Defending the Dumbed

Ask yourself, “what is more important… money, or life?”  The answer is simple, really.

When I see something like the video above, I imagine something like what’s written below.

“Ladies and gentleman of the jury, my client is not guilty of stealing Girl Scout cookies from a Girl Scout.  I know you’ve seen the T.V. interview. I know it appears she admit the crime.  I know it sounds horrible.  I know what you think you saw.

You didn’t see what you think you saw.

Did she admit to seeing members of the Girl Scout Gang? Yes. Did she admit to seeing an envelope with money? Yes.  Did she grab that money and run away? Yes.  Does that make her a criminal? No.  Not today. Not this girl.

See, this isn’t really a case about cookies, or green uniforms or merit badges.  This is a case about greed, and about life.

In a normal case, my client’s statements to the reporter might be enough to prove a crime.  This isn’t a normal case, though. My client needed that money.  My client had to have that money. It was necessary that my client take that money to prevent greater harm.  She is not guilty, because her actions were necessary.

Put yourself in her shoes.  You’re 16 years old and your parents have forced you to roll out of bed shortly after 1:00 p.m.  Out on the streets to fend for yourself for an entire afternoon and without means to pay for your daily carmel mocha, you’re getting a little twitchy.  Getting your Starbucks isn’t really a matter of want.  It’s a matter of survival.  Maybe you’re high on weed/meth/whatever at the time, too.  That doesn’t make it any easier.

Do you know how it feels to need that caffeine?  Do you know how it feels to need that caffeine and not have money?

You texted all your friends, and none of them have money to loan you.  You even used your iPhone 3 to message your friends on myspace. No luck.  You don’t have any other options.

It’s not about options, it’s about life and death.

This is what I’m talking about when I say this case is about greed.  Year after year those pesky Girl Scouts, the little beggars that they are, terrorize neighborhoods everywhere trying to pawn their unhealthy vittles.  They should be ashamed, really, trying to liberate money from the paychecks of hard working Americans like yourself.  And, what are they giving you for that money?  Something of worth? Something of value?  Something to make the world better?  No.  Absolutely not.  They are taking your money and giving you sugary death nuggets.  They’re sleeping just fine at night, too.  That organization ought to be ashamed.

Year after year, they make millions, if not billions, while “normal” people like my client struggle to pay for a simple Iced Carmel Mocha Macchiato.  They made millions last year. They made millions this year, and they’re going to make more millions next year.  They are the 1%.  They are about the millions.  Are they about anything else? I doubt it.

You know why their uniforms are green?  Greed.  Clearly, it’s greed.  To them, that envelope of money is just more confirmation that a day of being greedy is a day well spent.

To my client, that wasn’t an envelope of money. That was an envelope of life.  It was an envelope to help her escape the hustle of daily afternoons on those mean streets.  It was money to the Girl Scout Gang, because they are greedy.  The Girl Scout’s didn’t need that money.  To my client, it was life.

Ask yourself, “what is more important… money, or life?”  The answer is simple, really.

And, when asked what she needed the money for, my client was honest in explaining it.  “Just, for anything… we didn’t have any money.”   Do you know what anything can be?  “Anything” can be food so that my poor, starving client can finally eat again.  “Anything” can be shelter so that she doesn’t have to spend another tireless afternoon walking around at the mall.  “Anything” can be prescription drugs to keep my client alive. Again, it’s about life!

You don’t know what “anything” can be.  And, the reason you don’t is because the government never proved that my client didn’t need that money for anything essential.  It’s their burden to prove their case, too. We must prove nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in this case you cannot find my client guilty unless you condone the rhetoric and greed of the Girl Scout Gang.  My client took that money because she claims she believes it might have kinda been necessary for her to buy some Starbucks, maybe.  I ask you now to send a message.  Send the message that you do not condone greed.  Send a message that living is ok.  Find my client not guilty.  Thank you.”

Then I imagine 4 minutes of jury deliberations, and a finding of guilty.

The $28 Question: What is wrong with the system?

It’s to compensate them for the burden of having to also take your $100. Guilty… Innocent… Not guilty by reason of insanity… whatever. Kiss that money goodbye.

What is this? The almighty dollar.

I love a weird theory.  This is America, after all.  Think what you want… that is your right.  You think that life demands us to hop on the spaceship following Comet Hale-Bopp?  Have a good flight.  Maybe you’re right and I’m wrong.  What do I know about spaceships and comets?  Nothing, really.

I have my own weird theories.  One of them is that the criminal justice system shouldn’t be looked as a “revenue generating”  source.  I get really nervous when I hear about the government siphoning money off of the accused.  My thought is that “raising revenue” and “truth” don’t always work well together.  If the system is focused on making money, guilt/innocence become less important and we are a lot more willing to jail innocent people.  The thought of innocent people caged up like animals at the zoo keeps me awake at night.

If the first part of my weird theory is that the criminal justice system shouldn’t be all about money, the second part of my theory is that the criminal justice system is all about money- to the government. Before you get to telling me that the second part of my theory isn’t weird, you’re wrong.  Maybe not “weird” in the same sense that people thought Michael and Latoya Jackson were the same people.  My theory is certainly weird in the sense that it’s not the prevailing thought.  Don’t think it’s all about money?  Everything is all about money.  Ask the philosophers of the Wu-Tang Clan.

Cash rules everything around me, right?  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that the Wu-Tang Clan doesn’t represent the thinking of the majority of the people.  No?  I believe that the “proof is in the pudding.”  Want proof?  Take a closer look at the way the bond system works.

