Authorities were on Monday investigating a fatal shooting in an Israeli prison after a US-Israeli inmate was gunned down by guards after opening fire with a smuggled weapon. The Israel Prison Services said it was looking into Sunday’s incident, during…
Ever since President Nixon proclaimed the start of a War on Drugs some 40 years ago, prison populations in this country have grown far faster than the population as a whole. The United States now incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world, largely due to laws related to this “war”. Last week, while Congress continued its extended summer siesta, Attorney General Eric Holder announced some initiatives in the prosecution of the War on Drugs that may signal a significant shift in our criminal justice system in coming years.
In addition to the fact that our prisons are holding more prisoners per capita than any other nation, our judicial system has resulted in a situation where those incarcerated are dramatically over-representative of minority groups and poor people. Increasing evidence of discriminatory prosecution and sentencing that results in longer sentences for relatively minor and non-violent crimes is being seen by many as unfair to the prisoners, costly to taxpayers and counterproductive overall in terms of reducing crime and alleviating the perceived national drug problem.
Much of the legislation related to drug-related crimes appears to be discriminatory to people of color and those living in poverty, judging by the prison statistics. Inordinate numbers of racial minority group members tend to serve longer sentences for crimes which are often victimless. Strict marijuana laws are one example of this, as well as the huge disparity in sentences meted out for possession of various amounts of crack cocaine as opposed to powder cocaine. Serving prison sentences rather than receiving treatment for drug-dependence is often more costly to taxpayers and does little to alleviate the problem of recidivism once terms have been completed. Convicted felons face additional hardships in finding employment upon completion of sentences. Having more potential breadwinners in prison means more children living in one parent homes or foster care – in poverty. States which have three-strikes rules also end up sentencing people to life sentences which are obviously excessive when compared to the severity of their crimes.
The proposals unveiled by Holder could mean an easing of the policies and practices which have resulted in our bloated prison population. Americans, as far as I can determine, are no more deserving of involuntary incarceration than citizens of other countries. That our laws and policies so blatantly discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities as well as those at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder is appalling. The whole nature of our current justice system serves to further exacerbate already an existing inequality of income and future opportunities for advancement among broad expanses of our society People become disenfranchised politically in many states, as well. Many felons find they still may not be able to vote despite having paid their debt to society by serving their prison terms.
The whole War on Drugs has been a humongous waste of resources and lives without seeming to accomplish much of anything in terms of reducing the use of illegal drugs or the damage that dependence on them causes, both to those using them and to those affected by the users. The supplies of drugs do not seem to have dried up. Militarizing the war in countries such as Mexico and Columbia has not seemed to work. Drug cartels and gangs continue to proliferate at home and abroad, in some cases exhibiting more powerful than the governments that rule them. Prohibition of some of these drugs seems to parallel the failed prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. during part of the 20th century. Some states have begun easing restrictions on marijuana, and many have even legalized it for medicinal purposes, but they have also often found themselves at odds with a federal government which adamantly opposes any lessening of its opposition to the drug. Holder made no attempt to address the issue of marijuana legalization, but that is not his job. The laws regarding this need to be addressed by Congress before real lasting change can occur on this issue.
Changes to sentencing guidelines and policies regarding how drug-related offenses are to be handled by the judicial system should ease much of the prison crowding and alleviate some of the dysfunctional nature of our current prison system. Cost-cutting measures like prison privatization will only make matters worse if trends continue. Prisons, like schools, have a social value that should not be based on how much profit they can gain some private corporation. They are meant to serve society as a whole, not merely corporate stockholders, and the wellbeing of prisoners as well as students as human beings needs to be foremost. There are currently two county judges where I live serving prison terms for taking kickbacks for sending kids to a private juvenile facility to keep it sufficiently occupied. Is it any wonder why private prison companies want more, not fewer, prisoners? We currently spend far more per person to incarcerate people in this country than to educate them. That situation should be reversed.
