Tag: Law/Crime

More Garden State Gun Insanity

A couple of years ago, we talked about Brian Aitken, the man who was convicted of violating New Jersey gun laws because he had guns in his car while he was moving. He was released from prison by Christie and his convictions were eventually thrown out (in part because the judge gave poor instructions to the jury; proper instructions might have resulted in acquittal).

Then it was Shaneen Allen, who faced felony charges for having a registered gun in her car while driving through New Jersey. After enormous public pressure, the prosecutor relented and let her go into a diversion program for first-time offenders.

These things keep happening because New Jersey’s gun laws are insanely complicated and ignore any idea of mens rea:

Carrying a firearm in a locked container in checked luggage in an airport terminal to declare it to the airline constitutes unlawful possession and is not protected under the law.

This decision was a direct result of a 2005 incident where Gregg C. Revell, a Utah Resident with a valid Utah Concealed Firearm Permit was traveling through Newark Airport en route to Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Because of a missed flight, he was given his luggage, which included a properly checked firearm, and was forced to spend the night in a hotel in New Jersey. When he returned to the airport the following day to check his handgun for the last portion of the trip, he was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm.

Revell lost his lawsuit after The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held in Gregg C. Revell v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, [222] held that “Section 926A does not apply to Revell because his firearm and ammunition were readily accessible to him during his stay in New Jersey.”

This opinion will apply to NJ airports. If you miss a flight or for any other reason your flight is interrupted and the airline tries to return you luggage that includes a checked firearm, you cannot take possession of the firearm if you are taking a later flight.

Well, meet the latest victim:

Gordon Van Gilder is a retired New Jersey school teacher and collector of 18th century memorabilia. That innocuous hobby could land the 72-year-old behind bars for the rest of his life.

Van Gilder owns an unloaded antique 225-year-old flintlock pistol, the possession of which carries a potential 10-year prison sentence and mandatory minimum sentence of three to five-and-a-half years with no chance for parole.

When a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy pulled over Van Gilder last November for a minor traffic violation, Van Gilder—after consenting to a search—volunteered the information that the unloaded pistol was in his glove box. The next morning, according to Van Gilder’s account in a video posted by the National Rifle Association (NRA), four officers showed up at his home with a warrant for his arrest.

New Jersey’s strict gun laws explicitly include antique firearms, despite the fact that federal laws exempt them from most gun control regulations.

The local cops are doing ballistics tests on the flintlock just in case Van Gilder used it to commit the world’s slowest robbery or something.

Most federal gun laws exempt weapons made before 1898. The reason is that antique firearms are usually the province of collectors and historians. When was the last time you heard of someone holding up a liquor store with a musket?

There’s no question that Van Gilder broke the law. But there’s little question in my mind that the law is an ass. A Republican state legislator has introduced a bill to exempt antique weapons from New Jersey’s gun laws, but that won’t stop this prosecution. Even if he pleads out, a conviction could jeopardize his pension. I don’t know the ins and outs of New Jersey law, but if Van Gilder is eligible for the diversion program, he should absolutely get it.

This is an inevitable consequence of overly broad gun control laws. They are passed in the wake of some awful act of violence and wind up snaring law-abiding people who pose no danger whatsoever. And any opposition is written off as the result of NRA mischief.

Ending Shared Theft

I can’t believe I’m going to say this but here goes. Ahem. Cough. Uh, is this thing on?

Hi. Um … here we go …

Eric Holder has done something right.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without warrants or criminal charges.

Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.

Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.

The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. It allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.

I’ve talked about civil asset forfeiture many times. This is the vile practice where law enforcement officials seize your money, your car or your bank accounts and … well, basically keep it. You never have to be charged with a crime. They never have to prove the assets came from crime. They just take it, like a highwayman. And they are perfectly free to use those assets for any purpose, including, in one case, a margarita machine.

Some states have trained to “reign this in”. Granted, they haven’t reigned it in by say, abolishing it. But they’ve at least tried to redirect the money from going directly to law enforcement to going to schools or something. The Feds responded with their Equitable Sharing Program, where the police turn the money to the Feds to bypass state laws. The Feds keep a cut and then turn it right back over to the police. That’s the program Holder is suspending.

