Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Legal Injustices Continue in North Carolina: Johnny Gaskins

North Carolina is the state that gave us wrongful prosecutions in cases such as the Little Rascals and the Duke Lacrosse Case. It seems that the federal courts in the state have felt left out and so are working overtime to create their own injustices.

First, there was the conviction of Victoria Sprouse in Charlotte, which I have detailed in this post. However, the federal court in Raleigh seems determined to outdo the injustices of the Sprouse case with the wrongful conviction of Johnny Gaskins.

I recently wrote a piece on this conviction, but Ruth Sheehan of the News & Observer has penned what I think is superb commentary. Her point is well-taken: Gaskins has not committed any "crimes," and his actions certainly were understandable, given the harassment the feds have given him. I quote her here:

The feds have been investigating Gaskins for years. He'd successfully defended alleged drug dealers in federal court. So when the feds started poking around Gaskins' finances, they no doubt thought they'd find evidence of money laundering.

They did not.

Instead, they found that Gaskins had earned $355,000 in cash over five years and had filed all the appropriate paperwork on it and had paid his taxes.

But Gaskins had grown paranoid, justifiably or not, over the years. The feds determined that Gaskins, after storing his fortune initially in a home safe (OK, so it wasn't a mattress), was depositing it in increments of just below $10,000 -- the threshold requiring the bank to report the deposits.

That's a reporting threshold that is mainly used to help the IRS track down tax scofflaws. Except, of course, Gaskins had reported all of his earnings on forms that not only included the payments but also the source of the money and who paid it.

"He gave the government more information than the banks ever would," said Dan Boyce, Gaskins' lawyer.


I don't think anyone can say it better.

My hope is that other attorneys in North Carolina stand up and take notice. The government has gone after someone who dared represent clients that the government is trying to put into jail. I suspect that after he convinced a jury not to give the death penalty to someone who had murdered a cop, the prosecutors of the state -- federal and state -- decided it was open season on Gaskins.

As I said in my article, I think that the judge and jury here deserve special blame for this injustice. A jury does not have to do what prosecutors say, and no matter what a judge tells them in his or her charge, a jury is free to decide what it wants.

Unfortunately, jurors decided that a non-crime was a crime. The prosecutors have obtained their revenge, and an innocent man faces what effectively is a life sentence. Way to go, North Carolina! You have done it again!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Too many 'vague' laws can be use
for 'bad' intent.

When you get your driver's license
in America, the clerk asks you
whether you have diabetes or 'dizzy
spells.' Even if you don't know
and am NOT A DOCTOR or medical expert,
YOU CAN BE PROSECUTED FOR PERJURY
FOR NOT STATING THE TRUTH TO THE
clerk. Clerk makes close to 'minimumum wage' but has excellent
government benefits.

Child porn fears over 'naked' airport scanner. Arrest all
airport officials who see the image?

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/04/sexting-hysteri/
Ting-Yi Oei, a 60-year-old assistant principal.
‘Sexting’ Hysteria Falsely Brands Educator as Child Pornographer.

quote:
"Oei spent $150,000 and a year of his life defending himself in a Kafkaesque legal nightmare triggered by a determined county prosecutor."

Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman
Courtesy jimplowman.org

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Anderson,

The SYSTEM has been broken for a very long time.

In 1971, Paul Enten, an Architect and designer from the Washington DC area, was accused of receiving stolen goods. Two DC Police officers were charged along with him. One of the police officers committed suicide, the other disappeared. The stolen property in question was a clock, a clock that Mr. Enten had never seen - belonging to a DC Circuit Court Judge. Mr. Enten was sentenced to 30 years to LIFE.

Who was the judge at Mr. Enten's trial? None other than John Joseph Sirica.

Mr. Enten eventually got his sentence commuted by another judge after Sirica retired. However, he had to carry the burden of a felony conviction the rest of his life. There were many players in that dirty little episode in Mr. Entens life - Louise Gore, Bobby Baker, and Tongsun Park.

Paul Enten survived his run in with people who abused the law. Barely. I hope Mr. Gaskins survives his.

Charlie said...

I've always been told that juries decide questions of fact and judges decide questions of law. The question to the jury is not "did this man commit a crime" it's "did this man take actions which meet the definition of this crime". I don't fault the jury for agreeing with that - it seems that the man did pretty much admit to breaking down his deposits into amounts less than the threshold for reporting. Most juries don't seem to realize that they can refuse to convict if they don't believe that a crime has occurred.

William L. Anderson said...

I agree with all of you, and appreciate your comments. Indeed, the "system" has been broken for a long time, and sure as heck is not on the verge of getting fixed.

Anonymous said...

It has gotten to the point in this country that one has to live in fear that he/she will do something unintentionally that a prosecutor can then use as a cudgel to put the person away for the rest of his/her natural existence at the worst and at the very least bankrupt one in legal fees.
cks

Anonymous said...

Bill, I am a fan. I am totally interested in your opinions on current events, the economy, court decisions, the Obama Admin, the events in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and in particular Israel but totally disinterested in what goes on in Durham or the NC justice system. Looking forward to more posts.

William L. Anderson said...

I would have commented on this case whether it was it North Carolina or North Dakota. Federal criminal law is pretty evil, and federal prosecutors are the lowest of the low, and their sliminess is not limited to North Carolina, but that is where this case occurred.

Anonymous said...

Is the case being appealed? What options does this guy have?

William L. Anderson said...

To the 1:02 p.m.

I suspect it is being appealed, but I doubt it will do him any good. This is an example of how malum prohibitum now dominates federal criminal law over malum in se. If anyone can figure out why putting money in a bank is a crime, let me know.

And, if Johnny Gaskins can be prosecuted and convicted for "structuring," even though there is no underlying crime, why did Elliot Spitzer, i.e. Client #9 (or Dr. Evil), get a free pass?

Keeper said...

So dividing your own money up into portions that will keep the federal government out of your business, and depositing it into your bank is a crime called "structuring?" Dear God. How did this happen? Who did this to us?

Keeper said...

Some of you must have heard about the Paul Minor/Wes Teel case in Mississippi, which is almost identical to the Don Seligman one in Alabama. We have people rotting in prison in America for the crime of opposing the GOP. If you didn't know this was happening here you'd think you were reading about some Soviet gulag:

http://tinyurl.com/yevgwwm

Anonymous said...

He was sentenced today.....