The Public Fraud

The First Amendment protects free speech (as well as the press, assembly, and worship provided that the subject isn’t contraception).

But it has limits.

Fraud is not free speech.  You need to speak to commit fraud – “Hey, you have money in Nigeria, and we need $1,000 in legal fees to get it for you!”, right?  But it’s illegal.

It’s not illegal, in most cases, to lie.  There is the odd exception – the Stolen Valor Act which, by the way, makes me uncomfortable; I’d rather have a group of Green Berets set an impersonator straight than some federal prosecutor.    In most other cases, it’s not illegal.

Indeed, in some cases it’s encouraged, even among public servants.  The Supreme Court has said it’s OK for cops and prosecutors to lie to suspects to get information out of them.  That’s acceptable, generally, although it’s led to the odd miscarriage of justice.

But I think there should be a great, shining exception to “freedom of speech”.  Officers of the court should not be able to lie about the law, to their constituents.

There are only two explanations for Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom so grossly misstated the potential effects of the “Stand Your Ground” bill, vetoed yesterday by Governor Dayton.

He Doesn’t Know Any Better And, Like The Strib “Editorial Board”, Just Wrote What He Was Told.  If he’s that ignorant of the laws he’s supposed to enforce, he should not be a County Attorney.


He Actively Misrepresented The Law To An Audience Including His Constituents. With the goal of influencing public policy (the bill was then in committee), Backstrom wrote an op-ed (not for the first time, mind you) that actively and knowingly tried to mislead the public by lying about the consequences of a law.

I don’t know the legal definition of fraud – and I don’t have to, to still be able to say “this sort of behavior on the part of a court official defrauds and actively disinforms the public, toward a political end”.

And while there never will be, there oughtta be a law.


10 thoughts on “The Public Fraud

  1. It is illegal to pretend to be a member of the police force, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be illegal to pretend to be a member of the armed forces.

  2. Stolen Valor is up in front of the Supremes right now, odds are 6-5 that is is upheld so I hear.

    And actually Stolen Valor was crafted along the lines of fraud, in the idea that claiming to have earned a medal authorized by Congress is done with the intent of taking something by fraud. I have heard of a possible better solution if Stolen Valor is not upheld by the USSC-a simple online database of military members and their awards, verified by DOD or a private group, maybe a consortium of the VFW, Legion and DAV.

  3. Dave,

    I agree – claiming a decoration for purposes of fraud should be a crime.

  4. You mean Senator (do you know who I am?) Kerry will finally get his comeuppance? Offering false testimony at Winter Soldier hearings nor consorting with an enemy while a commissioned officer did not do it – but I don’t care as long he is court marshaled for his sins against our great country!

  5. When a cop stops me for going 45 in a 30, is he using the same truth barometer? We can debate the science behind his “opinion” that I was speeding, right?

  6. Mitch-
    agreed. That is the problem with trying to take something immoral and translate it to illegal, both for stolen valor and elected officials telling untruths about a proposed law.

  7. It’s good to keep repeating the facts about Backstrom, he moves his lips and you should immediately suspect he’s lying, because he’s demonstrated his skill at it.

    If you were to sit on a jury for a case that he was prosecuting would you be entirely confident in his honesty?

  8. I’m a big 1st amendment guy so I actually hope the court strikes it down, with the provision that they have to spend 5 minutes alone in a room tied to a chair with someone who actually EARNED that medal “telling” them its not a good idea to do it. And that they wouldn’t be able to press any charges for any “unfortunate incidents” that may happen to them during those 5 minutes

  9. Ben-not anything that is user friendly and easily searchable. The process to verify a suspicious claim is to file a FOIA, and that involves people who know that system and have the time to do the legwork.

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