Now, to be fair, this is a directive. The next AG could reverse it. Hell, Holder could. Let’s not mistake this for, say, Congress passing a law to abolish it. Radley Balko breaks down the decision further, pointing out that federal investigations — such as investigations by the DEA or IRS — will still be able to use this tool. And, in fact, local law enforcement will be able to use Equitable Sharing when they are part of a federal or joint investigation. In fact, Holder’s justice department recently successfully argued before the Supreme Court, in Kaley, that the government could seize your assets before trial to keep you from hiring a good lawyer.

So let’s not dance in the streets just yet. But this is a step in the right direction. The next thing that needs to happen is for Congress to abolish the practice completely. Asset forfeiture may have made sense when we were seizing the 18th century smuggling ships of overseas booze barons. It makes no sense in a modern context. If the Supreme Court won’t abolish it, Congress must and should.

But Did You Really Mean Yes?

A few weeks ago, I blogged on the affirmative consent law passed by California that requires any sexual contact on college campuses to have explicit and ongoing consent to not be qualified as assault. In criticizing it, I noted:

What this really is about is getting a foot in the door for something radical feminists have wanted for a long time: a standard of “enthusiastic consent” to determine the line between sex and rape. According to these theorists, the only time sex should happen is when the woman is eager for it. Anything else is a varying degree of rape.

Do you have any idea how tired I get of being right all the time?

Activists quoted in the Huffington Post now want to extend this “affirmative consent” ideology, and its pinched, misleading definition of “consent,” beyond college into K-12 schools, and beyond sexual activity to non-sexual touching and unwanted remarks, to teach people the sinister evil of things like “unsolicited hugs.” (My wife and daughter hug me without asking for permission, and sometimes it’s a surprise — a pleasant surprise, even if I never “agreed” to it.). Once busybodies start meddling in your personal life, it’s hard for them to stop.

The meddling won’t stop at the schoolhouse gate, and will eventually reach into your private life, too. As lawyer Scott Greenfield notes, progressive law professors have submitted a controversial proposal to the American Law Institute that the Model Penal Code be radically changed to require affirmative “consent” throughout society, for both “sexual intercourse” and a broader range of “sexual contact.” On page 69 of their draft, they explicitly admit that this affirmative “consent” requirement would classify as sexual assault even many “passionately wanted” instances of sex (presumably because of the technicality that such mutually-wanted sexual intercourse is welcomed after — not affirmatively consented to before — the sex is initiated.) Perversely, they justify this massive invasion of people’s sex lives as supposedly protecting people’s sexual “autonomy” from potentially unwanted sex, even though their proposal goes well beyond banning unwanted sex, to banning sex that was in fact “passionately wanted” although not agreed to in advance. See Model Penal Code: Sexual Assault and Related Offenses, Tentative Draft No. 1 at pg. 69 (April 30, 2014).

This is why, Ezra Klein, you don’t support what you admit is a terrible law because it serves some social justice function. Because once you infect the legal code with the sort of wooly thinking, it will spread and mutate until the entire law code is a feminist manifesto from Berkeley.

Yes Doesn’t Mean Yes

The blogosphere has been lighting up for the last few weeks over California’s passage of a “Yes Means Yes” law, which basically says that only affirmative consent qualifies as consent and that this consent has be obtained at every phase of any sexual encounter.

The new law seeks both to improve how universities handle rape and sexual assault accusations and to clarify the standards, requiring an “affirmative consent” and stating that consent can’t be given if someone is asleep or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.

“Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,” the law states, “nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.”

California’s Legislature approved the measure last month, with broad support. But while victims’ rights advocates have welcomed the new standard, the law also has its critics, who say its requirements place too much burden on the accused.

