In a rare rebuke to prosecutors, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings has criticized the decision of the United States Attorneys office to drop charges against well-known blogger Andrew M. Sullivan, who was arrested by park rangers on a Cape Cod national beach for possession of marijuana on July 13th. A conviction would have caused problems for Sullivan — a British citizen — in remaining in the United States.
Collings wrote “fidelity to the law requires that the Court grant leave to the United States Attorney to dismiss the Violation Notice against Mr. Sullivan. That the Court must so act does not require the Court to believe that the end result is a just one.”
U.S. Attorney James F. Lang insisted that prosecution of the writer was “contrary to public interest.” Collings clearly did not like that argument a wee bit.
Collings noted that the facts were “straightforward” and that “[i]t is quite apparent Mr. Sullivan is being treated differently from others. In fact, there were other persons who were required to appear who were charged with the same offense and who were being prosecuted.”
Collings accused the prosecutors of discarding the principle that “all persons stand equal before the law.” Of course, given this Administration’s effort to protect Bush officials from war crimes and torture prosecutions, this is pretty small potatoes.
I, of course, favor total immunity of bloggers from any crime as a reflection of our social standing and importance to the continuation of civilization as we know it.
Sullivan’s arrest is not unique and, in terms of bad press, pales in comparison to the charges against CNN personality Richard Quest who was able to rejoin CNN and appears to have struck a deal with prosecutors.
The fact is that pot possession is one of the lowest priorities for law enforcement in most jurisdictions. While this does not alter the claim of special treatment, many would like to see a day where we treat everyone equally by not prosecuting people for possession — bloggers or non-bloggers alike.
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