Photo Enforcement Program
PO Box 790324
St. Louis, MO 63179-0324
July 28. 2012
RE: Attachment to Affidavit of Non-Responsibility
To whom it may concern:
Today, I received an Information/Notice of Violation #(number omitted). It is based on a photo taken by your “Photo Enforcement Program.” The purpose of this attachment is to inform you that I will not pay the $100 fine you assessed upon me. I am innocent.
I admit that I do drive a 2012 Subaru Outback with Missouri Plate *****A. I am guilty of driving this vehicle. It is enjoyable to drive, full of utility, and safe.
However, I ask that you admit that the vehicle in the photo is a Ford with Missouri Plate *****K. Please notice that the last digit of the photographed plate is a “K.” The last digit of my innocent plate is “A.” I do not own a Ford. More precisely, I do not own the pictured Ford, nor have I ever owned it.
Also, the emblem affixed to the back of the guilty vehicle is the same horizontal blue oval with script “Ford” used by that company since 1927. Ford Motor Company used the same logo, minus the blue color, as early as 1912. It is time-honored and easily recognizable by the vast majority of Americans.
On the other hand, my car features the Subaru oval-with-6-stars, used since 2005. While the color is similar, the difference between the script Ford lettering and 6-star-pattern is unmistakable, and the Subaru oval is noticeably fatter.
Further, on the date of alleged violation, I was not in St. Louis. I was, in fact, in Kentucky, sweating in the northern Kentucky heat. Though, I’m quite sure the heat there in St. Louis has not been any better. I hope you’ll agree that similarities in weather patterns is hardly circumstantial evidence enough to prove guilt in this case.
As proof of my innocence, I ask that you scrutinize the picture associated with my file and used to this point to charge me with a violation of the law. The picture is already in your possession. You will find that it confirms my assertion, though I do ask that you obtain your own Subaru logo image if a comparison of Ford and Subaru trademarks is necessary. One may be obtained from a cursory search of the internet or from the friendly folks at Dean Team Subaru, Manchester Road, Ballwin, MO (a suburb of St. Louis). If you go there, ask for Rick Cody, who sold me my Subaru. I’m sure he would also be happy to show you their current inventory of fine automobiles.
Further, I notice that Craig K. Higgins signed the Information/Notice of Violation after affirming that “undersigned prosecutor charges the defendant and informs the court that above facts are true and punishable by fine of $100.00.” As an officer of the court, licensed attorney since 1991, and public servant, Mr. Higgins owes everyone subject to his authority a duty of care. Assuming he initiated this charging decision after viewing the evidence, he has not performed his duty faithfully.
It is also possible that Mr. Higgins would assert that the Information/Notice of Violation is an automated process for which he has little daily interaction. Assuming this, and as a person currently subject to his authority, I ask that he be informed that delegating his duties to a computerized system means that he delegates his ethics to the same system. How is it ethical to file charges without first scrutinizing the evidence?
The same goes for Officer Kenneth Callmeyer, Badge 2747, who is the responsible officer for this ticket and who, I assume, forwards it to the prosecutor for appropriate action after ensuring that the contents of the citation are true and accurate.
I know both Mr. Higgins and Officer Callmeyer are probably hardworking individuals, but mistakes like this are unnecessary and absorb time and resources from both the innocent citizen and your government.
Citizens deserve the best from our civil servants, and this matter falls well-short of that standard.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to receiving confirmation of the dismissal of this matter (with prejudice) and hope that I am not subjected to a computer-generated arrest warrant.
PS. I’ll overlook the fact that this cost me a piece of multipurpose Xerox paper as well as first class postage. Frankly, I am willing to throw a few cents at our financially-challenged Postal Service if it will help.
July 26, 2012 § 7 Comments
You might expect this to talk about the Stolen Valor Act and the decision by the Supreme Court as of late. It is not. I have nothing more to add to what was said many months ago. Frankly, I pity those who feel that they must concoct false stories of military service. They take pathetic to a new level. In today’s world of easily discoverable records, they all face a reckoning, and the worst comes absent any act of Congress.
No, I’m not here to talk about the Stolen Valor Act. I want to talk about a different award.
I want to talk about the Eagle Scout Award, prompted to do so by this open inquiry by my friend, Dan Hull.
Like Dan, I am an Eagle Scout. I am also the father of an Eagle Scout.
The link in his tweet goes to an evolving article at Boing Boing on Eagle Scouts who are sending their awards back to the Boy Scouts of America in protest for the organization’s stance on homosexuals. In effect, the Boy Scouts have adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of policy whereby any openly homosexual person is excluded and banned from the program. The Boy Scouts justify this by stating that homosexual activity/lifestyles are incompatible with Boy Scout values.
From 2004 to 2010, the published policy of the BSA was as follows:
Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting’s values and beliefs. Most boys join Scouting when they are 10 or 11 years old. As they continue in the program, all Scouts are expected to take leadership positions. In the unlikely event that an older boy were to hold himself out as homosexual, he would not be able to continue in a youth leadership position.