You can guess where most people have landed on this subject. Liberals are praising it as a step against a supposed epidemic of sexual violence on campus (sexual violence on campuses is depressingly real, but the much-touted “one woman in five” stat is an overestimate and in conflict with the government’s own numbers). Many conservatives and libertarians are critical because they see it as canting the field against the accused and an intrusion into people’s private behavior.

Probably the worst commentary on this belongs to Ezra Klein. In his first article, he admitted that “Yes Means Yes” is a bad law but said it was necessary to deal with the problem of campus rape. You can check Conor’s response here. Klein then doubled down with some musings about the legal system which was inaccurate, to say the least.

The thing is, I think much of the debate is missing the point. Whether “Yes Means Yes” is a good law or a bad law, it’s addressing the wrong problem. The problem is not that we have an unclear definition of consent; the problem is that these cases are being handled by universities at all.

To call campus judiciary systems a kangaroo court would be an insult to marsupials. You can read here about the details of a woman who says her boyfriend, during consensual sex, beat her, choked her and anally raped her. When she tried to use the campus judicial system, they allowed him to reference a supposedly exculpatory video, but she was never allowed rebut his testimony by showing the video. They made a big deal over her months-long delay in bringing charges, but didn’t allow her to explain why she delayed (she wasn’t going to bring charges until she found out he had assaulted other women). They were not allowed to consider that he’d been previously found responsible for similar sexual misconduct because the cases had been mysteriously re-opened.

This is not surprising to anyone who has been in academia for long. Campus judiciary systems are frequently a joke. They use rules of evidence made up on the fly, they are usually run by students, staff and/or faculty who have maybe watched an episode of Matlock. The problem is not that they don’t have a clear definition of consent; the problem is that they don’t know what the hell they are doing.

The system is little better than a random number generator. Often, women are subjected to a ridiculous process that leads inevitably to exoneration. But, on occasion, it works the other way and men are railroaded and slimed. There’s no logic or reason to it. The cases that result in men being unfairly kicked off campus are frequently far weaker than the ones that have a campus jury acquitting.

Campus justice systems should stick to what they’re good at: exonerating students who have cheated on exams.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. I have read the details of many cases in which innocent people were convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, often spending decades in prison or on death row. The one thing that jumps out at you, over and over, is the tunnel vision that can grip law enforcement and prosecutors. Once they have the idea that X committed the crime, they begin to see everything in that light. Exonerative evidence is explained away or ignored; confirming evidence is believed and touted. And while academics like to think of themselves as floating loftily above confirmation bias and rushes to judgement, they are just as susceptible to it as anyone else. People tend to decide questions before they have all the evidence. That’s human nature.

The difference is that our legal system has safeguards to try to stop the runaway train of presumed guilt: an adversarial lawyer system, the right to confront witnesses, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, etc. It doesn’t work perfectly, but it works well. Most campus systems have none of that. To the extent that they do, they are trying to get rid of it. In fact, the Justice Department has been pressuring campus legal systems to move toward “preponderance of evidence” and other shortcuts.

The result is that there are few safeguards against a campus judiciary board deciding in favor of whatever their initial conclusion was. If they thought the guy was innocent, they’ll find him innocent. If they think he’s guilty, they’ll decide he’s guilty. How does “Yes means Yes” address that?

It doesn’t. What this really is about is getting a foot in the door for something radical feminists have wanted for a long time: a standard of “enthusiastic consent” to determine the line between sex and rape. According to these theorists, the only time sex should happen is when the woman is eager for it. Anything else is a varying degree of rape.

But under this standard — and to some extent under the standard of “yes means yes” — the vast majority of sex would qualify as rape. When discussing this on Twitter, one of my followers tweeting back that she spent years in a relationship with lousy sex. She was not at all enthusiastic about it, but she consented. Another one pointed out that this would classify all sex work — from street walkers to sugar babies — as rape victims. Still another said she has never been one to initiate sex; but she’s up for it when her partner wants it. In fact, a lot of women’s sexuality is responsive. For a lot of women, what turns them on is being wanted. Dan Savage likes to say that men get aroused and start having sex; women start having sex and get aroused. Lesbians sometimes have difficulty with their sex lives because — whether by genetics or socialization — they have difficult initiating sex out of the blue. And millions of couples have engaged in drunk sex, perfunctory sex or “we’re trying to get pregnant and you’re ovulating so whatever” sex.

