Justice is supposed to be a mechanism for righting wrongs but when it’s controlled by the State is becomes a mechanism for expropriating wealth and viciously punishing the disobedient. At one point in time some common sense could be exercised even within the justice systems of the United States. Nowadays common sense has been almost entirely removed from the courts by minimum sentencing laws, lying to juries about their rights and duties, etc. And when those mechanisms fail there is always the overriding ability of higher courts.
Here in Minnesota a man had the poor judgement to get drunk and tweet threats at the St. Paul Police Department over a speeding ticket (that wasn’t even issued by that department). Not surprisingly, charges were pressed against the man. As luck would have it, the man in the muumuu who oversaw his case wasn’t entirely vicious:
He wrote a letter of apology to the police and pleaded guilty to making terroristic threats and under the state’s sentencing guidelines, he should’ve been sentenced to 12 months and one day in jail. His attorney asked for a 365 day sentence because that would convert his crime from a felony to a gross misdemeanor.
“I don’t think you had the intent to do it,” the judge said at sentencing. “You didn’t have a gun. You weren’t going out to try to search where they live. You weren’t going to make a planned attack. You just wanted to send a tweet out to affect as many people as you can, and that worked.”
“To give you a felony sentence . . . at your age . . . I don’t feel in balance that that’s in the best interests of society. We got too many people on probation [for] felonies already, and . . . I can accomplish much of the same thing on a . . . durational departure on a gross misdemeanor,” Dakota County Judge Timothy McManus said.
And that’s the sentence Rund got — a misdemeanor: four months in jail, the rest of the one-year sentence stayed, three years probation, no booze.
Since it’s obvious the man had neither the intent or ability to carry out his threats, I don’t find any jail time to be appropriate. But jail time was inevitable so I’m happy that the judge saw that a felony was entirely out of line for this kind of behavior. However, the common sense he tried to introduce to the system was squashed by a higher court:
Today, the Minnesota Supreme Court said the judge shouldn’t have done that, ruling that none of the reasons for departing from the state’s guidelines for the crime are allowed under the law.
Another travesty of justice committed.
Punishments should fit crimes. A felony charge is often a life ruining event since it can render an individual almost unemployable and it strips them of many of their so-called rights. Getting drunk and tweeting unrealizable threats isn’t a life ruining act and therefore should not result in a life ruining punishment. The first judge understood that but the “justice” system was unwilling to let that kind of good judgement stand.