Ruining the lives of young poor people for possessing a small quantity of a relatively harmless substance while allowing supposedly fine upstanding people to use their wealth, power and political influence to live in luxury while decimating the economy and taking away others’ livelihoods, homes and health is not how a just society operates. Turning the tide of a War on Drugs that has been a failure for decades and caused more harm than good for society as a whole would be a good start to alleviating some of the problems faced by our prison system and society as a whole.
The actions proposed by the Attorney General, along with the decision last week regarding the racial profiling practiced under New York City’s Stop and Frisk policy are only a beginning. More rational and humane drug policy at federal, state and local levels are a must in order to maintain momentum. Conditions in our prisons must be improved. That can only happen if we use a more fair system for determining how to deal with acts that so many no longer feel should be illegal. As the case with marriage equality has seen great strides in the recent past, much of the drug war must become a thing of the past so that the entire nation’s prisons do not become like the California system, where judges are ordering the release of prisoners to alleviate overcrowding which has reached the level of cruel and unusual punishment. Something is wrong somewhere in the system when you can’t adequately house and care for all the people you seem to feel do not deserve to live freely.
Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer said she feared winding up in prison for treason if she refused to comply with US spy demands for data. Her comments came after being asked what she is doing to protect Yahoo users from “tyrannical government” during an on-…
Enlarge The United States military last week convicted former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who now goes by Chelsea, of espionage, theft and fraud. The 20 charges amounted to 35 years in prison, with the possibility of parole after 10 served…
By SUSAN HAIGH — Associated Press
SUFFIELD, Conn. — When Nicholas Aponte recalls the night in 1995 that sent him to prison, he describes an immature 17-year-old who told himself he was tough but in reality lacked the nerve to say no to a cousin he admired for being a troublemaker.
Sitting with a group of boys on a porch, playing cards and drinking, the cousin said he needed to “do a robbery” and asked if Aponte wanted to tag along.
“I said, ‘OK, we’ll do the robbery or whatever,'” Aponte said. “It was spur of the moment.”
The plan failed. A 28-year-old sandwich shop assistant manager was killed during the robbery. Aponte was later arrested, as was his cousin, younger brother and a friend. Even though Aponte didn’t fire the gun, prosecutors considered him the ringleader. He was treated by the courts as an adult and sentenced to 38 years without parole. That means he will be 55 when he’s freed.
“All this time was hard to perceive, for somebody so young,” Aponte said in a prison interview this week. Now 35, with more than half his life spent in Connecticut prisons, Aponte dreams of finishing his bachelor’s degree, becoming a nurse and spending time with his family, including a son who was an infant when he was imprisoned.
Aponte is among an estimated 2,100 so-called juvenile lifers across the country — inmates sentenced to lengthy prison terms without parole — who hope for a reprieve in the wake of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Miller v. Alabama. The decision determined such sentences are cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. The court ruled, 5-4, that the proportionality of the sentence must take into account “the mitigating qualities of youth,” such as immaturity and the failure of young people to understand the ramifications of their actions.
In part to head off an avalanche of expected appeals, at least 10 states have changed laws to comply with the ruling. In June, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill eliminating mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile killers, who are also ineligible for the death penalty. The new law requires juveniles convicted of first-degree murder to serve at least 25 years in prison while still allowing judges the discretion to impose a sentence of life without parole. Juvenile offenders convicted of first-degree murder are also allowed to petition for a sentence modification after serving 30 years.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed a bill in February specifying that juveniles convicted of murder would be eligible for parole after serving 25 years in prison. Last fall, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation giving judges options other than life in prison when sentencing juveniles in murder cases. Other states with new juvenile sentencing laws include Arkansas, California, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Dakota and Utah, according to data collected by the National Conference of State Legislatures this summer.
In Connecticut, where Aponte is among about 200 inmates who could be affected by the high court’s ruling, a proposal that would have allowed parole hearings for teen offenders who’ve served at least 12 years or 60 percent of their sentence died this year. There are plans to resurrect the bill next year.
