Fist Assaulted by Face, and other Clichés

According to this story at Newsday, 41-year-old Jorge Guevara was stopped by two police officers for driving with his 2-year-old not secured in a car seat.

Police said that, as he was being questioned, Guevara started to walk away. Officers attempted to stop him, but, police said, a struggle ensued.

Why was he being questioned, given that the offense was a child out of a carseat, is unknown. How the cops “attempted to stop him” is unknown. How a “struggle ensued” is unknown, as if struggles ensue on their own.  But what is known is the resulting injuries from that struggle.

Guevara suffered a facial contusion, police said. One officer suffered contusions, lacerations and a sprained finger. The other officer suffered several fractures to his hand.

Let’s connect dots, shall we.  Cops: hand injuries. Guevara: facial contusions.  And charges are: two counts of second degree assault.  You probably thought I was kidding whenever I wrote about defendants being charged with assaulting cops’ fists with their faces. Nope. It happens. It happened again here.

Below is a picture of Guevara. In case you’re wondering, he is not winking at you as if he were running for vice president. Where his right eye used to be is a heinous weapon used to assault and seriously injure two police officers. Doesn’t it look vicious?

Jorge Guevara, 41, of 21 Ronald Place, was

Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson was a powerful guy at George Bush’s Department of Justice, instrumental in signing the deportation memo that prevented Canadian citizen Maher Arar from being returned to Canada, and sent instead to Syria where he was tortured. And then there was the Thompson memo, requiring corporations to waive attorney-client privilege and refuse to pay legal fees for employees if they wanted to cooperate with the government.  Good stuff.

Though mentioned as possible Attorney General or Supreme Court possibility if McCain was elected, he instead suffers that hard life of General Counsel at Pepsico.  So like me, you probably wondered what Larry was up to, and  the Atlantic is here to oblige, with an article by Larry showing his post-DOJ epiphany that the law just isn’t fair.

The bedrock principle of Anglo-American criminal law has always been that people must know they are doing something wrong before they can be found guilty and branded a criminal. This legal concept is known as mens rea, Latin for “guilty mind.” The reason for this fundamental legal requirement is obvious: violations of criminal laws are serious, and before we put a fellow citizen in jail, we want to make certain that he is actually a bad person, is morally culpable for his crime, and that he deserves to go to jail.

Today, however, we are moving away from this fair and common-sense principle in our legal system. Increasingly, federal criminal law, and especially that related to business conduct, has what is called “weak mens rea,” or even no mens rea requirement at all. In the 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation, for instance, many of the new criminal provisions have no requirement of criminal intent, meaning that morally innocent people can (and will) receive harsh criminal penalties for otherwise innocent mistakes.

Today. Larry?  As in, not in 2003 when you were the friggin’ deputy AG, those grand old days when mens rea was honored about all else? Because you, big guy, would never have been party to the prosecution of tens of thousands of people for violations of thousands of crimes that required no mens rea?

And naturally, Larry ends with a zinger:

It is time to bring fundamental fairness and common sense back to our criminal laws — especially those that relate to business people. Doing so won’t be giving them a break or letting them off easy (fines should always be on the table for even innocent mistakes). Rather, we will be extending to them the basic protection of the criminal justice system that is afforded to all citizens: the commitment to punishing only that behavior which is morally wrong.

It is time. It was time ten years ago, back when you had some power and authority to do something. You could have exercised discretion. You could have knocked on your boss, John Ashcroft’s door and had a chat about bringing fundamental fairness back to our criminal laws. You could have written this article back then, when somebody might have given a damn about what you had to say.

And you did nothing.

So now, after the trail of bodies is behind you where the sight of misery won’t disturb you any longer, you’ve had your epiphany that things aren’t exactly fair?  And I really like how you slipped in “especially those that relate to business people,” because we all know that those that relate to everyone else are hunky dory, and you, Mr. Pepsico GC, have a special spot for the poor, maligned business person who nobody loves.

Welcome back to the fold, Larry. Good to see you’re now one of us.

Via PBS News Hour, the Republic of Texas has figured out that it’s handing school children Class C citations instead of report cards tends to have a negative effect on their futures. Whouda thunk?

“In fiscal year 2011 … 330,000 non-traffic Class C [citations] were handled in the municipal and justice of the peace courts for juveniles,” Fowler said.
And because Texas adjudicates less serious “classroom cases” in municipal and justice of the peace courts – rather than in juvenile courts that attach confidentiality protections to the proceedings – the punishment likely won’t stop there for Rollins.
He may have to list the conviction going forward on everything from college and job applications to the forms requesting a driver’s license with the state of Texas.
It’s all part of a sweeping zero tolerance movement in schools that Fowler says started in the last few decades and has created a “school-to-prison pipeline.”

There were, of course, a few possibilities as to the long term consequences of saddling school children with criminal records whenever possible.  First, they would have extra stuff to put on their college applications right below their National Honor Society induction.  Second, they could do a research paper about their experiences that garnered them international acclaim. Or third, they would be more likely to drop out of school, find themselves incapable of getting a job because of their criminal record, and engage in a life of crime because they had no great expectations.

Research has shown the earlier a student comes into contact with the justice system, the more likely they are to drop out of school, according to Fowler.

Uh oh. This doesn’t bode well for the college option. But isn’t this just Texas, where nobody expects much else.

In Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest school district, many activists have begun protesting what they see as a culture of criminalizing student tardiness.
Some students, who claimed traffic, late buses and oversleeping as reasons for tardiness or truancy, have been ticketed and summoned to court to pay fines that can exceed $250.

More than 40 percent of the tickets were given to students 14 and younger. And critics say the citations have unfairly targeted low-income, minority households

Because it’s no big deal for children 14 and under from low-income minority households to pay $250 fines.  They can just trade their food stamps for some cocaine, sell it on the streets and come up with the fine money, and maybe even a few bucks extra.  For books, maybe.

The police is Los Angeles have declined to stop ticketing students, but are giving serious thought to potential reforms.  Like conducting a study. Because saddling kids with criminal records under zero tolerance policies are working really well, aside from this minor glitch.

2 thoughts on “Fist Assaulted by Face, and other Clichés

  1. Max Kennerly

    Larry’s not talking about the guy on the street, he’s not even talking about you or me.

    He’s talking about granting immunity to bad people in bad organizations that defraud pensioners and abuse children. He wants to let crooks in suits off the hook because, well, gosh, securities are really complicated and we all do this thing where we tell one client to buy and another to sell the same thing, y’know? He wants to let church and university officials who covered up child abuse to walk free because, gosh, they didn’t intend to abuse children, they merely intended to protect the organization and, gosh, they weren’t sure about the abuse, were they, so they didn’t call the cops.

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