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Anti-terrorism law used against criminals

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
The following is an extract from the article. The link has the full article

http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/05/14/ga....ap/index.html

Anti-terrorism law used to indict gang members

NEW YORK (AP) -- Nineteen members of a street gang accused of menacing their neighborhood have been indicted on murder and other charges as acts of terror, believed to be the first use of the state's anti-terrorism law against a gang.
post #2 of 16
Without being more familiar with the statute, it's hard to tell if the DA was 'reaching' inappropriately by prosecuting people under this law. Gangs do terrorize people. Johnson is viewed as being fairly liberal; I believe he is the one NYC DA (each borough has its own) who has never invoked the death penalty statute which became law when Pataki was elected governor. If the people arrested have their rights to due process honored, and the law fits the crime & circumstances, I don't see the problem with a local DA using a law such as this to bust the bad guys. Organized crime has always required creative approaches by law enforcement in part since there is generally someone else ready & raring to step into a vacuum created by one person getting arrested/convicted.
post #3 of 16
I'm all for getting criminals off of the streets and I really don't care WHICH law is used to do it. RICO has been a huge success and hopefully this law will be just as successful.
post #4 of 16
I agree with the above posts, but wonder if the DA's use of the anti-terrorism law will be considered appropriate by courts of appeal.
post #5 of 16
The Bush administration assured the Congress and the American people that this law was ONLY for use against terrorists like al-Quaeda, and that the civil rights we have always been accustomed to in this country would continue to apply to the rest of us -- and "the rest of us" includes persons suspected of being common criminal. We have been lied to again.

We submit, Bumpy, that you left the correct choice off your poll:

-- The misnamed U. S. Patriot Act, and its abridgement of our constitutional rights, should be repealed.

All the best, from
post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Brown
The Bush administration assured the Congress and the American people that this law was ONLY for use against terrorists like al-Quaeda, and that the civil rights we have always been accustomed to in this country would continue to apply to the rest of us -- and "the rest of us" includes persons suspected of being common criminal. We have been lied to again.

We submit, Bumpy, that you left the correct choice off your poll:

-- The misnamed U. S. Patriot Act, and its abridgement of our constitutional rights, should be repealed.

All the best, from
According to the article, this is a NYS anti-terrorism law being used in the charge. Robert Johnson is the Bronx, NY DA, not a federal prosecutor, so he could not be charging people under the Patriot Act.

I don't think that feelings about Bush or the war in Iraq should be used to evaluate the efforts of local law enforcement to put thugs in jail, with the arrested accorded due process. I think this poll might actually be confusing those 2 issues, at least on an emotional basis. The article was fairly short, but my impression was that he was using a local statute to add years to any potential sentences of the gang members in question. It sounds to me like he is responding to the needs of his community.
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Brown
The Bush administration assured the Congress and the American people that this law was ONLY for use against terrorists like al-Quaeda, and that the civil rights we have always been accustomed to in this country would continue to apply to the rest of us -- and "the rest of us" includes persons suspected of being common criminal. We have been lied to again.

We submit, Bumpy, that you left the correct choice off your poll:

-- The misnamed U. S. Patriot Act, and its abridgement of our constitutional rights, should be repealed.

All the best, from
I was thinking of that as the fifth choice but after thinking, I decided that adding that detracts from the issue at hand.

It would be nice to have a two part poll such that:

Question 1: Is the anti-terrorism act constitutional? And if it so should it be allowed to be enforced?

Obviously if the answer is negative the inquiry stops here. But:

Question 2: If question 1 is answered in the affirmative, how then should the anti-terrorism legislation be used? Then my 4 choices would come in.

So the question I wish to focus upon is Question 2 rather than Question 1.
post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by bumpy
I was thinking of that as the fifth choice but after thinking, I decided that adding that detracts from the issue at hand.

It would be nice to have a two part poll such that:

Question 1: Is the anti-terrorism act constitutional? And if it so should it be allowed to be enforced?

Obviously if the answer is negative the inquiry stops here. But:

Question 2: If question 1 is answered in the affirmative, how then should the anti-terrorism legislation be used? Then my 4 choices would come in.

So the question I wish to focus upon is Question 2 rather than Question 1.
Is the article you used to launch this discussion really that relevant to it? The federal Patriot Act is not being used to prosecute these guys. As I said in my original response, the Bronx DA has a rather liberal reputation, and even w/o knowing the details of the law, I would find it hard to believe that he was violating the " arrestees' " right to due process.
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucia
Is the article you used to launch this discussion really that relevant to it? The federal Patriot Act is not being used to prosecute these guys. As I said in my original response, the Bronx DA has a rather liberal reputation, and even w/o knowing the details of the law, I would find it hard to believe that he was violating the " arrestees' " right to due process.
Sorry, I am not exactly sure what you are saying. By my guess this is the Article 490 amendment to the penal code, the legislation enacted a few days after 9/11.

