Law & the Courts

Consequences Are for Schmucks

(Alex Wong/Getty)
High crimes and ‘Freddy Got Fingered’

We cannot get Hillary Rodham Clinton in handcuffs. We can get James Meyers in handcuffs, though, no problem.

Mrs. Clinton, who may very well be the next president of these United States, has been on a decades-long crime spree, from profiting on dodgy cattle futures to obstructing justice with the Rose law-firm records to her top-secret toilet-based e-mail shenanigans. Asked by Jorge Ramos whether she would continue her presidential campaign if indicted, she scoffed at the notion.

And she was right to scoff. People like Hillary Rodham Clinton do not go to jail without first becoming governor of Illinois or mayor of Detroit, and Herself always has her sights set on a higher office than those. But even relatively lowly players in her world escape jail time. Lois Lerner turned the Internal Revenue Service into a branch of the Obama campaign, using the agency’s fearsome investigatory powers to harass tea-party groups and conservative organizations. She’s enjoying a fat pension right now rather than the federal hospitality she so richly deserves. Kamala Harris, who is trying to do much the same thing with the office of the attorney general in California, probably is headed to the Senate. The Texas prosecutors who harassed Kay Bailey Hutchison, Tom DeLay, and Rick Perry for wholly imaginary crimes are in no danger of facing real recriminations.

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And of course Herself has the example of Bill to consider: After a years-long campaign of perjury, suborning perjury, obstruction of justice, and more, all he suffered was the revocation of his law license and a symbolic disbarment — as though he ever intended to practice law again. He has dedicated his post-presidency years to delivering highly remunerated speeches about economic inequality and building an impressive collection of fine wristwatches rather than scratching annual hash-marks into the wall of the cell in Kansas where he belongs.

We have federal employees watching porn all day and using their government credit cards for casinos and hookers. (“Mastercard: When the girl will do anything except take American Express.”) Most of the time, nobody gets fired, and it is exceedingly rare that anybody goes to jail.

You know who gets arrested? Schmucks.

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James Meyers is a schmuck. The first three times I saw his story, I rolled my eyes and went on my way, assuming that it was one of those Facebook fictions that make the rounds for some reason. Denounce me as an inside-the-Beltway elitist, but I changed my mind when I saw it in the Washington Post.

Back in the pre-Cambrian age, when there were video-rental stores that loaned VHS tapes for a small fee, Meyers, a North Carolina man, rented a copy of Freddy Got Fingered, a very stupid movie made by Tom Greene. Bad taste is not a crime. But apparently failing to return a copy of Freddy Got Fingered is a crime, if you let it go long enough. The video-rental company, long defunct, had filed a complaint against Meyers. Under state law, failure to return rented property is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $200. Meyers had gone about his life blissfully unaware that any such case had been brought against him, until he was pulled over dropping his daughter off at school with a defective brake light. The officer citing him for the traffic violation had the good sense not to slap the cuffs on Meyers — he’ll probably be disciplined for that — but when Meyers came to the police station to sort things out, he was handcuffed and arrested.

For failing to return a copy of Freddy Got Fingered, this was.

Tom Green in “Freddy Got Fingered”

People like Hillary Rodham Clinton break the law — serious laws, including national-security law — with impunity. They can do this because their lives are dedicated to the pursuit of power, which means being constantly lawyered up. There probably has been no point in the past 30 years during which Mrs. Clinton, her family, or a near ally was not under investigation. She can spend her days fighting this stuff and dragging it out for years and years like it’s her job — because it is.

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A schmuck like James Meyers, though, lives a different sort of life. The court might have mailed him a notice to appear 14 years ago when his rental-issue was a matter of immediate public concern; often enough, such notices are sent to addresses that are three or four moves in the past. It takes time and money to fight bureaucrats who have nothing to do all day but shake you down for money: Fairfield County, Conn., where I lived for less than a year many years ago, still sends me annual tax bills. The state of New York has demanded of me tax on income that was earned neither in New York nor by a party living in New York. If you have the time and the money, you get a lawyer and you sue, countersue, or otherwise protect your rights.

But there are a great many people who do not have the resources to do that. An erroneous tax bill leads to a credit-ruining lien, which in turn can torpedo a home purchase or, in some cases, a better job. A parking violation you never knew anything about in a town where you spent two hours ten years ago leads to an arrest warrant or a suspended driver’s license — or both.

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And if you’re a shmuck like James Meyers, it leads to having to explain to your terrified daughter why Daddy is being threatened with a trip to the hoosegow over a Freddy Got Fingered hijacking.

On September 30, 2011, President Barack Obama ordered the assassination of an American citizen. Thus far, the legal ramifications of his doing so are dramatically less than those of forgetting to return a copy of Freddy Got Fingered. Hillary Rodham Clinton has violated a half-dozen national-security statutes, has criminally withheld information from investigators, and much more. It is a safe bet that the consequences of her doing so will be considerably less than those of failing to pay a parking ticket issued by the duly constituted authorities of Muleshoe, Texas.

Something about that isn’t right.


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