Let’s assume you get arrested on a low-grade misdemeanor.  You’ve got to post $100 to bond out.  Because you’ve either been arrested by the Sheriff’s Department, or couldn’t raise the money quick enough for your local department, you’ve got to post it at the County Jail.  You give them the $100 and get freed on bond, right? Wrong.  If you’re in McHenry County, you give them $128.  That’s $100 in bond and a $28 sheriff’s fee.  The $100 bond is held by the clerk. Its purpose is to ensure you show up on your court dates.  In theory you get it back when the case is over.

That $28, though?  What is with that?

That’s the Sheriff department’s cut.  It’s to compensate them for the burden of having to also take your $100.  Guilty… Innocent… Not guilty by reason of insanity… whatever.  Kiss that money goodbye.

$28 not a big deal?    That’s $28 for each of the thousands of people posting bond at the jail (not convicted or found guilty) of everything from driving without a valid license to Murder.  You can even be forced to post bond on a seat belt ticket.  And, $28 is on the low side.  In Kane County, that fee is $46!  That’s $46 you pay for the privilege of letting them take your other money!  Why? I don’t know.

I’m thinking that fee is a decent part of the over $2,000,000 in revenue the McHenry County Sheriff brings in through “fees and services.”  Granted, a lot of that is “service of process” and other things.  Still, $28 for each person posting bond at the jail (guilty or not) is nothing to sneeze at.  And the issue isn’t really how much money the Sheriff brings in on the fees, it’s why should the government make any money on somebody who may not be guilty?

In my world, if you’re arrested by the police, forced to pay the $28 sheriff’s fee and are not convicted, that $28 should be sent right back to you in the same envelope with a letter of apology from the people who arrested you.  Of course, that’s just my world… and my weird theory.  Take it for what it is, but at least I’m not trying to catch a ride on a UFO.

That’s also just the tip of the iceberg.  The bond money you posted comes back when you’re found not guilty, right?  Well, yes. And, no.  You get your money back minus “the vig.”   Why does the clerk keep a cut?  Because they had to hold your money, of course.  They’re just like a bank except they don’t pay you interest- instead they keep the interest that was accrued during your case and also keep their vig.  Maybe more like a loan shark, then.

The vig, by the way, is 10% of whatever you’ve posted for bond.  Posted $100 (plus the sheriff’s fee) on that misdemeanor?  Best case is that you’ll get $90 back.  Posted $500,000 on that murder you didn’t do?  Well, you just lost $50k, and the government doesn’t care that you didn’t do it.  While you’re out $50k plus the cost of an awesome lawyer, the government just made $50k, plus the sheriff’s fee, plus any interest accrued on $500,000 and you weren’t even guilty.

How is that fair? It’s not… in my weird world, anyway.


Can it get any easier?

People want to know what to do when the police are trying to “talk” to them.  I’ve used this persistent question as inspiration for clothing.  Available soon, the Matthew J. Haiduk, Attorney at Law t-shirt.  Details to follow.


5th Amendment
5th Amendment. No Lawyer? No talk.

Rod Blagojevich’s hair is headed to prison.

Ah, Blago.  I thought you were already in prison.  Unfortunately it appears that you are not.  From what I am reading, though, it looks like you’re going to be all over the news again this week.  It seems you have to get the last word in (or, the last word before you’re really not going to be able to get any words in, anyway).  I hope they are good.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I know what you’re going to say.  You haven’t said anything new in years.  It was all a big conspiracy to get you out of the way so they could raise taxes.  You told us!  Such a shame considering you were such a tax cutting machine when you were in office.  I mean, you may have avoided large tax increases on paper, but anybody who received a traffic ticket after you were elected saw how you dipped into their pockets.  Some people don’t think traffic court should really be looked at as a way to raise revenue for pet projects… thankfully you weren’t one of them.

Anyhow, Rodlicious, we both have a lot in common.  Aside from the fact that I didn’t get a hair cut from October until February (causing more than a few Blago Hair days), I’ve also been thinking about what you should say prior to disappearing (hopefully) from the public eye.

The problem is that I can’t come up with anything. I’m putting myself in your shoes and trying to think what some tv-watching guy like me might want to hear out of your mouth just before you went to prison.  I’m thinking that the fact that I can’t think of anything is a sign.  It’s a sign that you probably won’t be able to say anything that’s worth my mental energy to hear.

I’ve got an idea, Rod.  If you don’t say anything before heading into prison, I won’t say anything about you while you’re there.  Deal?  Sounds fair to me.  It won’t be easy for me to completely forget you (again), but I think I’m man enough to do it.  If your “last words” prior to getting caged up are some more of your political babble, that may just be how I remember you.  You don’t want that, Rod.  See, now, when your name comes up, my memory is forced to playback your election against Jim Ryan.  More notably, the most prevalent memory I have of you is Cal Skinner running all over the state with a two headed chicken named “JimRod” taunting both you and Jim Ryan.  That is good stuff, Rod.  Why would you want to tarnish that memory?

Cal Skinner's JimRod
Copyright Cal Skinner, All rights reserved.

Anyhow, Mr. Blago, I know you’re not going to listen to me. I just wanted to share my feelings with you while you were a free man.  Once you get locked up I could only share my feelings by sending you a letter, and I’m not about to waste the cost of a stamp on you.

Why does pop culture hate me?

Probably because I hate it right back. I guess it’s a mutual thing.

It was about 6 weeks ago that I posted my brilliant, earth shattering, sure-to-be-pulitzer winning thoughts on what I’d like to see out of criminal law in 2012.  Right at the top of that list was Lindsay Lohan.  I’ve had enough of hearing about her troubles.  Like I said, give me more Jack Kervorkian!

Anyhow, somebody just emailed me to tell me that Lindsay Lohan will be hosting Saturday Night Live.  I suppose that I should be happy that it’s not really criminal law related.  For that, I’m trying not to be too bitter.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to watch the show that night. I’ve got to wax the floors in my office that night.