Some women (and some men) find the idea of asking for permission sexy. Many women don’t. The simple fact is that human sexuality — and especially female human sexuality — is way too complex for such simple rules. If you put a thousand women in a room and asked them what kind of sex they want, you would probably get two thousand answers. That’s fine. That’s human nature. But California has now taken a step toward codifying one of those answers into law.

I understand the basis for these changes. As Megan McArdle points out, the problem of campus sexual violence is confined to a small percentage of men who do this repeatedly and knowingly. Most women can tell the difference between a guy who misreads her signals and a guy who doesn’t give a shit about her signals (although the people who compile the “one in five” stat count both as assault). What “yes means yes” does is give the colleges more leverage in ejecting the real scumbags from campuses. They’ll no longer be able to waffle and warp when a committee can just say, “Did you ask if she wanted to have anal sex?”

The problem is that 1) this is unlikely to work. Rapists and assaulters will continue to lie and claim that consent was given when it wasn’t. It will just boil down to a more precise version of “he said — she said”; 2) authorities love vagueness in the law. They love it. If you give universities this kind of authority and discretion, it will be abused. It will simply reinforce what the college judicial boards want to do in these cases. If they’ve decided a man is guilty before hearing the evidence, this will just persuade them all the further. And if they’ve decided he’s innocent, this won’t dissuade them. Only a system set up like our current legal system — with witness confrontation, representation and a presumption of innocence — can get close to the truth.

That’s, of course, assuming that the colleges even get the implementation of this law right. We’re now seeing that college regulations are showing up as poorly thought out and badly written, even beyond the bad ideas of legislatures and federal agencies. Michigan’s sexual assault policy is so badly written it makes refusing sex or criticizing someone sexually an incident of sexual violence. Ohio State’s policy regards sex with the elderly or disabled to be assault. I mean, it shouldn’t surprise us that the Buckeyes and Wolverines would fumble the ball like this. But come on. These laws read like they were written by people who’ve never had sex.

Here’s the sexual assault policy I would put in place on college campuses:

1) If someone claims to have been raped or sexually assaulted, this will be handled by the police. As bad as the police are, they’re not a college judiciary committee. A lot of people think this isn’t enough. They want accused rapists kicked off campus so that the victim doesn’t have to live in the same dorms or go to class in the same buildings as him. OK:

2) If a student is the target of a criminal investigation or proceeding, he will be suspended from campus until the case is resolved. He will be allowed to take online courses toward his degree until if/when he is convicted. Even if the charges are dropped, the University will prevent the accuser and accused from living in the same dorm or taking the same classes (as much as practicable). For both their sakes.

Harsh? Yes. But it puts these cases back into the realm of reality where charges, claims, counter-claims and evidence is being handled by people who do this for a living not some psychology professor with an axe to grind.

Sexual violence in our society is down. From the heights of the 1970’s and 1980’s, it has fallen 60-80%, depending on which stats you believe. But it is still too high. A couple of hundred thousand women are sexually assaulted or raped every year. We should do something about that. And to some extent, we have (see 60-80% drop in violence rates). But I agree we should do more. And college campus are a good place to start since most sexual violence victims are under 30.

But this isn’t what we should do.

I agree with what Elizabeth Nolan Brown has been saying: if we really want to do something about sexual violence, let’s start with testing the hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits that are lying around the country. Let’s get states to stop forcing women to pay for their own rape exams, as Louisiana just did. Let’s punish everyone who engages in sexual violence, whether they’re an obscure college student or a member of our political elite.

But let’s not take legal shortcuts based on the rantings of radical feminists. That way lies more misery and no progress.

