Prosecutorial Misconduct – Money Laundering and Weapons of Mass Destruction
Prosecutor Robin Piper of Butler County, Ohio has decided on his own that existing drug law penalties aren’t good enough, so he’s started tacking on a new charge: money laundering. By adding the money laundering charge to a drug sale, he can add 5 years to the sentence. Apparently, a little-used section of the Ohio laws on money laundering includes the phrase “by receiving the money as the result of corrupt activity, knowing that the money coming to him is the result of corrupt activity.” Hmmm… does this mean if I lived in Ohio I could get five years for receiving my tax refund?
But wait! It gets worse.
District Attorney Jerry Wilson of Watauga County, North Carolina has come up with some unique charges in the case of the bust of a methamphetamines lab: two counts of manufacturing a nuclear or chemical weapon. That’s right, the drug defendant is being charged under a new Weapons of Mass Destruction law passed after 9/11, which carries a penalty of 12 years to life on each count, which includes “any substance that is designed or has the capability to cause death or serious injury and … is or contains toxic or poisonous chemicals or their immediate precursors.” Philip Morris, watch out!
In the meth lab case, agents found a house with meth, the chemicals used to manufacture it, and an automatic weapon. So, in addition to the two counts of manufacturing a nuclear or chemical weapon, the defendant was charged with: one count each of manufacturing a controlled substance, maintaining a dwelling place for a controlled substance, possession of the immediate precursor chemicals with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, maintaining a vehicle for a controlled substance (he had a car), and possession of a weapon of mass destruction (the gun).
Now, first of all, some blame has to lay with the legislators, who pass so many criminal laws and provisions that they can’t even keep track of them, rarely consider how they’ll be used, and care little about the proper crafting of them. However, when did the job of the prosecutor become one of getting a conviction at all costs, for as many charges and penalties that they can creatively cobble together? True, our system is an adversarial system, but the prosecutor’s job is not just one of adamantly countering the defense, but they also serve the constitution, the people, the law (in intent as well as structure), and, dare I say it, justice.
Is anyone teaching prosecutorial ethics?
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