[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Townsend

At 05:07 PM 1/14/2003, Dan Billings wrote:
> > Yes.  It happened to an NPR freelance reporter in Maryland in 1998,
> > and he ended up pleading guilty after a judge refused to allow him a
> > First Amendment defense.
>Does the First Amendment give anyone the right to ignore a criminal statute?

If you're the Boston Dioceses of the Catholic Church....you sure as hell 
claim that it does.  They filed - and were roundly rejected IIRC, this was 
pretty recent - that they were exempt from the settlement claims of those 
allegedly abused by priests under the religious freedom grounds by the 
First Amendment.   I might have the nuances wrong but that was the basic 
gist.   Supposedly it was done because they didn't really "believe" that 
was a valid defense, but their insurance providers required that they 
explore all possible legal options before the insurance will cough up for 
settlement payments.   I'm not too sure...something tells me the old "the 
insurance company made me do it" line has some validity behind it...but not 
much; I think this was a horrendously bad idea that started looking good in 
"groupthink mode" during some brainstorming session on how they can 
continue to be a moral authority while exhibiting no moral stature whatsoever.

Hey, four years of Catholic high school...and I wasn't Catholic (nor am 
I).  It gave me a pretty warped view of religion all around.  :-)

To keep it on broadcasting, though....."free speech" rules under the First 
Amendment do not mean you can broadcast obscene material over the air, 
either.  We take that for granted...albeit with some wariness about exactly 
what is considered "obscene" - a rapidly moving target these days.

I do however think the judge massively overstepped his bounds by denying 
the guy even a chance at a First Amendment defense.  If he can prove that 
he was actually researching a story that was commissioned by a media outlet 
to research and report on...I think that's a pretty strong argument for him 
NOT being a child porno freak.   And the legal argument can be written to 
set a proper precedent so that not everyone can automatically claim a First 
Amendment defense.   Of course, without knowing all the nitty gritty 
details of his case, who knows?  If he just said to himself: "Hey, I'll go 
off on my own and do a story on kiddie porn and I just know station WXYZ 
will pick up and pay me some fat cash for the ratings it'll 
generate...."    Well, that was a pretty dumbass move on his part to just 
wander into a known thorny legal patch without protecting himself 
beforehand.   Even Daniel Pearl at least told people he was leaving the US 
and going to Pakistan.

Aaron "Bishop" Read     aread@speakeasy.net
FriedBagels Technical Consulting / Boston, MA
www.friedbagels.com   AOL-IM: ReadAaron