Afghanistan Rampage Suspect Here in KS & Thoughts on the Rutgers Verdict

The American soldier who allegedly shot 16 civilians (and we’re now hearing that he also set fire to some of their bodies) in Afghanistan last week has been brought here to Kansas to await his court martial, wherein he could face the death penalty.  He’s being held in a military detention facility at Ft. Leavenworth, about a 45-minute drive from my office.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be called to play a more first-hand role in this story that I would ever have expected.  Stay tuned.

And, the former Rutgers student who streamed video of his roommate engaged in a sexual encounter with another male, apparently contributing to the roommate’s subsequent suicide, has been convicted on all charges.  I’m glad in the sense that I think this guy actively attempted to hurt his roommate (by invading his privacy and publicizing his private sexual behavior) and then obstructed justice (by interfering with the cops’ investigation).  I do have a couple of reservations though:

1) As you know if you’re a regular reader and/or viewer, I don’t like hate crimes laws because they imply that a crime motivated by hate is somehow worse than a crime motivated by money, sex, etc., and it’s not worse — they’re all totally unacceptable reasons to violate another person’s rights — so I don’t like the hate crime convictions in this case (and it sounds like the jury actually may have misunderstood the degree of malicious intent required under New Jersey law, so we may see an appeal of those verdicts that may have some validity), and

2) Even though the defendant wasn’t charged with causing the roommate’s death, I wonder whether the jury was able to fully separate that from the other charges (i.e. I wonder whether, to some degree, jurors were looking to hold the defendant accountable for the crimes that he committed and also for the roommate’s death) — I suspect that the humiliation caused by the defendant’s conduct probably contributed to the roommate’s suicide, but I also suspect that it wasn’t the only, and may not even have been the most significant precipitating factor of a suicide.  I suspect that the deceased had some significant psychological/emotional issues before he was victimized by the defendant’s invasion of his privacy, and while that may not matter much in a wrongful-death civil suit under the “eggshell skull” doctrine (if a civil defendant knew or should’ve known that a plaintiff might be damaged, then the defendant’s generally held responsible for the full extent of the damage, even if it’s beyond what might reasonably have been expected due to some hidden vulnerability of the plaintiff), I wonder if it may have inordinately affected verdicts in this, a criminal case.

The defendant — now convict — is scheduled to be sentenced in May.  He faces up to ten years in prison and deportation.  And guess what else — he reportedly was offered a plea bargain as recently as December, 2011, that would’ve resulted in no prison time, six months on probation, and 600 hours of community service.  Who knows what he’ll get from the judge in May, but if he really was offered a deal like that, I’ll bet he’s now seriously wishing he would’ve taken it.

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