Today, prosecutors in Nantucket formally dropped criminal charges against actor Kevin Spacey. Spacey had been charged with felony indecent assault and battery stemming from allegations that he had inappropriately groped an 18-year-old man at a Restaurant in 2017. The young man had filed a civil suit against Spacey last month, which was then promptly dropped. There had been accusations that the accuser had deleted text messages that Spacey’s attorneys say may have demonstrated the actor’s innocence. The prosecutor’s office gave the “unavailability of the complaining witness” as the reason they decided to drop charges. The accusers apparent change of heart regarding cooperation could mean several things, but coupled with the allegations of deleted text messages that may have exonerated Spacey, it’s possible that he didn’t want to subject himself to cross examination, or getting caught in a false statement. Did the accuser’s attorney inform the prosecutors that the accuser would not be available to testify, or did he just dodge them…
There have been other accusations against Spacey, which has resulted in his ostracization in Hollywood amidst the “Me too” movement. There have been criminal investigations in California and England, but no other criminal charges. This case was problematic from the get-go, as I’ve discussed before, as the accuser apparently lied about his age and was allegedly flirting with Spacey. I’d try to say something funny, but this guy has already gotten the last word…
Charlotte County Deputies served a warrant today on Ian McGuire, accusing him of three counts of Harassing a Witness, two counts of Obstruction of Justice, and Breach of the Peace. McGuire showed up at an investigation in April and started filming deputies who were searching a warrant. They’d have a hard time charging him with anything related to that, due to his First Amendment protections. However, he took it a step farther by stepping into the crime scene area, arguing with Deputies, and allegedly mocking witnesses that were speaking to deputies. He has a First Amendment right to film public interactions, but he may have crossed the line if his words or actions interfered with the deputies’ lawful investigations (they were responding to a report of an aggravated battery). McGuire posted a 19 minute video of the incident, online. McGuire has previously been in the news for his activism.
I suspect most people don’t realize there is a key legal loophole that allows people to be prosecuted more than once for the same crime. It’s understandable that people would not realize this, as the Fifth Amendment pretty clearly states: “… nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…” It’s a principle handed down through the common law, and appears to date all the way back to the Roman Empire. However, U.S. courts have allowed people to be tried, and punished, for duplicate offenses if those offenses are prosecuted in different jurisdictions: State and Federal. That is, even if a state court has tried, convicted, and sentenced someone for a charge in state court, the federal government can also try, convict, and sentence them in federal court. The sentences can even run consecutively, that is, one after the other.
On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a decision in a case, Gamble v. United States, that could have reversed the long-standing exception to the bar on double jeopardy. Instead, a 7-2 majority upheld the double jeopardy exception. The majority opinion found that the separate laws are defined by different sovereigns: although “separate sovereigns” is a judicial construct that does not appear in the Constitution. Mark Joseph Stern at Slate points out that dissenting justices Ginsburg and Gorsuch cite founding father Alexander Hamilton, in the Federalist papers, argue that sovereignty derives from the people and that the federal and state governments are to be regarded as “ONE WHOLE”. So, the two-sovereignty theory fails the framer’s intent test, as well as failing to convince the court’s leading textualist in Gorsuch. The plain language of the Fifth Amendment does not seem to support that the “atom of sovereignty” can be split so as to place a person twice in jeopardy for the same offense.
This is not a change of law, the courts have long upheld the state/federal exception to the bar against double jeopardy. However, for those that have long thought the state of the law did not reflect the intent of the Constitution, this opinion represents a missed opportunity to close this loophole and protect this right of the people.
Former Hamilton County judge Tracie Hunter was convicted in September of 2014 for having an unlawful interest in a public contract, for using her office to get documents to help her brother. In December of that year, she was sentenced to 6 months in jail, but she has remained free while her appeals and post-conviction cases have been going on. Her direct appeals were denied, upholding the conviction, and her last resort, a federal petition for habeas corpus has been denied, and the stay pending its appeal has now been lifted. She has a hearing July 18 before the Hamilton County Common Pleas court, where she could be ordered to begin serving her sentence. Her attorneys have filed a new motion to waive the jail, saying medical conditions involving her back and her arthritis prevent her from being able to serve a jail sentence, but that is a hail mary attempt to try to get the judge to allow her to remain at liberty… the same judge who ordered that she serve her sentence back in 2016, before the Federal stay went into effect. The chances she can avoid jail much longer are narrowing rapidly.
Former NFL player Kellen Winslow is on trial in California for a dozen charges related to alleged sexual assaults, lewd conduct, and indecent exposure: he faces up to life in prison. The first of five accusers testified yesterday, and it did not go well for the prosecution. The victim’s credibility was attacked thoroughly on the stand: her testimony was “shaking and baffling” according to USA Today and she was “caught in a web of lies and contradiction” according to Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel. Wetzel reports that her story changed while she was on the stand, contradicted her prior testimony, and only her word can overcome Winslow’s claim that the encounter was consensual. The state has four more alleged victims with several different claims. It will be hard for Winslow to overcome that many allegations presented to the same jury, but the outcome is far from a forgone conclusion.
LCSO, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is planning a DUI checkpoint this weekend, in addition to saturation patrols targeting impaired drivers. Everybody be safe out there, get an Uber or a cab, but don’t drink and drive!
If you have any questions, be sure to speak to an experienced Defense attorney.