Sneaking and Peaking

Holy crap:

One of the more controversial provisions of the Patriot Act was to broaden the “sneak-and-peek” power for federal law enforcement officials. The provision allows investigators to conduct searches without informing the target of the search. We were assured at the time that this was an essential law enforcement tool that would be used only to protect the country from terrorism. Supporters argued that it was critical that investigators be allowed to look into the lives and finances of suspected terrorists without tipping off those terrorists to the fact that they were under investigation.

More than a decade later, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published an analysis on use of the sneak-and-peek power. Just as critics predicted, it’s now a ubiquitous part of federal law enforcement.

According to the EFF, there were over eleven thousand sneak and peek requests in 2013. Of those, only half a percent were terrorism cases. The vast majority were for drug investigations with the remainder for other non-terrorism criminality.

This is the reason why, however much I have criticized Bush for his War on Terror excesses, Barack Obama has been far far worse. It’s not just that sneak-and-peak requests have tripled under his watch. It’s not just the massive expansion of the drone war. It’s not just the explosion of surveillance. It’s that he has now given the bipartisan kiss of approval to all of this. Bush may have started the War on Terror, but Barack Obama has cemented it in place to an excess that would make John Ashcroft blush (Ashcroft, whom you may remember as a favored whipping boy of Democratic pseudo-civil libertarians, refused to extend the domestic surveillance program).

Radley has a few lessons we should learn from this. You should really read the whole thing. Here’s the most important:

Law-and-order politicians and many (but not all) law enforcement and national security officials see the Bill of Rights not as the foundation of a free society but as an obstacle that prevents them from doing their jobs. Keep this in mind when they use a national emergency to argue for exceptions to those rights.

We can not rely on politicians to defend our civil liberties. We must actively use them and defend them. And any intrusion into our liberty must be opposed, no matter what crisis is at hand. If we don’t defend or liberty, who will?

Sorry. They *Are* Coming For Our Guns

Whenever conservatives oppose a gun control law, we are mocked in the media for our delusions that “they’re cummin’ for yer guns!” Mother Jones included this in their list of ten gun control myths (that weren’t really myths).

Well ….

Yesterday California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that strips people of their Second Amendment rights based on claims that they pose a danger to themselves or others. Under AB 1014, a cop or “an immediate family member”—which includes not just spouses, children, siblings, and parents but also in-laws and roommates, both current and former—can seek a “gun violence restraining order” that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms and authorizes police to seize any he currently owns. Such an order can initially be obtained without any notice or adversarial process.

The guns will be taken away for three weeks after which the petitioner will have to convince a judge by “clear and convincing evidence” — not “beyond a reasonable doubt” — that he can’t be trusted with guns. After that, a one-year restraining order is issued that can be renewed every year. I’m sure this will work out as well as asset forfeiture has.

I’ll give you three guesses as to why this law was passed:

Assembly Bill 1014, by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, was the Legislature’s central response to the lethal shooting in May near the University of California, Santa Barbara. It will allow family members of someone who is displaying signs of mental instability to request a court order temporarily barring gun use and purchase.

Families of people killed in Isla Vista had lobbied for the bill at the Capitol, and Skinner cheered Brown’s action Tuesday.

As I have said any time a mass shooting occurs, these events are are rare and any legislation designed to prevent them is unlikely to do so. Law passed in the wake of a mass shooting — or any mass tragedy — are almost always laws that some interest group has wanted for years and finally has an opportunity to ram through. Whether it’s grabbing guns, arming teachers or locking down schools, it’s simple political opportunism.

(Another provision requires toy guns sold in California to be brightly colored because of incidents in which cops have shot kids carrying toy guns. Because God forbid we should train cops not to shoot first and ask questions later.)

It’s not unreasonable to take away the guns of someone who is mentally unstable. The problem is that the standard here has been set pretty low. Cops have to have “reasonable cause” to get a judge to issue the order. But our system defers to cops’ judgement in almost every circumstance. Judges have routinely issued warrants for violent no-knock raids based on the ramblings of drug addicts and the justifications of criminals. Juries refuse to indict cops who gun down unarmed people on video. Unions and politicians rally behind cops even when bad behavior is proven and quietly pay millions to cover up abuse rather than deal with it. If a judge will let police launch a SWAT raid because a meth addict says someone is dealing; if they’ll excuse the resulting bloodshed because the cops “acted in good faith”; if prosecutors and juries will refuse to punish cops even when abuse is proven … why on Earth would anyone stop cops from grabbing someone’s guns if they claim an Isla Vista rampage is imminent?

