According to the story in The Economist:
ONE of the unforgettable experiences to be had in California is to go whale watching in Monterey Bay. Nancy Black, a licensed marine biologist, is one of the scientists who lead these commercial outings, besides doing her own whale research. As Lawrence Biegel, her lawyer, tells it, one day Ms Black was in her research boat with assistants when killer whales attacked a pod of grey whales and killed a calf. Its blubber floated to the surface, and the killer whales were about to feed on it. Seizing this opportunity to film their behaviour, Ms Black threaded ropes through some pieces of blubber, then lowered a camera underwater.The government of Barack Obama and the Department of (In)Justice led by Mr. Perjury Himself, Eric Holder, had this response:
For this, Ms Black might now face up to 20 years in prison and half a million dollars in fines, after a federal grand jury indicted her this month. Little about the charges makes common sense. The federal law in question is the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, which was intended to save dolphins, seals and whales from being killed and harassed. The law also banned feeding these animals, on the theory that doing so might compromise their ability to forage naturally in future. Feeding is what Ms Black is now accused of. She says she was using the protocols she had learned from the federal agencies that are now investigating her to observe a natural feeding that was already in progress.So, Ms. Black cooperated with investigators who then decided to interpret an edited film as "tampering with evidence" and "lying to investigators," which is an extreme way of looking at things. For doing these things, an innocent person might go to prison for 20 years, given how federal juries are nothing but lapdogs of federal prosecutors.
Just as ridiculous, says Mr Biegel, is the accusation, increasingly common in federal cases, that Ms Black lied to the authorities, which carries its own prison terms. Ms Black always edits the commercial videos of her whale outings to make them more interesting. When investigators demanded footage, she gave them one of these edited videos. Prosecutors now claim that she had tampered with evidence.
Now, how do Obama and Holder deal with federal employees who actually commit real crimes? Oh, they give their com-padres a slap on the wrist. Here are TSA agents who STOLE $40,000 from passengers and what do they get? A few months in jail.
At least we know how Obama and Holder look at crime. Real crime is overlooked and real criminals get a slap on the wrist, but when it comes to a marine biologist who has committed no crime, they want to put her away for two decades.
Now, in their defense, it was not Obama and Holder who did away with the mens rea portion of federal criminal law. No, that was the Supreme Court of Earl Warren and William O. Douglas, both of whom are revered by "Progressives" who believed that the ancient Anglo-American view of criminal law -- that someone must inflict real harm upon individuals or their property -- should be discarded and be replaced by rules that would reflect "the public good." Of course, "Progressives" would be the sole creators of what would be in the "public good" or not.
Harvey Silverglate, who has been a mentor to me for many years, has written a great book Three Felonies a Day and notes that many federal laws are vague and are easily manipulated by prosecutors. Furthermore, because the laws themselves are unclear, juries are forced to INTERPRET the laws as opposed to their historical duties of (1) knowing that a crime has been committed and (2) determining whether or not the defendant committed the crime.
Unfortunately, much of federal law consists of prosecutors charging people with a series of complicated and wordy charges and then leaving it up to the juries to determine if the law even was broken. Under such circumstances, jurors often conclude that if someone has been charged, then that should be proof of guilt.
There is a reason that the USA leads the world in incarceration. This country has some of the harshest laws on the planet and some of the world's worst prosecutors. And it is sad to see the former Constitutional Law professor Barack Obama and Eric Holder carry on that sorry tradition.