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July 03, 2007

Liberty

Tony Snow's press briefing included a number of gems today.

Q: There are more than 3,000 current petitions for commutation ... Will all 3,000 of those be held to the same standard that the President applied to Scooter Libby?

MR. SNOW: I don't know.
Yeah, that's a 'no.' It's crazy that they won't even admit to special handling here.

On that point, and in honor of America's birthday, I would like to confess to my own special treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system.

It was twelve years ago, Independence Day 1995. I was sweating out my last few weeks in St. Louis before heading off to college. Aaron F., Andrew A. and I decided to celebrate America with Chinese black powder. So with TLC's Waterfalls on the radio, we headed out to Eureka, MO to buy a bunch of fireworks.

Fireworks are illegal in St. Louis County, so you need to go out to the boonies to buy them. As soon as you cross the county line you can stop at any number of air-conditioned Costco-sized fireworks megastores and load up on some serious artillery.

Well-equipped, we rode back in style to West County in Andrew's LeBaron convertible. And in the massive housing development of Seven Pines, we settled in with our explosives.

Our three lady companions (not girlfriends) were just barely willing to go along with this nonsense. But we had a grand old time setting off roman candles and the like in Andrew's cul-de-sac.

About an hour later, St. Louis County cops came blazing down the street right as we were setting off some bottle rockets. Andrew's crappy neighbors had ratted us out.

I took the lead in talking to the cops ... not that I had a particular negotiating ploy in mind. They informed me that we were busted for fireworks. I said "Ok."

I did manage to get our lady friends off the hook by pleading with him just to ticket us dudes. This blatantly sexist ploy went over well with the municipal employees of St. Louis County.

It looked like this was gonna be a big pain. Andrew, Aaron and I were all headed off to college out of state and we were being summoned to appear before Superior Court in the middle of fall semester.

But it turns out Andrew's uncle is a successful lawyer in St. Louis and he took our case on pro bono.

Over the course of the next couple months, I'd occasionally get type-written letters from his law firm informing me about progress on the case. One stated that he'd negotiated a plea whereby we could plead guilty to either jay-walking or littering (our choice) and get off the hook with a small fine. I wrote back to say that jay-walking was preferred as it seemed less evil.

A few more months passed, a few more notices from the County saying that a continuance had been granted in the case. And then in the spring of my freshman year, a note from the assistant district attorney. All charges had been dropped.

I think Andrew's uncle finally made the DA realize that the People's interests would be better served by prosecuting a different crime. Maybe one that wouldn't involve swapping paper for 9 months with a fancy attorney in private practice.

And so I was effectively Libbied - given special treatment because of my connections despite the transparency of the crime committed. But at least I can admit it.

So, Happy Birthday, America and congrats to you, Scooter! As we sang back in that hot summer in St. Louis, "I know that you're gonna have it your way / or nothing at all. / But I think you're moving too fast."

2 comments:

Ed said...

I'm amazed by your patience. How can you read the press briefings from Tony "Tarbaby" Snow without gouging your eyes out?

Jason Goldman said...

Oh I read it all the time. I also watch the videos. Sometimes you can't feel the contempt in print alone.

There's a good moment it today's where basically the entire press corp points out that the $250K fine isn't a really big deal since Libby's raised millions.

Tony's response is "Well, good. Americans are a generous people."

Classy.