In 2010, this statement disappeared from official publication. In June 2012, they published a much colder explanation:
The BSA policy is: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right and do not sign their children up for Scouting for it to introduce or discuss, in any way, these topics.
The BSA is a voluntary, private organization that sets policies that are best for the organization. The BSA welcomes all who share its beliefs but does not criticize or condemn those who wish to follow a different path.
So, knowing that, let me be clear about a few points.
–I am against discrimination by the Boy Scouts, and this includes discriminating against homosexuals (as well as those who are openly agnostic or atheist, but that’s a different story for a different day).
–I believe that a homosexual person can be of the highest moral character and abilities.
–I’ve met and know of many homosexual individuals who, if allowed to be leaders in the BSA, are easily more capable, more caring, and more respectful of others than 95% of their would-be BSA peers.
–The Boy Scouts’ attempts at clothing the discrimination wolf in we’re-a-private-organization-with-freedom-of-association clothing is a disgusting act. This argument has, thus far, succeeded in court. Of course, just because it is legally allowed (to this point) doesn’t mean it is right. Important events in our country’s short history are testament to that.
–Juxtaposing this policy upon the Boy Scout Law, I find, independently, that it is not Friendly, nor Courteous, nor Kind, nor Brave, nor Clean. And, as for Reverent. Anyone who finds themselves moved to tears by the Sermon on the Mount (regardless of religious affiliation or subscriptions) should taste the bile welling in their throats at such blatant and disgusting discrimination by an organization claiming to uphold the highest of moral values.
Next, let me be clear about something else. Do not confuse the organization with the program.
The program is a warm and inviting place where caring and conscientious volunteers facilitate the emotional and physical growth of young men by using a structured learning and leadership environment in order to teach them valuable life skills and lessons. The vast majority of volunteers are dedicated to assisting these kids in becoming good men, regardless of sexuality, religion, or background. One does not need to earn the Eagle Scout award to gain benefit from the program, but the award does recognize significant dedication and work in the program.
The organization is cold. Detached “professionals” operate a not-for-profit organization consisting of nearly 3 million members, paying their higher leadership handsome salaries for sustaining growth and organizational integrity. They receive significant support from christian denominations throughout the US, and the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) make participation largely mandatory for its male youth.
Please, whatever you do, do not confuse the program with the organization.
So, with all of that said, let’s get to Dan’s question, “Should he turn in his badge?”
(Note: Please refrain from the “Badges, we don’t need no stinking badges” comments. Yes, you’re funny. You and the thousands of others who said it before you.)
I respect those who do so. Each of the men featured in the Boing Boing article made a gut-wrenching decision about something that took them years to obtain. They poured much of their youth into participation in the program, and the organization has stated that those who earned the badge, but who happen to be homosexual, are not fit to be leaders, so long as they openly acknowledge who they are.
It is a powerful statement. I respect what they did and what they are doing.
But, Dan, if your experience is anything like mine, you should keep your award on your wall, your mantle, or in your sock drawer. Wherever you choose.
If you’re like me, you earned that award after spending years among friends. Some times were good. Some were not so good, but they all came-together to help in making you who you are today.
If you’re like me, you were mentored by volunteer leaders who cared about who you would become. They wanted you to be better than they were at your age. They wanted you be successful. They wanted you to be happy. They were second, third, and fourth fathers.
Like me, you earned a handful of merit badges that taught you bits and pieces of skills to be used in life, from citizenship and understanding of local to federal governments, to environmental responsibility, to the time value of money, to how to survive in the wilderness.
Like me, you organized, researched, and led a service project for your community, designed to benefit a group or groups who desperately needed benefit. You spent hours and hours of would-be free time on this endeavor. Before age 18, you were a project manager. That is no small feat.
If you are like me, you were given your award at a court of honor. Your father stood to one side of you. Your volunteer leader stood to the other. Older Eagle Scouts spoke of how the hardest part of being an Eagle Scout is not what you did, but what you are expected to do for the rest of your life.
Finally, your mother pinned the award on you. She was proud of you. Everyone in the room was proud of you. They wanted you to have that trinket. You, and you alone.
If you are like me, you realize that the badge is merely a symbol of something you accomplished and someone you pledged to be. While only a symbol, it is still yours.
You earned it. Your friends helped you to earn it. Your leaders helped you to earn it. Without the support and love of your parents, you never would have earned it. It belongs to all of them. You’re just the caretaker.
So, if you’re like me, you won’t send your award to the Boy Scouts of America. They don’t deserve it. They never earned it. Most of the inhabitants of that big building in Irving, Texas have never had the moxie or standards or discipline to earn it.
While your friends, leaders, and family gave you support via the program, those in the organization tracked you as a number in a file cabinet. They supported you, your peers, and your leaders so long as you continued to pay dues and buy their officially-licensed stuff.
To use your own words, Dan. They are “small.”
You aren’t. That’s why you are going to wear that badge (literally or emblematically) as you tell them that they are a satire upon everything that Boy Scouts should be. And discrimination is something that no true Eagle Scout ever suffers. Those who embrace it behind legal jargon will never deserve anything you’ve earned.
