Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Nol Pros (Jussie Paints a Picture)

Nolle Prosequi is a Latin phrase meaning "will no longer prosecute."  It is part and parcel of our judicial system.

Recently, Jussie Smollett made headlines, again, when prosecutors dropped 13 felony counts against him in exchange for community service and him forfeiting a $10,000 Bond. Many people were outraged, claiming this was another giant fraud being perpetrated on the American people.

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, the Mueller report comes out, and special prosecutor Robert Mueller declines to prosecute President Trump for any possible collusion or other crimes involved in the 2016 election.  For some reason the response by the public is more muted.

However, both situations are arguably the same thing - a case of nol pros - where a prosecutor declines to prosecute a perpetrator for a number of possible reasons.  One reason might be that there is not sufficient evidence to make a concrete case, and thus it's not worthwhile to pursue the matter - at least for the time being. In other instances, the matter is so trivial compared to what else is on the prosecutor's plate that they rather dispose of the issue before even going to trial.

In the Jussie Smollett case (which falls into the latter category), although it seems like a dramatic indictment with thirteen possible felony counts, in reality the actual charges are not so severe.  The thirteen separate counts relate to thirteen separate false statements he made to police - as part of the same incident.  No doubt, at trial the charges would be combined into a single felony count, which most likely would be reduced to a misdemeanor.

And as a misdemeanor with a first-time offender, he probably would have been sentenced to community service and a fine. And since he already served community service and paid a $10,000 fine by forfeiting his bond, the net result was about the same.

Some folks might howl about this.  False reports of crimes arguably damage our judicial system. When a woman falsely claims rape, it is a punch in the eye to women who are actually brutally raped. Similarly, Jussie Smollett's false claims of hate crime attacks are an insult to those who are actually the victims of hate crimes.

But, be that as it may, it seems that these days, false reporting of a crime rarely results in a felony conviction, but most likely a misdemeanor one.  For most people facing first-time misdemeanor convictions, the end result is usually community service and a fine. So justice was in effect served here, even if some politicians want to grandstand over it, or people with a "justice boner" want to moan and groan about it (Geraldo Rivera claiming fraud?  Ain't that the pot calling the kettle...whatever?  A fraud calling fraud - that's something new).

There may also be ancillary considerations they took in to account. For example, Smollet's acting career has probably been irreparably harmed by his false accusations.  I doubt he will continue on as a character on the television show which he was trying to prevent from being fired from.  In fact it already appears he's been written off the show.  It is highly doubtful that anybody else would want to hire him at this point given his odious reputation.  So in effect, he is paying a steep price for his false claims.

With regard to Donald Trump, a similar but separate thing is occurring. It's not that any possible collusion or coordination with Russia is not a prosecutable crime, only that the special prosecutor has yet to find any sufficient evidence to show such a crime was committed. Although it's clear that members of the Trump campaign and even his immediate family had some contacts with Russians or Russian intermediaries, it would be next to impossible - if not outright impossible - to prove that there was any specific coordination or collusion to somehow sway the election.

And even the collusion in question is somewhat tangential. It's not like Russians hacked into our voting machines and changed the results in order to win the election. Rather, they put up pages on Facebook and postings on Twitter to encourage Americans to be divisive and to hate one another. They also spread a lot of false stories about Hillary Clinton and spend a lot of time on Reddit hyping Donald Trump.

You can blame the Russians for doing this, or you can blame Americans for being such patsies as to fall into such an obvious trap.  Even then, it's not even clear this "interference" with our election, on social media, had any significant effect on the outcome. Hillary Clinton made a serious miscalculation with regard to some of the so-called blue wall states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  She refused to even campaign in these States, assuming that they would vote for her - without bothering to ask herself why they would.

During the campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly returned to those States, again and again, to campaign, puzzling the pundits and the media as to why he would campaign in States that were a "lock" for Hillary.  The reality was of course, they were not a lock, and perhaps Trump - or his strategists, - were smarter than we thought.

Again, maybe also ancillary considerations are at work here. Generally speaking, members of Congress and the President cannot be prosecuted for various crimes while in office.  The idea behind this was to prevent local governments from interfering with the federal government's responsibilities. If a Senator or Congressman could be waylaid by a local sheriff on his way to Washington, they could affect the outcome of a Congressional vote.  Thus, there is limited Congressional and even Presidential immunity for some criminal acts - or at least prosecution for such acts would not occur until they left office.

Our founding fathers relied upon the mechanism of impeachment - which they perceived as being something rarely used as part of the checks and balances in our government.  And it's possible that the Democrats may proceed with impeachment articles in the House, though doesn't look like they're going anywhere in the Senate.

To me, the issue is moot.  What we need to do is put up a candidate who could appeal to a broad spectrum of America in 2020.  And unfortunately it seems the Democrats are embracing the far-left ideology that appeals to only a fraction of the population.  If they lose the election in 2020 they have no one but themselves to blame, particularly after the lesson they learned in 2016.

Or perhaps it is a lesson they are refusing to learn.