But the prospect of possibly shortening sentences has been met with mixed reaction from relatives of crime victims.
“If you can’t believe a judge’s final decision in a courtroom, who can you believe?” asked John Cluny, whose wife and teenage son were shot to death in 1993 by his son’s 15-year-old friend, Michael Bernier. Bernier was sentenced to 60 years for the murders. Cluny calls him “a cold-blooded killer.”
Despite good behavior in prison and years of reflection and maturity, Cluny questions giving such killers another chance at freedom.
“You’re in prison for what you did, not for what you’ve become,” he said.
At a recent hearing on Connecticut’s bill, John J. Horan, whose son was killed in the robbery that Aponte was convicted in, sat silently, listening to Aponte’s mother speak about how her son has become a man any mother would be proud of. He has matured, sought to improve himself by reading and earned his associate’s degree and certification as a nurse’s aide to work in the prison infirmary. He’s also a hospice volunteer who tends to dying inmates, she said, adding that Aponte has tried to raise his own son from prison, sending money and playing a positive role in the boy’s life.
After listening to her, Horan said Aponte’s cousin, gunman Jason Casiano, who was 16 years old at the time of the robbery, doesn’t deserve a parole hearing, but he was more willing to buy such an argument for Aponte.
“They should loosen up on the nonviolent offenders,” said Horan, 82. “It was just a terribly bad move by Aponte.”
But Horan is skeptical about some of the reasoning behind the Supreme Court ruling, in which Justice Elena Kagan wrote that mandatory life without parole for a juvenile “precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features — among them, immaturity, impetuosity and failure to appreciate risks and consequences.”
Teens still know right from wrong, Horan contends, when it involves “something so fundamental as killing and not killing.”
But Aponte says he can relate to Kagan’s argument. When he recalls his youth leading up to the robbery, Aponte describes beatings he suffered and a world where guns were commonplace. Yearning for a male role model, he admired his cousin, who had just moved to Connecticut.
“When I think about it now, I was definitely a follower in a lot of areas,” he said. “I should have had more courage to stand up, and I didn’t.”
Aponte acknowledges he was in denial about the crime at first, focusing more on trying to survive in prison. But three years after the robbery, Aponte said he read letters from his victim’s family, including one from Horan, who wrote about the grief of losing a son and how he hoped Aponte would make something of his life. Aponte said that changed him.
He still has the appearance of a fresh-faced kid, but Aponte speaks with the wisdom of a prison elder who has spent time thinking about why he wound up incarcerated and how to make the best of it.
“I never thought I’d be able to see life the way I see it now,” he said. “I don’t even recognize that other person.”
Associated Press Writer Randall Chase in Dover, Del. contributed to this report.
Associated Press Writer Susan Haigh can be followed on Twitter @SusanHaighAP
Florida deputies warned a man that if he dared publish a video showing a prison warden snatching his camera and refusing to return it, he would be guilty of a federal crime.
That, of course, is hogwash, but it just shows the extent that law enforcement officials will go to defend other authority figures when they’ve been caught breaking the law.
The video shows George Dedos, assistant warden at the Lake City Youthful Offender Facility, confronting Jeff Gray, who was standing on public property across the street from the prison, which is owned by Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the United States.
Dedos walks up to him and snatches his iPod, not realizing at the time that Gray had another iPod recording from his shirt pocket.
Columbia County sheriff officials respond to the incident and tell Dedos that Gray has the right to record, but they don’t come close to arresting Dedos for strong-armed robbery, which would likely have been the case had Gray snatched Dedos’ camera.
According to the incident report, which Gray obtained Monday:
Upon arrival I spoke with Assistant Warden from CCA, George Dedos, who stated that a white male, later identified as Jeffrey Gray was videotaping the facility via cell phone. George stated that he confronted Jeffrey and Jeffrey refused to stop recording, so he grabbed the cell phone. George was advised that unless the person was on CCA’s property, the person could record if he wanted to. George was also advised that if Jeffrey did publish the video, it would be a federal violation because Jeffrey was standing on federal land while videotaping without a permit, which was confirmed by forestry ranger, J. Watson.