(This is mine, and they can’t have it.)
July 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
Leadership is easy when times are good. Everyone is happy. Throngs of fans laud the prosperous and enjoyable circumstances. Life is good, and you feel like a hero.
Leadership in bad times is torture, sucking the happiness out of every room in which you dwell. You long for a cave or small hole as cover and concealment.
Via USAToday.com’s Mike Lopresti regarding recent decisions by Penn State on the legacy of Joe Paterno:
So [current Penn State President] Erickson left people on both sides unhappy, which, in a controversial firestorm, probably means he made the best decision he could.
That’s leadership. At times, it sucks and seems hardly worth even the largest of state-paid paychecks and tenure.
Everyone wants to be a leader when smiles abound and pats on the back are plentiful. A slight few are willing to deal with adversity. We need more of the latter in this world, for the former are a satire upon any definition of leadership.
July 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
July 19, 2012 Comments Off
Great news, especially for those of you extra-frugal taxpayers out there. Congress has voted to allow the military to continue its sponsorships of NASCAR, National Hot Rod Association, bass fishing, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Next time you see a fan of bass fishing, thank them for your freedom.
July 12, 2012 Comments Off
Things change every day in the military.
Old traditions die in the face of new technology and ideas. Officer and NCO Clubs disappeared in favor of Community Clubs. Wandering through forests engaged in “Search and Attack/Destroy” missions morphed into “Presence Patrols.” Shiny black boots gave way to tan suede.
July 11, 2012 § 2 Comments
Once upon a time, I looked at lawyers as a profession of noble gentlemen and ladies. I subscribed to the famous line from the Ed and Patsy Bruce song (later immortalized by the incomparable Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (those two deserve a spot in the white caddy, but I digress)):
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ‘em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such
I was nostalgic, just like everyone would like to be.
Of course, once you enter a profession, you inevitably become jaded and a bit cynical, and you’re able to see that not everyone fits the mold you previously assumed. Now, I still think it is a noble profession, if only for the fact that we are empowered to profoundly effect someone’s life.
At the same time, I long ago came to the realization that there are idiots among us. A while ago, I experienced the following conversation with opposing counsel. You know, the type of opposing counsel who is supposed to seek “justice.”
You may be baffled by the logic (or lack thereof) of what you are about to read, but, rest assured, I was part of this, and it still baffles me.
My description is significantly sanitized, as the subject matter of the case was extremely shocking to the conscience.
Me: Hey, I understand the evidence you have and the witnesses you are going to call. How about we agree to plead this in exchange for a referral to a Special Court-Martial? [this essentially places a cap of 12 months on any confinement]
“Justice Seeking” Person (JSP): I find that massively underwhelming, especially considering that, in a federal district court, the mandatory minimum is 5 years.
Me: OK, even though we aren’t in federal district court, you got me on that one. OK, here’s the deal. Last year, the same judge we have for our case gave 24 months in US v. Schmedlap. Schmedlap pled guilty to almost the exact same stuff as my client is charged. Considering that, how about 18 months? That way, my client gets the benefit of about 6 months and you get the benefit of saving taxpayers thousands of dollars in expert witness travel and expenses as well as your own time.
JSP: If you say so.
JSP: Well, that’s your interpretation of Schmedlap.
Me: [Retrieving the charge sheet in Schmedlap] See? He was accused of the same stuff. And see, he had almost the exact same number of [Illegal Things] in his possession. In fact, many of the [Illegal Things] were the same [Illegal Things] you caught my client with. The full record of trial is in your file room. Go check it out.
JSP: That’s your interpretation. I think this case is worth 3 years.
Me: Based on what precedent or authority?
JSP: Federal courts have a mandatory minimum of 5 years.
Me: This isn’t federal court. Our mandatory minimum is 0.
JSP: I still think it is worth 3 years.
Me: But, the judge in Schmedlap gave 24 months. That’s the same judge we have for this case.
JSP: That’s your interpretation.
So, I exited on that basis.
Opposing counsel was fairly new, but this was a dangerous case to try, especially considering a mound of evidence that didn’t help my client. I went to her boss. Surely a more experienced lawyer would see that this all made sense.
Me: Hey, I wanted to talk to you about a possible deal in this case.
JSP’s Boss: I talked about it with JSP. We think it is worth 3 years.
Me: OK, but, here, check out Schmedlap. The same judge…
JSP’s Boss: We think it is worth 3 years.
So, I exited on that basis.
Maybe if I go to the big, big bossman, I’ll get some traction.
Me: Hey, I wanted to talk to you about a possible deal in this case.
Bossman: Yeah, JSP and JSP’s Boss came to talk to me about that. I think you’re right, and you’re supported by precedent. Schmedlap is pretty clear. However, they feel strongly about 3 years, and I’m going to back them up on it.
So, I exited on that basis.
Final Note: Assuming you pay taxes in the US, your tax dollars pay for the salaries of JSP, JSP’s boss, and Big Bossman.