COMMENTARY: So, you’re in a nasty little dispute with your neighbor about a wall. He wants to raise it; you prefer unobstructed views of the mountains. Years in court, he keeps losing.
One night, drunk and frustrated, he calls 911 and says that you want to assassinate Ronald Crump, a dude running for president.
Next day, FBI arrives at your door and questions you.
You pull out all the court documents about your crazy neighbor, you show them your “Make America Grapes” hat; they smile and nod, and you are all glad about clearing up this “misunderstanding.”
A few years later, you save up enough to buy that mountain cabin just a couple of hours up the road.
You decide you want to buy the wife a little pistol because she’s going to be up there alone on occasions while you wind down your practice and continue working. You know, varmints and vagabonds, and all.
Dude at the shop runs you, frowns, then tells you he can’t sell you that little .357.
It says here you are on watch list.
Calls, emails, and bureaucracy blah, blah, blah, you find out the FBI put you on a watch list because of your crazy neighbor and his Ronald Crump hoax.
One of your Constitutional rights has forever been wiped away. You can’t appeal, you can’t sue, you can’t fight. It’s just gone, in the vapor.
Due Process! you cry out.
The Government snickers and laughs.
No judge, no jury has found you guilty of a crime.
Yet, you lost a right, just like that.
Is this a fable? Ask any criminal defense attorney whether the government has gone that far, ever. Their accounts will be even more shocking than this simple little hypothetical.
Jeff Lahann is a criminal defense and civil rights attorney in Las Cruces. He once won an LP record in a radio contest.