Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Is Murder Legal? Yes, if One is Wearing a Badge and a Proper Costume

During his abortive presidential campaign, John Edwards used to speak of "two Americas," although he was dealing with those who were wealthy (like himself, as he built a 28,000 square-foot house for his own use) and those who were not. However, when it comes to law, America is utterly bifurcated.

There are two groups of people. The first group consists of what Will Grigg calls "mundanes," the regular people who either work for private firms or do not have legal and political connections. They not only are subject to laws, but also are fair game when the authorities decide to manipulate laws in order to bring them harm.

The second group includes those who either work in law enforcement or are judges or prosecutors. These people are free to break the law and even commit murder, and get a free ride. The murder of Sal Culosi in Fairfax County, Virginia, on January 24, 2006, is an example of how the police are permitted to murder unarmed people and then lie about the situation.

There is a lesson here, and that is that the USA has passed a point of no return. Police and their unions, along with prosecutors and judges, are so powerful that they cannot be challenged no matter how illegal and egregious their conduct. Because no lawmaker, president, bureaucrat, or U.S. Supreme Court justice is willing to challenge this state of affairs (And why would they, given they are the recipients of its largess?), we are destined for this to be the lot of the USA as long as it exists.

Sal Culosi was an optometrist in Fairfax County, and he and his friends used to make small bets on sports events. A police detective, David Baucum, overheard a conversation between Culosi and his friends and decided to befriend Culosi to see if he could get him to raise the stakes. As Radley Balko explains:
During the next several months he talked Culosi into raising the stakes of what Culosi thought were friendly wagers. Eventually Culosi and Baucum bet more than $2,000 in a single day, enough under Virginia law for police to charge Culosi with running a gambling operation. That's when they brought in the SWAT team.
That's right; a SWAT team. Balko explains what happened next:
On the night of January 24, 2006, Baucum called Culosi and arranged a time to drop by to collect his winnings. When Culosi, barefoot and clad in a T-shirt and jeans, stepped out of his house to meet the man he thought was a friend, the SWAT team moved in. Moments later, Bullock, who had had been on duty since 4 a.m. and hadn't slept in 17 hours, killed him. Culosi's last words: "Dude, what are you doing?"
Culosi was unarmed and had no criminal record. The officer (who claimed a very unlikely scenario of being bumped and accidentally firing the gun) killed him in cold blood (although he was protected by his union and, of course, Fairfax County authorities who covered up the murder).

The authorities were not content with having gunned down an unarmed man. Not surprisingly, they bullied the Culosi family, lied, covered up the truth, and generally did what the authorities always do when confronted with wrongdoing. Writes Balko:
In the months that followed, Baucum continued his investigation, badgering Culosi's grieving friends and relatives after pulling their names and numbers from the cell phone he was carrying and a computer taken from his home the night he was killed. Steve Gulley, Culosi's brother-in-law, told The Washington Post the following April that Baucum called him and menacingly asked, "How much are you into Sal for?" Scott Lunceford, a lifelong friend of Culosi's, told the Post Baucum called him and accused him of being a gambler. The calls, Gulley told the paper, smacked of intimidation aimed at discouraging a lawsuit.
Fairfax County came up with a contrived rationalization, but private investigators came up with an explanation that discredited what then-Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer was claiming. Balko writes:
The Culosis were dubious. They believed (Deval) Bullock mistook the cell phone their son was holding the night he was shot for a gun. They hired their own investigators, who determined, based on the department's own measurements of the crime scene, that when Bullock pulled the trigger he was away from his vehicle and much closer to Culosi than he had claimed. Using the recorded locations of shell casings, police vehicles, and Culosi's body, they produced computer animations showing that the incident could not have happened in the manner described by Chief Rohrer's report.
Bullock received a three-week unpaid vacation and the authorities refused to indict him. Balko notes that when private individuals (not wearing costume and badge) in Virginia kill unarmed people, even accidentally, they go to prison:
...the same month that Bullock killed Culosi, a 19-year-old man in neighboring Prince William County was charged with involuntary manslaughter after a gun he was showing to a friend accidentally discharged and killed the friend. And just a week before (Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert) Horan cleared Bullock, a youth in Chesapeake, Virginia, was convicted on the same charge for accidentally firing a gun from the backseat of a car, killing the driver.
Federal authorities cleared the Fairfax Police of any wrongdoing, so the Culosi family was left with filing a federal lawsuit. This month, it finally was settled for $2 million, although the only person left to sue was Bullock himself, and his fees were covered by his union and the county.

I suspect that the county would have tried to stick to its original story, but when federal Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that the Culosi family experts would be permitted to testify, the lawyers for Bullock would have had to present a scenario that was so dishonest and implausible that even a government-friendly Northern Virginia federal jury might have seen through the lies. So, the authorities settled, but admitted to no wrongdoing.

While at least the Culosi family has money to show for their efforts (although I suspect the lawyers will get most of it), nothing will change. The authorities still will be sending SWAT teams to deal with situations that are inherently non-violent (until the authorities themselves make them violent), and police will lie, and prosecutors will continue to cover up evidence.

Ludwig von Mises, a towering figure in economics, once wrote that he started out to be a reformer, but, instead, became a "historian of decline." Likewise, I once hoped that there could be reform in the justice system, and that someone, somewhere in authority would have a conscience.

I no longer believe that is the case. All I can do is to point out what is happening, try to help people who are falsely charged, and let God sort out the rest.


Michael McNutt said...

Or I guess we could start fighting back, God helps those who help themselves.

Doc Ellis 124 said...

Greetings Dr Anderson,


Thank you for writing this.

Doc Ellis 124

Anonymous said...

Michael, I am with you. We are going to have to do something...
Great job Mr Anderson..

Caby Smith said...

Thanks for covering this... sad indeed...

Caby Smith

Nullifier said...

Mr. Anderson, I'm with you 100% except for the part about, "... let God sort it out". I have nothing against people who believe in God, although I myself do not. So, where does that leave me and those like me? I think Mr. McNutt, the first poster, just might be on to something...