Thursday, August 27, 2009

Next up in Breaking News: Water is wet

On Thursday, Pro Tem Justice of the Peace Daniel Washburn acquitted State Sen. John Huppenthal (R-Anger Management Issues) on misdemeanor theft and political sign tampering charges.

Washburn is a Republican activist and candidate in Pinal County. Huppenthal is a state senator and likely candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction next year.

This was not a really shocking verdict (the sign tampering statute's language refers to the signs for a candidate, and the sign in question was not "for" a candidate) but the fact that Washburn took so long to find something to hang an acquittal on the theft charge was a little surprising.

While the ruling cannot be appealed by the prosecution, the grounds for the acquittal on the theft charge seems weak.

The Judge found that the state hadn't proven that the sign in question belonged to the Arizona Democratic Party, and that was enough to acquit.

My understanding of the law (which isn't great; if a real lawyer wants to chime in with some insights, that would be fine) is that theft occurs when someone takes property that doesn't belong to him, not when that someone takes property that belongs to a specific owner.

Another weakness of the verdict is that it was based in part on the property manager giving Huppenthal permission to take the sign down.

Well, while Huppenthal testified that he was given permission, the property manager testified that she said "I don't care."

Only in Arizona could "I don't care" be synonymous with "I give you permission."

I guess we can file all of this under "IOKIYAR" - It's OK If You're A Republican.


Hawk225 said...

The apartment manager testified that she said "Sure, go ahead, I don't care" What she really said was "Yes, You have my permission." Memory studies show that every memory is a copy of a previous memory. So, it is not surprising that her recollection has changed from what actually happened. Remember this sign was a dirty trick, a last minute attempt to deceiver the public. It was easy for Huppenthal to get exact and specific permission to remove the sleaze that Bivens and company dished up so unsuccessfully, all $4 million.

Because Bivens used Victory2008 to disguise the source of funding for the sign, Levin had no legal right to protest the removal of the sign. The sign wasn’t the property of the democratic party. The only agents for Victory2008 were Bivens and Mcguire.

Because the prosecutor used the theft statute in an attempt to extort Huppenthal into a guilty plea, property laws apply, not campaign sign laws. The sign was abandoned property left there without permission. Victory2008 made no attempt to get permission to leave the sign.

Also, as Harry Mitchell discovered, the campaign sign laws only apply to candidate signs. This sign literally had no protection under the law whatsoever. And, it shouldn't. It was a complete piece of sleaze. Democrats need to do better.

voevoda said...

The sign was originally posted *with* the permission of the apartment complex, which permitted all candidates' signs. Only Huppenthal wanted special treatment--to have his own sign up, but not his opponent's. So he nagged and fussed at the assistant manager until he wrested something that he could take to be "permission." Then he did a "victory pump," and made off with the sign. According to his testimony at trial, he did this all over town.

If he disagreed with the sign, he had a completely legal alternative: to post his own sign next to it, refuting the allegation. Instead, he chose to silence the criticism, and to ridicule and intimidate the old lady who took him to task for it. That's how politicians in dictatorships behave, but that's not the American way.

If this trial deters Huppenthal and others like him from similar actions in the future, it was money well-spent. We need to defend our cherished freedom of political discourse.