This is the problem with how people approach infringements on our liberty. They see what they want — guns being taken away from crazy people — and miss what’s actually going to happen: the law will be given yet another tool with which to attack our basic freedom.

In fact, this point is so obvious, you have to wonder if that’s the point. Remember that the gun grabbers want a society in which no one is allowed to have a gun unless they can justify it to the government. It’s not that hard to see the infrastructure being put in place for such a society. They only need a couple more seats on the Supreme Court to make it happen.

We Demand Compromised Security!

A few weeks ago, Apple announced that their new OS encrypts data so that Apple literally can not access it without the user’s permission. Google followed by announcing their new Android OS will do the same thing. This has been done ostensibly to prevent the government from forcing Apple to divulge information stored in someone’s accounts. This might prevent law enforcement from executing a search warrant delivered to the company. It might also, however, block agencies from getting phone data without a warrant or notification of the user, as they are want to.

Naturally, law enforcement types don’t like this. Their supporters are up in arms over Apple “enabling criminals” by forcing the government to get a warrant and get your password if they want to search your electronic persons, papers, houses and effects. So the WaPo has proposed a “compromise”:

How to resolve this? A police “back door” for all smartphones is undesirable — a back door can and will be exploited by bad guys, too. However, with all their wizardry, perhaps Apple and Google could invent a kind of secure golden key they would retain and use only when a court has approved a search warrant. Ultimately, Congress could act and force the issue, but we’d rather see it resolved in law enforcement collaboration with the manufacturers and in a way that protects all three of the forces at work: technology, privacy and rule of law.

In short, the WaPo wants the technically impossible: a backdoor that isn’t really a backdoor. And we should entrust this backdoor into every phone in the country to law enforcement — comprising God knows how many people. We should entrust this backdoor to a group of people who recently did this:

For years, local law enforcement agencies around the country have told parents that installing ComputerCOP software is the “first step” in protecting their children online.

Police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys have handed out hundreds of thousands of copies of the disc to families for free at schools, libraries, and community events, usually as a part of an “Internet Safety” outreach initiative. The packaging typically features the agency’s official seal and the chief’s portrait, with a signed message warning of the “dark and dangerous off-ramps” of the Internet.

As official as it looks, ComputerCOP is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies.

Calling it “spyware” is a nice term of art. A more precise description is that it is a keylogger which transmits to third-party servers — without encryption — every key typed on a computer. Passwords, private communications, credit card numbers … all of that is transmitted in clear text. If your child (or you) use a laptop with this malware and someone has a basic packet sniffer nearby, they could take over your life.

(The cops have responded to the EFF, claiming that only an “ultra-liberal” organization who is “more interested in protecting predators and pedophiles than in protecting our children” should care that their software is one of the most unsafe things you could put on your computer.)

This is the group we should trust with backdoors to every cell phone in the country, according to the WaPo.

Holder Out

Eric Holder has stepped down as Attorney General. I believe he is the only cabinet member to be held in Contempt of Congress for his role in Operation Fast and Furious. He also dropped the investigation into the New Black Panthers, declined to prosecute any of the people responsible for the financial crisis, led monitoring of the media including James Rosen, continued to persecute medical marijuana clinics and helped preside over one of the more lawless administrations I can remember.

But I’ll be nice and hope the door doesn’t hit him in the ass on the way out. Or at least, doesn’t him too hard.

Perry Under the Gun

So this happened:

A grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official. The charges are linked to his push for Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, to resign after she was arrested for drunk driving last year.

