The Internet has erupted over another reposting by former president Donald Trump. Trump reposted a supporter’s “fantasy” of executing a citizen’s arrest of Judge Arthur Engoron and New York Attorney General Letitia James. It was described as a fantasy but it remains a dangerous (and uninformed) suggestion that some could easily take seriously. That is particularly the case after the reckless attacks of Trump on critics as “vermin” and pledging to go after them if reelected.
A Trump supporter posted:
MY FANTASY 👇😁
I WOULD LIKE TO SEE LITITIA JAMES AND JUDGE ENGORON PLACED UNDER CITIZENS ARREST FOR BLATANT ELECTION INTERFERENCE AND HARASSMENT.
Trump reposted the statement.
Just in case anyone is taking such a statement as more than a fantasy, there is no basis for a citizen’s arrest and such an effort to physically hold either the judge or the attorney general would most certainly constitute a criminal act.
Citizen arrests have been recognized since Medieval times when citizens had not just a right but a duty to to respond to a “hue and cry” of others identifying a criminal and seeking help. Indeed, the Statute of Winchester states that citizens should “follow them with all the town and the towns near, with hue and cry from town to town until that they be taken and delivered to the sheriff.”
The right still exists for any felonies (or certain misdemeanors committed in the presence of the citizen). For example, under California’s Section 837:
A private person may arrest another:
For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence.
When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in his presence.
When a felony has been in fact committed, and he has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it.
Neither of these individuals have committed such an offense. I have been critical of Attorney General James for this case and her running on a pledge to bag Trump if elected. I have also criticized this New York law. However, it is the law of the state and there does appear to be over-valued properties. The effort to bar Trump from business in New York and impose hundreds of millions in damages is excessive, but it is not a crime.
Without such a privilege, an attempt to arrest would likely constitute battery as well as other crimes under New York law.
This year, the New York Senate again moved to eliminate citizen’s arrest in the state.
Once again, this was a statement of a fantasy that was reposted. However, it is part of an escalation of rhetoric by Trump. I have long criticized the former president for such rhetoric. It obviously appeals to many, but others are likely repelled by the pitch of a type of revenge term to hunt down “vermin.”
There is obviously rage on both sides and personal attacks (including President Biden reportedly calling one of his critics a “pr**k” this week and attacking Trump supporters as enemies of the Republic). Both parties are seeking to enrage their supporters while denouncing the other party as fueling rage.
These leaders are throwing matches at a tinderbox and people of good faith need to call out these leaders for such inflammatory rhetoric.