Prison Rape
The Vagaries of Federalism (cont.)

Dear Snotty Bitch: Back Off

Sometimes a routine criminal case captures the imagination of the world. When that happens, the case becomes more complex than necessary. A client can easily become hostage to the interest of folks with agendas all their own.

I am involved in such a case now. My client is a free-lance journalist and law student. He also served as campaign manager for the Green Party's gubnernatorial candidate, Cliff Thornton.

The client was arrested while taking photographs at the inaugural parade of Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell. A police report prepared by the arresting officer noted that the client had been singled out due to his political activism. The prospect of political enemies' lists being kept by law enforcement has drawn national attention to the case.

The attention is not necessarily a good thing.

One of the co-chairmen of Connecticut's legislative Judiciary Committee went so far as to call the State's Attorney to tell him to drop the case. When I heard that, my heart dropped. And for good reason. On my first court appearance, the state refused even to discuss disposition of this simple misdemeanor case. The case had become a political hot potato. Persuading the state to drop the case got a whole lot harder.

Yesterday, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) entered the fray, calling for the state to drop charges against the client. More political pressure on the prosecutor? That is likely to drive him even further into the arms of the arresting police officer's department. I told a reporter I was concerned this would further complicate a simple case. Read About It Here

The SPJ does not come to this case with clean hands. When my client first approached them to request help with legal fees, the organization published his complete confidential request on line. We had to request that they withdraw it. They did so. We raised funds without the ham-handed help of the SPJ.

So now the SPJ weighs in to request that the charges be dropped. What are they up to? Does the organization really think the state will now cower? The keyboard peckers are coming! The keyboard peckers are coming!

When told that we weren't exactly thrilled to have the SPJ muddy the waters, SPJ president Christine Tatum, an assistant business editor at The Denver Post, had this to say: "His lawyer can say whatever the heck he wants to, but SPJ has spoken," she said. "He might want to talk with his client."

Memo to Christine: I have spoken to my client. I represent him. If I need help spreading confidential information about him, I will ask for it. And as for the Wizardress of Oz-like pronouncement that "SPJ has spoken" all I can say is "Wow." Make that pretense with a capital P.

Here's a suggestion, Christine. The next time you think you want to help someone charged with a crime, whether journalist or not, why don't you give the lawyer a call to check on whether your efforts hurt or help?

Lawyers call people who mean well but have nothing to offer officious intermeddlers. Translated into lay terms suitable to this case that means "pretentious bitch."