So not only was the camera-snatching caught on video but Dedos admitted to deputies he committed the crime.
But all deputies could do was try to find a way to make Gray the guilty party, even listing him as the “suspect” in the report.
Gray posted two videos from the incident Saturday night, only hours after it took place, and I posted it on this blog early Sunday morning.
Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel from the National Press Photographers Association, explained in an email why Gray was not guilty of any violation.
I see from the “offense report” that Jeffrey Grey may have been in the Osceola Forest picnic area. While some land operated by the US Parks Department requires a permit for photography or filming the Commercial Permits Section states:
“Permits are required for commercial use of the National Forests in Florida, such as filmmaking, wedding photography, and photography for use in advertising. Please contact the District Ranger’s office to determine your need for a permit and any fees that might be involved.” (see source)
“It is important to note that there is no permit required for most still photography or for non-commercial filming on National Forest Lands including wilderness areas.” (see source.)
My opinion is that if he did not have a permit and one was required (which should not have been the case) the most that could have happened is that he received a violation for not having a permit. I do not believe that posting such a video, especially if not for profit, would violate anything and certainly not federal law.
Their warning constitutes a prior restraint on his First Amendment freedoms and would most likely be struck down as it limits far too much speech than is necessary to achieve a governmental purpose. In this case I have no idea what that purpose would be other than far exceeding their authority.
Corrections Corporation of America is not having the greatest year, having recently lost four major contracts in Idaho, Texas and Mississippi.
Gray plans to file a complaint with the state attorney’s office and his lawyer is already looking into filing a lawsuit.
Click on George Dedos’ name to send him an email.
read more from Carlos Miller:http://photographyisnotacrime.com/2013/06/24/deputies-warn-man-not-to-publish-video-of-wardens-strong-armed-robbery/
Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.
There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.
What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?
“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”
The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”
According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.
CRIME GOES DOWN, JAIL POPULATION GOES UP
According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:
. Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.
. The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.
. Longer sentences.
. The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.
. A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.
. More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.
HISTORY OF PRISON LABOR IN THE UNITED STATES
Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.
During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.
Who is investing? At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.
Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.
[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”
The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates.
Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.
IMPORTING AND EXPORTING INMATES
Profits are so good that now there is a new business: importing inmates with long sentences, meaning the worst criminals. When a federal judge ruled that overcrowding in Texas prisons was cruel and unusual punishment, the CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits. According to a December 1998 Atlantic Monthly magazine article, this program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered all over rural Texas. That state’s governor, Ann Richards, followed the example of Mario Cuomo in New York and built so many state prisons that the market became flooded, cutting into private prison profits.
After a law signed by Clinton in 1996 – ending court supervision and decisions – caused overcrowding and violent, unsafe conditions in federal prisons, private prison corporations in Texas began to contact other states whose prisons were overcrowded, offering “rent-a-cell” services in the CCA prisons located in small towns in Texas. The commission for a rent-a-cell salesman is $2.50 to $5.50 per day per bed. The county gets $1.50 for each prisoner.
Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.
NORFOLK, Va., April 16 (UPI) — Two former Blackwater contractors have been ordered to report to federal prison after exhausting appeals for convictions they killed civilians in Afghanistan.
Christopher Drotleff of Virginia Beach, Va., and Justin Cannon of Corpus Christi, Texas, were each convicted of involuntary manslaughter for fatally shooting two Afghan men and injured another, The (Norfolk) Virginian Pilot reported Tuesday.
Investigators said the two Americans had left their military base without authorization to transport local interpreters. The lead vehicle in the convoy crashed and overturned, and Cannon and Drotleff opened fire into the back of a civilian car that tried to pass the accident scene.
