OPINION: The Long Arm Of The Law: Slow But Sure

Photo courtesy of Michael Weymouth

August 26, 2022 By Michael Weymouth

If there is one thing that has saved our democracy from the authoritarian impulses of Donald Trump and his acolytes, it is that at the end of the day we are a nation of laws. And even though it seems to take forever for justice to kick in, like the proverbial turtle, justice eventually gets to the finish line.

The recent trial of Alex Jones is a case in point.

Even though the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place 10 years ago, justice finally came to Jones, the founder and chief voice of Infowars, an American far-right conspiracy theory and fake news website. Jones had called the Sandy Hook shooting a fake event created by left wing actors intent on attacking the Second Amendment. The resulting blowback from his conspiracy-minded supporters caused great emotional harm to the parents who had lost children in the shooting. The jury in Austin, Texas awarded the parents $4 million, with further settlements to follow. Shortly thereafter a jury awarded parents $49 million.

This moment should not go unnoticed by other purveyors of misinformation and conspiracy theories. As trial Judge Maya Guerra Gamble said to Jones, “You can lie all you want on your show, but you cannot lie in this courtroom.” One can only envision how the lawyers at Fox news got to work sending out missives to conservative pundits such as Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, to point out that the innuendo they engage in can be seen by a jury as the same thing as a lie. Those who willingly consume their commentaries and then go on to harass their victims care little about the difference. To them, it’s a call to action, whether directly or indirectly said.

Those who clamor for justice to find Donald Trump should also take some solace in the justice meted out at the ballot box. The 2020 election was clearly a rejection of Trump and his behavior as president. While he knows full well he lost, he has nevertheless convinced millions of Americans that he won and that the election was fraudulent. We may have rid ourselves of Donald Trump, but those he corrupted are still with us. It won’t be until the 2024 election before we find out how much damage has been done to our electoral system.

In the meantime, the Department of Justice is busily at work building a case against the nefarious behavior of the former president, albeit at a turtle’s pace. Was it criminal or simply malpractice to walk away with all those classified documents? Hopefully that question gets answered before 2024.

The justice Department has also revisited the death of Breonna Taylor, the Louisville resident who was killed by the Louisville police in a raid that the Justice Department now says was initiated by an illegal search warrant. According to federal officials, police officers lied in order to obtain the warrant. It is noteworthy that all too often this kind of local malfeasance is allowed to go unchecked. Such was the case in the death of Ahmaud Aubrey who was shot in Georgia in 2020 by a former local police officer Gregory McMichaels and his son Travis. Numerous decisions were made by Georgia officials that later proved to be erroneous interpretations of the law: the chief prosecutor for the area, Jackie Johnson, was charged with violation of her oath for telling officers on the scene not to arrest the McMichaels. Georgia authorities also claimed to have video of Aubrey burglarizing a nearby home under construction, when in fact the video showed no such thing.

Both the Taylor and Aubrey cases are examples of what happens when state and local community organizations make decisions that are tantamount to obstruction of justice, and a reminder of the importance of federal oversight in seeking justice for victims of crimes that go unaddressed locally.

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