It does not matter whether the legislation is state or federal, any legislation passed in the country will still have to be constitutional. (Due Process: 5th for federal, 14 for state and all)

As stated above I wanted to focus on how the law is to be used (Question 2 rather than Question 1). Since I rather not get into issues of due process (procedural or substantive) or any other potential constitutional challenges.
post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by bumpy
Sorry, I am not exactly sure what you are saying. By my guess this is the Article 490 amendment to the penal code, the legislation enacted a few days after 9/11.

It does not matter whether the legislation is state or federal, any legislation passed in the country will still have to be constitutional. (Due Process: 5th for federal, 14 for state and all)

As stated above I wanted to focus on how the law is to be used (Question 2 rather than Question 1). Since I rather not get into issues of due process (procedural or substantive) or any other potential constitutional challenges.
All I'm saying is that if the DA is following a NYS law, he is not invoking the Patriot Act in order to prosecute these gang members. (Quote: Nineteen members of a street gang accused of menacing their neighborhood have been indicted on murder and other charges as acts of terror, believed to be the first use of the state's anti-terrorism law against a gang.)

Assuming that the NYS law does not provide for individuals to be picked up and held w/o access to counsel, prosecuting someone under it is a different situation than jailing someone under the Patriot Act. (The article was very brief, but what I took from it was that the DA was using it to stiffen any potential jail sentences, since they were already prosecuting some of the gang members on murder charges.)

My somewhat small point is that the combination of the poll & the article implies that the Patriot Act is being used in the Bronx to jail gang members, which according to the article, is not the case. While either law would need to ultimately be found consitutional or not, the details of the laws are probably quite different. My first reaction to your question was based on the article itself: I personally have no problem with a gangster being sentenced to life-imprisonment under a New York State anti-terrorism law, if found guilty. I would not be in favor of the feds coming in to prosecute a local criminal for a local crime under the Patriot Act.
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucia
All I'm saying is that if the DA is following a NYS law, he is not invoking the Patriot Act in order to prosecute these gang members. (Quote: Nineteen members of a street gang accused of menacing their neighborhood have been indicted on murder and other charges as acts of terror, believed to be the first use of the state's anti-terrorism law against a gang.)

Assuming that the NYS law does not provide for individuals to be picked up and held w/o access to counsel, prosecuting someone under it is a different situation than jailing someone under the Patriot Act. (The article was very brief, but what I took from it was that the DA was using it to stiffen any potential jail sentences, since they were already prosecuting some of the gang members on murder charges.)

My somewhat small point is that the combination of the poll & the article implies that the Patriot Act is being used in the Bronx to jail gang members, which according to the article, is not the case. While either law would need to ultimately be found consitutional or not, the details of the laws are probably quite different. My first reaction to your question was based on the article itself: I personally have no problem with a gangster being sentenced to life-imprisonment under a New York State anti-terrorism law, if found guilty. I would not be in favor of the feds coming in to prosecute a local criminal for a local crime under the Patriot Act.
Ah, I think you have confused me with James Brown. It should be noted that nowhere in my statements did I mention the Patriot Act. I am almost certain it is the Article 490 amendment to the New York Penal code since its definition of terrorism includes one to 'intimidate or coerce a civilian population.'

Detention without trial or access to a legal counsel is not the only thing that is protected under the law. And that is not the thing I was focusing upon but rather the use of a legislation that was enacted to be used against terrorist is being used against criminals. I am merely seeking the opinion that if a legislation is enacted for purpose "A" should it be used for purpose "B?" Let me give you a hypothetical situation: Imagine if a legislation is enacted such that the government may track the entire country's web usage pattern and that such a legislation is enacted as part of anti terrorism law. If the givernment were to take such information and pass it to recording industry to allow them to sue individuals for illegal download/upload of music (which I support by the way), should we be concerned?

A point could be made that there is nothing wrong with stronger sentencing however, one could easily change the law to allow for stronger criminal sentencing.
post #12 of 16
This would not be the first time, that the original intent of a law was expanded. RICO was originally intended to take down organized crime i.e.: the Mafia. In the past 30 years, not only has it been used to successfully prosecute the Mafia but other criminal organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan.