A passenger in the car, was killed and the driver seriously injured. Another person who happened to be walking his dog nearby was also killed in the shooting.
Drotleff was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison; Cannon will serve 30 months.
The pair appealed their convictions to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and lost. The Supreme Court turned down their petition.
A U.S. District Court judge said the men have until May 22 to surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service
Under Senator Harry Reid’s (D-NV) gun control bill (S. 649), if somebody steals your firearm or you lose it, you can go to prison for up to five years if you have not reported the theft or loss to local police and to Attorney General Eric Holder within 24 hours.
The provision merits ridicule for treating as a felon someone who misplaces a firearm and does not report it to the police and the federal government fast enough.
Section 123 of the Reid bill adds a new provision to section 922 of title 18 of the U.S. Code:
It shall be unlawful for any person who lawfully possesses or owns a firearm that has been shipped or transported in, or has been possessed in or affecting, interstate or foreign commerce, to fail to report the theft or loss of the firearm, within 24 hours after the person discovers the theft or loss, to the Attorney General and to the appropriate local authorities.
It also amends section 924 of title 18 so that a violation of the 24-hour reporting requirement committed “knowingly” is punishable by up to five years in prison or a criminal fine, or both. To punish someone who “knowingly” violates the 24-hour rule might sound reasonable to some people—until you know what a lawyer means by the word “knowingly” when it comes to a criminal statute.
The Supreme Court said in Bryan v. U.S. in 1994 that when a federal statute punishes someone for a crime committed “willfully,” the federal government must prove at trial that the individual knew that his conduct was unlawful. However, the Court also said that, when the statute provides that the government must prove merely that the crime was committed “knowingly,” the government does not have to prove that the individual knew that his or her conduct was unlawful. Thus, an individual who knew his or her gun was missing and did not report it to local authorities and the Attorney General in 24 hours would potentially face five years in prison.
It is not reasonable to send an individual to prison for up to five years for failing to tell local authorities and the federal government, within 24 hours, that his or her firearm is lost or was stolen, given that a reasonable person would never know that failure to make such a report, let alone within 24 hours, is a crime. Even someone who has the presence of mind to report promptly to local police or the sheriff’s office that a firearm is missing would be highly unlikely to know that such a report to local authorities was not good enough and that he or she must tell the Attorney General of the United States, too.
It is one thing to assign a legal duty to a firearms owner to report missing firearms, but it is quite another thing to exercise the draconian power of the federal government to make failing in that duty a federal crime. It is doubly inappropriate to give someone prison time for failing to tell the Attorney General that his or her gun was missing, when no reasonable person would know that failing to make such a report within 24 hours was a federal crime.
Also, the drafters of the legislation failed to take sufficiently into account the nature of rural life and hunting in the United States. Some people who own firearms within the United States do not have the ability to communicate with anybody (let alone the Attorney General of the United States) within 24 hours—think, for example, of a hunter deep in the wilds of Alaska who loses a firearm in a river.
Under no circumstances should Congress make it a federal crime to fail to report a missing firearm within 24 hours to local authorities and the Attorney General. It is an unreasonable use of power to define as a federal crime conduct that no reasonable person would know was a federal crime.
Months before the slaying of two Kaufman County prosecutors, Texas authorities sent out a bulletin warning that a gang of white supremacists might seek retaliation involving “mass casualties or death,” sources said.
The December 2012 bulletin, obtained by ABC News, warned that “high ranking members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas are involved in issuing orders to inflict ‘mass casualties or death’ to law enforcement officials involved in the recent case.”
The bulletin said “the plan is designed to be carried out when law enforcement officers are at large gatherings.” It warned that the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas was “proactively working toward developing personal information about officers involved in the recent arrest of Aryan Brotherhood of Texas members,” and was carrying out surveillance of the officers.
Law enforcement sources have said the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a violent prison gang, is a top focus of an investigation into the deaths of the prosecutors, Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland.
read more at