Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Free Scott

My guess is that the egregious Shepherd Express, (the wrong Shepherd in town), will be so excited over Scott Jensen's sentence. Joel McNally was outraged over the sentences handed down to those young scions of artistocratic lines whose only "crime" was to gently liberate a little air from the tires of the vans that were probably going to be used by Republicans to round up Latino voters and dump them in Nuevo Leon. Anyway.

Expect him to sound like Belling when it comes to Jensen.

The Jensen verdict and sentence should, however should trouble civil libertarians for at least three reasons.

The first is that what Jensen did was not clearly defined as a crime before he did it. Generally, when we seek to impose criminal liability on someone, we want them to have a sufficiently malevolent heart or, to use the fancy law term, mens rea. We want them to have done more than guessed wrong or failed to pay attention. They don't necessarily have to know that their conduct was criminal, but, as a general matter, we want to be able to say that they should have known.

Jensen (and, for that matter, Chwala) challenged the charges against him on, essentially, these grounds. He lost in the trial court and in the court of appeals. When the case got to the Supreme Court, the Justices split, 2-2, with three not participating. A tie goes to the lower court, but the point is that as many Supreme Court justices as not thought that the application of the criminal statute to him was unconstitutionally vague and violated principles of due process and fair notice. As I blogged recently, you might almost as easily applied the statute to agencies who lobby on legislation that might affect the jobs of those who work for them.

Second, Jensen got a lot more time than the guys who plead guilty to the same offence. That's not surprising, but isn't it troubling? Conservatives hate plea bargaining because they think it lets the perp off the hook. In my introductory Criminal Law class, Alan Dershowitz filled our impressionable little minds with the liberal objection to plea bargaining. It punishes you for insisting upon your right to a trial.

Third, the idea that other people did the same thing without getting charged is generally not a good defense. But it has special meaning when it comes to political offenses. To charge some and not others is to interfere in the political process. It is to mess around with the playing field.

7 comments:

Alex said...

This is a clear example of why citizens need to pay attention when election time comes around and get to know the candidates for judges.Judges have much power, and most voters are not aware of who's up for election/re-election. Granted, conservative politicians need to be extra cautious, especially in Dane County.

Anonymous said...

Your arguments are laughable. It's odd to read a conservative whining about the book being thrown at a criminal.

Why did Jensen get more time? Because he rolled the dice and lost. Chvala saw the handwriting on the wall and the little bantamweight took the sure bet. Jensen should have done the same. Had his ego matched his physical stature, he likely would have.

Your "selective prosecution" theory is a base canard. Look at what the prosecutor did: He went after the majority party leadership in each house; the two top Democrats in the Senate and the two top Republicans in the Assembly. In the end, all four were taken out.

Three of the four escaped the big house by cutting deals. One rolled the dice and lost and will now apparently be the only one to do hard time.

You don't point out that the "hanging judge" who set the penalty was appointed by Tommy G. Thompson!

Anonymous said...

Comparing Jensen's situation to Chvala's is what's laughable! Lets see, performing political activities on State time (factually shown to be done by democrats and republicans with only republicans being charged) verses pay for play which is what Chvala did, not Jensen. The attempt by liberals to blur the distinction is another example of their inherent dishonesty. And of course Doyle never performs political activities on State time? Right! Did the prosecutor, Burke have State staffers perform political activities for himself at one time? Give me a break. This entire prosecution of Jensen is a travesty. I would call it a joke, but I'm sure its not funny for Jensen. This might be the worst case of a selective, political prosecution I've seen in my lifetime living in Wisconsin. It can only be seen as an attempt to "balance" the political prosecutions by selectively trumping up ridiculous charges against Jensen to balance charges made against democrats like Cvala that committed real crimes.

DidCrimeDotheTime said...

Jensen was way out of line and as a supposed Republican Conservative we Conservatives should be holding him to higher standard of conduct. Using taxpayer dollars to pay for workers that actually did little to no state work in an outrage. The sentence is just. Jensen was told it was a crime and he continued to run things the same way until it was clear the DA was prepared to prosecute. This is not a case of selective prosecution. It is a case of justice served and once again (as in the days of Richard Nixon) showing that no one is above the law. Also, do not tell me Jensen was not the ultimate influence peddler out there. Chvala was no where near Jensen's equal in greasing the skids for those with money to deliver.

Anonymous said...

Everything a politician does is "political" but the sin was utilizing state workers on state time to raise money.

Step back and consider this: the prosecutors took out the majority party leadership in each house.

You can rail all you want about how Democrats in the Assembly did the same thing and how Shirley Krug got off scot-free, but consider this: If you "bought" Shirley, you "bought" enough votes to lose every vote. For that reason, Shirley lacked the leverage to engage in the same kind of conduct as Jensen.

Janstress said...

Let's see now. . .Scotty broke the law, had a fair trial, jury found him guilty, and now he will be punished. Hmmm. . .that sounds like democracy to me. Perhaps Scotty should have taken a plea deal, but then again, Scotty always thought he was invincible.

Caucus Scandal Guy said...

Jensen looks really good without hair or power ... I think after a 1-year jail term he can still run for "president of the jerks who stopped 3rd parties from gaining momentum in Wisconsin". Th conservative side will always have a safety net for trash like this, he'll get a job with Americans for Prosperity perhaps. He really does not deserve to be let pff "scott-free" unless some judge wants to risk attributing his own fate along that of Jensen. Afterall, Justice is Justice.