Friday, September 11, 2009

Andrew Sullivan: Above the Law--Updated

Consider this a gift.

So Andrew Sullivan gets caught for possession on park service grounds. The penalty is a $125 fine. But because he's Andrew Sullivan, the State quickly decides to drop the charges "in the interest of justice." The interests of justice seem to be that this $125 fine would create a record which would hinder Sullivan's immigration status.

The unequal treatment prompted Judge Robert Collings to write that fantastic memorandum. But Collings only briefly touches on what looks like the most grotesque part of the episode:

Sullivan and his attorney claim that paying the $125 fine would create a record of his being charged with possession of a controlled substance. Collings notes that whether or not Sullivan ever paid the fine, "if asked by immigration authorities, [he] would have to answer truthfully that he had been charged with a crime involving controlled substances." So why would it matter whether or not Sullivan just pays the $125? Because if he doesn't pay it, it makes it easier for him to answer untruthfully.

In other words, the State decided that it was in the interest of justice to help Andrew Sullivan lie to another agency of the State.

Look, if Sullivan's able to beat a minor charge, good for him. (Though can you imagine what he would say if the defendant was a guy named "Bush"?) There's no reason he shouldn't defend himself as zealously as possible. As always, the problem is the shame and dishonor he brings on a larger institution, in this case, the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Update: Galley Reader Z is less sublime about the implications for Sullivan. He asks:

(1) Given that there is strong evidence that Sullivan violated federal law, doesn't the rule of law require that he be prosecuted? That is (as he proudly quoted only a few days ago), "if you genuinely believe in the rule of law, you can't invoke political expediency as a guide to whether possible crimes should be investigated and prosecuted." Right?

(2) Given that the U.S. Department of Justice has provided Sullivan with a substantial benefit, shouldn't he recuse himself from any and all commentary on the Department of Justice? Or do those sorts of rules apply only to journalists with allegedly pro-Palin conflicts of interest?

8 comments:

Civilized Crank said...

Well that explains the extended sabbatical this summer...

Alpine Leasing, Inc. said...

I wonder if the left will refer to him as a "pothead" like they call Rush a "pill-popping degenerate.

Of course they won't.

Gavin said...

Personally I like potheads - especially smart, funny interesting ones.

Pill-popping degenerates on the other hand are invariably obnoxious.

Cato Renasci said...

I certainly hope that several someones forward copies of this decision to the appropriate immigration authorities who will consider Mr. Sullivan's application.

Dave S. said...

How does not paying a fine make it easier for Sullivan to answer untruthfully? The record of the charge is still on the books even though it was dropped, isn't it?

...the shame and dishonor he brings on a larger institution...

How is Sullivan responsible for that? The USA's office made the call on dropping the charge.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Apparently, you guys have never heard of "prosecutorial discretion." This is an ancient legal doctrine -- often invoked by conservatives who try to block civil rights cases premised on the notion that "certain people" do not get prosecuted for the same crimes. These cases, however, usually do not take place in idylic New England settings.

Mikeybackwards said...

I think you are drawing a conclusion that is not substantiated by the facts "but because he's Andrew Sullivan, the State quickly decides to drop the charges . . ." Nothing you posted substantiated your suggestion that another individual without Mr. Sullivan's notoriety and status as a journalist and blogger would not or could not receive similar treatment. Indeed, while the judge in this case clearly noted that others were being charged and prosecuted for a similar offense, the court fails to show that any of those individuals were facing similar immigration concerns. Absent evidence to the contrary, it is possible that the US Attorney is applying the law and its discretion equally and fairly inasmuch it may dismiss such petty offenses for all potential defendants involved in such immigration proceedings because the potential penalty of prosecution places a disproportionate penalty (jeopardy of immigration status) that similarly situated US citizens, permanent residents, and foreign nationals not involved in, or contemplating such immigration considerations do not face.

So, while there may indeed be an appearance of conflict of interest - and I agree that Mr. Sullivan should address that appearance, I am not so certain that Mr. Sullivan or the United States Attorney acted inappropriately.

James said...

JVL you are a God.