01 February 2006

And, Arrests For Non-Existent Crimes.

Charges against antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan, who was arrested after an incident involving a T-shirt she wore to the State of the Union address, will be dropped, officials told NBC News Wednesday.

U.S. Capitol Police took Sheehan away in handcuffs and charged her with unlawful conduct, a misdemeanor, when she showed up to President Bush's address Tuesday night wearing a shirt that read, "2245 Dead. How many more?" -- a reference to the number of soldiers killed in Iraq.

But Capitol Police will ask the U.S. attorney's office to drop the charges, NBC News' Mike Viqueira reported Wednesday.

"We screwed up," a top Capitol Police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said Sheehan didn't violate any rules or laws.

Sheehan, whose son Casey died in Iraq, was not the only one ejected from the House gallery. The wife of a powerful Republican congressman was also asked to leave, but she was not arrested.

Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Florida -- chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee -- was removed from the gallery because she was wearing a T-shirt that read, "Support the Troops -- Defending Our Freedom."

The Capitol Police official said officers never should have approached Young.

MSNBC via Daily Kos.

There are police whom I could believe don't understand the difference between free speech and criminal disturbing the peace. But,if anyone is drilled to death regarding what is and is not legal, it is the U.S. Capitol Police. "We screwed up" is entirely implausible.

The far more likely scenario is that the Capitol Police, who report to the Republicans who control the capital right now (not the Democratic Party controlled city government), intentionally arrested Sheehan, knowing perfectly well that the arrest was bogus. But they also knew that the arrest would prevent her from expressing her message at the State of the Union address, at which they deeply desired to avoid any embarassment to the President or the Republican leadership to whom they report, and that their bogus arrest would not be resolved until the speech was over. They also were well aware that if she was released without charges being brought, rather than prosecuted, that any money damages she could claim in a civil action attempting to vindicate her rights would be nominal. A night in jail does not produce a million dollar jury award. And, the fact that the wife of a Republican congressman was hassled, but not arrested, was very likely a cover to make their claim that they were stupid, rather than intentionally acting unlawfully, seem plausible.

Cynical? Perhaps. But, I explained precisely what I thought would happen in this case the moment that my paralegal noted it this morning, and it did. It is a relatively common police tactic that is a particular favorite of another political savy body of law enforcement officers, the Secret Service (whose power to engage in similar conduct the Republicans in the House want to authorize in a Patriot Act renewal, even though the law is likely unconstitutional, see below).


Anonymous said...

I think you mean "Capitol", not "Capital", throughout this post.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Indeed, I do. Thank you, oh volunteer copy editor!