The protracted and pointless tormenting of [Scientist Nancy Black] illustrates the thesis of Harvey Silverglate’s invaluable 2009 book, “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.” Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer in Boston, chillingly demonstrates how the mad proliferation of federal criminal laws — which often are too vague to give fair notice of what behavior is proscribed or prescribed — means that “our normal daily activities expose us to potential prosecution at the whim of a government official.” Such laws, which enable government zealots to accuse almost anyone of committing three felonies in a day, do not just enable government misconduct, they incite prosecutors to intimidate decent people who never had culpable intentions. And to inflict punishments without crimes.
By showing that Kafka was a realist, Black’s misfortune may improve the nation: The more Americans learn about their government’s abuse of criminal law for capricious bullying, the more likely they are to recoil in a libertarian direction and put Leviathan on a short leash.
George Will, discussing the on-going litigation involving Nancy Black, a marine biologist who became the target of a federal investigation after somebody on her boat whistled at a whale.
An investigation ensued to determine whether the whistling constituted “harassment of a marine mammal,” an environmental crime. The NOAA found that no harassment took place after viewing a video of the incident, but the investigation continued after the feds believed that the tape was doctored in violation of the 1863 False Claims Act. Black has spent over $100,000 in legal fees defending herself, and has become isolated from at least one close friend after her scientific colleagues were told by the government to inform investigators if Black tried to speak with any of them.
A promising scientific career has been destroyed because somebody whistled. Prosecutorial indiscretion at its worst. (via letterstomycountry)