The case focused on Perry’s threat to veto funding to Lehmberg’s office unless she resigned. Perry eventually made good on that threat, vetoing $7.5 million that would have gone to the Public Integrity Unit in Lehmberg’s office, the Dallas Morning News’ Christy Hoppe explains. He justified the veto by pointing to Lehmberg’s April 2013 arrest for drunk driving, for which she pled guilty and received a 45-day sentence. As a result of the veto, several employees in Lehmberg’s office were either reassigned or lost their jobs, the Austin American Statesman reports.

The DWI incident was not one where Lehmberg had an extra wine cooler and was busted on a technicality. Rosemary Lehmberg was completely hammered when she got behind the wheel of a car and drove the wrong way down an Austin street. She had an open bottle of vodka on her and blew a staggering 0.23. Video shows her as stumbling, belligerent and fighting with the cops. More disturbingly, she keeps telling them to call the Travis County Sheriff as though expecting him to spring her. That’s called abuse of power. Perry was right to demand her resignation.

It does seem a bit capricious for Perry to withhold funds because from an office because of the behavior of its lead. I can see why people might not like his decision to veto the funding for her office. The problem is … it’s not illegal.

the Texas Constitution expressly reserves the veto power to the governor. The governor is entitled to decide which laws he “approv[es]” and which he disapproves — without constraint from the legislature, or from county-level district attorneys. The legislature certainly can’t make it a crime for the governor to veto its appropriation bills; that would deny the governor the power that the Texas Constitution gives him.

Nor can the legislature make it a crime, I think, for the governor to veto its appropriation bills as an attempt to influence some government official’s behavior — behavior that is commonplace in the political process, and that is likewise within the governor’s exclusive power to decide which bills to give his “approval.” To be sure, the legislature can make it a crime for the governor to accept bribes in exchange for a veto; but there the crime is the acceptance of the bribe, not the veto itself.

Lest you think I’m being selective, here’s Patterico, Chait and Rubin. I have yet to see a legal blogger — even on the lefty blogs gleefully celebrating the indictment — who thinks this indictment isn’t a giant flaming piece of crap (and most likely retaliation from Travis County).

I’d just write this off as standard political crap except that we’ve seen this before. Earlier this year, prosecutors gleefully announced that Scott Walker was the center of a giant criminal scheme only to admit days later that he was not a target of their investigation (said investigation having been rejected twice by judges before a sympathetic one allowed it to proceed). And then there is the “Bridgegate” scandal with Chris Christie which has yet to produce anything implicating the governor.

What these three men have in common is that they are all leading candidates for the 2016 Presidential nomination. All three governors are (or were) popular and all three will have long terms at their backs in 2016. Perry was, in fact, a favored candidate in 2012 until he imploded during a debate.

Is it an accident that the Democrats are engaging in “lawfare” against these guys? Should we expect some charges to be brought against Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio?

Stay tuned. I don’t think this is over yet.

Want Help? Ask Conservatives

Everyone know that only Democrats care about minorities. Everyone knows that only Democrats care about the poor. Everyone know that only Democrats care about women. Republicans just like to cruise around in their limos laughing at the plight of those less fortunate than them. Meanwhile, Democrats can’t sleep at night because they are so worried about the oppressed masses. Right? Right?

Let me introduce you to Shaneen Allen:

Last October, Shaneen Allen, 27, was pulled over in Atlantic County, N.J. The officer who pulled her over says she made an unsafe lane change. During the stop, Allen informed the officer that she was a resident of Pennsylvania and had a conceal carry permit in her home state. She also had a handgun in her car. Had she been in Pennsylvania, having the gun in the car would have been perfectly legal. But Allen was pulled over in New Jersey, home to some of the strictest gun control laws in the United States.

Allen is a black single mother. She has two kids. She has no prior criminal record. Before her arrest, she worked as a phlebobotomist. After she was robbed two times in the span of about a year, she purchased the gun to protect herself and her family. There is zero evidence that Allen intended to use the gun for any other purpose. Yet Allen was arrested. She spent 40 days in jail before she was released on bail. She’s now facing a felony charge that, if convicted, would bring a three-year mandatory minimum prison term.