As for accusing gangbangers of terrorist acts, I can see a correlation. A "terrorist act", by definition, inspires terror by causing bodily harm and/or great amounts of property damage, causing people to live in fear. Drive-by shootings, assaults, fire bombings, etc. inspire terror and are routinely used by gangs to control neighborhoods.
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by bumpy
Ah, I think you have confused me with James Brown.
What a horrible fate, Bumpy! I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

I've been gone for a bit being abused by my doctor, and I see that once again my mouth got ahead of my brain, for which I do apologize. Ann says that I made my living by the sweat of my tongue for too many years. The grossly misnamed USA Patriot Act is such a hot key for me that once again I jumped in without troubling myself to read your posting with care. Mea culpa.

I will try to make amends, unavoidably at some length.

After looking at this thread as it has developed in my absence it would appear to me that several of our gentle readers are struggling with a legal issue the courts have struggled with since the very beginning of our country with its three branches of government, each owed some, but not too much, deference from the other. The pigeonhole a lawyer would stuff the issue in might be labeled "Legislative Intent."

Let us pose a situation where Branch A, the legislature, enacts a law saying, for example, "It shall be a crime to let domestic pets run free," and at the same time publishes a record of legislative hearings making it abundantly clear that the intention of the legislature was to prevent persons from letting dogs run free -- only dogs.

Then Branch B, the executive, acting through its police department, arrests Mary, one of our TCSers, for permitting her cat to run free. This, in our case, fits squarely within the words of the legislative enactment -- she has without any doubt "let her domestic pet run free."

Then Branch C, the judiciary, enters the picture when Mary's defense lawyer says to the judge, "They can't do this, Your Honor. The record of the legislative hearings, the background showing precisely why this law was enacted, the 'legislative intent,' makes it abundantly clear that Mary is innocent of doing what the legislature intended to prohibit."

And here we see the dilemma faced by the court. On the one hand Mary is as guilty as can be if one reads the law as enacted without looking behind those words. On the other hand, however, the legislative history of the law discloses without the slightest doubt that the legislature never intended to make what Mary did a criminal act.

Does the court -- can the court -- look behind the clear words of the law in this case to see what the legislature really intended?

And there is the question. It is not always an easy question, and our courts go both ways, depending on the precise situation faced at the time. In a particular case would a severe and unacceptable injustice result? Of course the court must give due deference to the legislature, but what does this mean? Must it give due deference to the strict words used in the law, or must it give due deference to the real intention of the legislature? The courts know, as we all do, that legislatures do dumb things from time to time. They inartfully, or even carelessly, word a law which makes it mean something quite different than what was intended. Even worse, they sometimes enact a law without ever having read the words -- relying on some staffer to tell them what it is they are doing. Occasionally we wonder whether they can read at all.

Sometimes the courts will send Mary to jail, if only to send a message to the legislature: "Get your act together, and stop leaving these messes for us to clean up." Sometimes the courts will invent an ambiguity in the law which really isn't there, and then look behind the law to its history in order to determine "what the legislature really meant." Sometimes they will interpret a law which is really very clear in order to make it mean something quite different than the strict wording of the law.

In Mary's case, for example, Mary is accused of permitting "a domestic pet," her charming little kitty cat, Samantha, to run free. Now Judge Amy is a cat lover, and she has had cats all her life. The judge knows full well that it is absurd to think that you can "domesticate" a cat. The expression "domesticated cat" is an oxymoron. Therefore, the judge sends Mary home to care for Samantha, ruling that even within the strict words of the law Mary is not guilty -- she has not let a domestic pet run free. And the judge just read the guts out of the statute, without even having to mention "legislative history." Recognize, though, that her only other option was to send Mary to jail, leaving nobody to care for Samantha.

Once again, I apologize for carelessly confusing things -- that was unforgiveable.

All the very best to all our friends,

Jim
post #14 of 16
I have actually seen articles where middle school kids have been accused of terroristic threats and attacks. Then you read into the article and you find out the kid threatened to punch someone in the face before a fight. Or the kid said "I'm gonna kill you" before he jumped into the fight. I think the schools have taken that too far! How many times have you said I'm gonna kill that darn squirrel if he digs up my garden again?? Are you really going to grab a gun and shoot the squirrel? Most likely not.
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Brown
What a horrible fate, Bumpy! I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

I've been gone for a bit being abused by my doctor, and I see that once again my mouth got ahead of my brain, for which I do apologize. Ann says that I made my living by the sweat of my tongue for too many years. The grossly misnamed USA Patriot Act is such a hot key for me that once again I jumped in without troubling myself to read your posting with care. Mea culpa.

I will try to make amends, unavoidably at some length.