There is a wide prosecutorial discretion here (more on that in a moment) but it looks like the prosecutor is going to throw the book at her. Allen is the kind of person the Left is supposed to be in a tizzy over — a single working mom doing her best who is about to be crushed by the system. But the liberal Ecosphere has said little, if anything, about her. You know who is taking up her cause? If you said conservatives and libertarians, move to the front of the class. Here is National Review, for example, trying to make her case a national issue. True, this is because conservatives believe in gun rights and the second amendment. But they also believe in justice. And there is a growing awareness of the massive disparities in how gun laws are enforced.

As it turns out, Allen’s case isn’t unusual at all. Although white people occasionally do become the victims of overly broad gun laws (for example, see the outrageous prosecution of Brian Aitken, also in New Jersey), the typical person arrested for gun crimes is more likely to have the complexion of Shaneen Allen than, say, Sarah Palin. Last year, 47.3 percent of those convicted for federal gun crimes were black — a racial disparity larger than any other class of federal crimes, including drug crimes. In a 2011 report on mandatory minimum sentencing for gun crimes, the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that blacks were far more likely to be charged and convicted of federal gun crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences. They were also more likely to be hit with “enhancement” penalties that added to their sentences. In fact, the racial discrepancy for mandatory minimums was even higher than the aforementioned disparity for federal gun crimes in general.

This isn’t just a matter of black people committing more crimes. In cases where the prosecution is discretionary — such as the enhancement penalties — this is far more likely to happen to black criminals than white ones. And conservatives like Rand Paul have been making this point more and more forcefully of late.

Oh, speaking of Rand Paul … Just last week, Jon Stewart discovered civil asset forfeiture, the process by which the government can seize your property or money by alleging it has committed a crime (that’s not a typo; they literally charge the property with a crime). It will surprise no one that while asset forfeiture casts a wide net, it also has a tendency to fall heaviest on minorities and on poor people who can’t fight back. Anyone want to guess the party affiliation of the man who has proposed to overhaul asset forfeiture law and give people greater civil service protections?

The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury’s General Fund.

It’s not perfect. But it’s a huge improvement over the existing regime, where local law enforcement can bypass state regs by turning the seized money over to federal agents, who take a cut and give it directly back the law enforcement agencies.

But there’s still more. Let’s move away from crime and toward poverty itself. Last week, Paul Ryan suggested a new set of policies to try to reduce poverty. He would consolidate numerous programs into block grants to the states, expand the EITC, reduce regulations and push criminal sentencing reform. Even some liberals are admitting these are good ideas. They will reward work and expand opportunity — the two things the poor need a hell of a lot more than slightly larger piles of government cash.

There’s been some controversy over Ryan’s proposal to have chronically poor people meet with councilors who will help them improve their lives. But as Megan McArdle points out, while the chronically poor are a small part of the poor, they consume a huge chunk of the benefits. And it is chronic generational poverty that is the true suffering. Ryan’s plan sounds a bit too paternalistic to me. But it’s got to be better than the absent father method our current system upholds where we just throw money at poor people and hope it will magically make them unpoor.

So in just the last week, we’ve seen conservatives oppose arbitrary ruinous enforcement of gun laws, oppose asset forfeiture and propose a new version of welfare reform (after the last one lifted millions out of poverty). You add this to the ongoing push for school choice and you have a platform that would greatly enhance freedom and opportunity for millions of people, most of who are poorer and darker-skinned than your typical Republican.

And the Democratic Party? Well, their big issue right now is trying to save the corporate welfare that is the Ex-Im bank.

Look, I’m not going to pretend the Republican Party is perfect on these issues or any other issue. And there are plenty of Democrats who support the above policies. What I am going to suggest, however, is that the caricature of the GOP specifically and conservatives in general as uncaring racist sociopaths is absurd.

Update: This isn’t strictly related, but you know how Democrats have been whining about the cost of higher ed and the burden it is imposing on the middle class? Well evil conservative Republican Mitch Daniels is not whining, he’s doing something about it.