After looking at this thread as it has developed in my absence it would appear to me that several of our gentle readers are struggling with a legal issue the courts have struggled with since the very beginning of our country with its three branches of government, each owed some, but not too much, deference from the other. The pigeonhole a lawyer would stuff the issue in might be labeled "Legislative Intent."

Let us pose a situation where Branch A, the legislature, enacts a law saying, for example, "It shall be a crime to let domestic pets run free," and at the same time publishes a record of legislative hearings making it abundantly clear that the intention of the legislature was to prevent persons from letting dogs run free -- only dogs.

Then Branch B, the executive, acting through its police department, arrests Mary, one of our TCSers, for permitting her cat to run free. This, in our case, fits squarely within the words of the legislative enactment -- she has without any doubt "let her domestic pet run free."

Then Branch C, the judiciary, enters the picture when Mary's defense lawyer says to the judge, "They can't do this, Your Honor. The record of the legislative hearings, the background showing precisely why this law was enacted, the 'legislative intent,' makes it abundantly clear that Mary is innocent of doing what the legislature intended to prohibit."

And here we see the dilemma faced by the court. On the one hand Mary is as guilty as can be if one reads the law as enacted without looking behind those words. On the other hand, however, the legislative history of the law discloses without the slightest doubt that the legislature never intended to make what Mary did a criminal act.

Does the court -- can the court -- look behind the clear words of the law in this case to see what the legislature really intended?

And there is the question. It is not always an easy question, and our courts go both ways, depending on the precise situation faced at the time. In a particular case would a severe and unacceptable injustice result? Of course the court must give due deference to the legislature, but what does this mean? Must it give due deference to the strict words used in the law, or must it give due deference to the real intention of the legislature? The courts know, as we all do, that legislatures do dumb things from time to time. They inartfully, or even carelessly, word a law which makes it mean something quite different than what was intended. Even worse, they sometimes enact a law without ever having read the words -- relying on some staffer to tell them what it is they are doing. Occasionally we wonder whether they can read at all.

Sometimes the courts will send Mary to jail, if only to send a message to the legislature: "Get your act together, and stop leaving these messes for us to clean up." Sometimes the courts will invent an ambiguity in the law which really isn't there, and then look behind the law to its history in order to determine "what the legislature really meant." Sometimes they will interpret a law which is really very clear in order to make it mean something quite different than the strict wording of the law.

In Mary's case, for example, Mary is accused of permitting "a domestic pet," her charming little kitty cat, Samantha, to run free. Now Judge Amy is a cat lover, and she has had cats all her life. The judge knows full well that it is absurd to think that you can "domesticate" a cat. The expression "domesticated cat" is an oxymoron. Therefore, the judge sends Mary home to care for Samantha, ruling that even within the strict words of the law Mary is not guilty -- she has not let a domestic pet run free. And the judge just read the guts out of the statute, without even having to mention "legislative history." Recognize, though, that her only other option was to send Mary to jail, leaving nobody to care for Samantha.

Once again, I apologize for carelessly confusing things -- that was unforgiveable.

All the very best to all our friends,

Jim
That is until the evil prosecution appeals and the higher court says "While the insight into the psyche of a cat by the trial judge is highly commendable and educational, we feel that where the words of the statute are clear and unambiguous, one should not look to extrinsic evidence to redefine the words. Even if one does indeed look to the history of the legislation, there are many other statutes that have defined a cat as a domestic pet. To change the definition here would have far reaching consequence affecting other statutes which may result in removing the protection of the law for the domestic pet cat thus impacting on millions of household across the nation. We can sympathize with Mary and Samantha but as it is frequently observed, hard cases are apt to produce bad law.

In light of the circumstances of Mary and her co-operation with the authorities, we would recommend the minimum sentence as stipulated by the legislation and that she may, if she so chooses, take Samantha with her to prison. She is hereby sentenced to a minimum of 10 years without parole. "



Legislative intent, I just remember a real funny story. It occured in the UK and based on extrinsic evidence (Hansard) their parliament did intend the law to reflect "Point A." But the judge said, (not the exact words) 'oh while the parliament did say that, they did not really mean what they say as it was really late in the session. I think they actually meant to say 'Point B'"
post #16 of 16
So very true, Bumpy. Here I was trying to show our gentle readers how pragmatic and understanding our judiciary is, and you let the secret out. You made my day -- laughing so loud that Samwise came in to see what was the problem.

Of course our system of law stood not a chance at the point where our nation's founders, having all the world to choose from, decided to use British common law as their compass.

All the very best,

Jim
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