A Stones Throw 8-6-15


Every time I think I begin to understand our legal system, I realize I don’t understand it at all.

Instead of understanding, I end up with more questions.

For instance: last week two women from Aurora were sentenced for their part in a heroin-induced death at the home of one of the women. Both women were charged with reckless homicide as well as several drug-related offenses.

Both were also charged with attempted fraud against a financial institution.

Naturally, with justice being what it is, both women were allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the drug case. Both received suspended sentences.

And – the man who died of a heroin overdose in their home is still dead.

But wait: the two women didn’t get off scot free.

Instead, each received a sentence of six years in prison for their attempted fraud on a financial institution. One woman has to spend four years in prison, while the other has to spend three.

And – the financial institution is still open for business.

Attempted fraud – the women apparently didn’t succeed in their attempt – otherwise wouldn’t they have been charged with fraud? Regardless, simple analysis says that the well-being of a financial institution is much more important than that of a heroin addict.

At least in Dearborn County.

I wonder if the outcome would have been the same if the crimes had been committed in a different county. In a different legal jurisdiction.


Obviously the court involved makes a big difference in the outcome. It happens all the time. One parent leaves a young child in a car to boil to death in the heat and the local jurisdiction mourns the death as a tragic accident.

Another parent leaves a young child in a car to boil to death in the heat and that parent is charged with murder.

Is one child more important than the other? Or, is one parent more culpable than the other?

Or, is the deciding factor the where and not the what?

I have often thought of this when I read about sentences being handed out that make no sense. A killer gets sentenced to 20 years. An attempted killer is sentenced to life in prison.

A woman embezzles more than half of a million dollars and receives a suspended sentence. A man does the same and receives a year in prison.

Another man robs a convenience store and walks away with a six-pack of beer and a bag of Twinkies – and he is sentenced to 25 years in prison – because he had a small knife in his pocket.

If court cases are determined by law, shouldn’t the outcome of a legal case be the same no matter the jurisdiction? I realize different states have different laws. But I would think that a case handled in one court in a state should have the same outcome as that of another court in the same state.

Obviously not.

This includes federal law and federal courts in different states.

After the National Football League (NFL) upheld a four game suspension for Tom Brady for his involvement in the now infamous “deflategate,” the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) decided to challenge the suspension in federal court.

When the NFLPA announced it, along with Brady, were going to sue to have the suspension overturned – based on federal labor laws – they also announced they would be taking the suit to the Federal Court in Minnesota.

I had to wonder: why does it make a different which court you use to present your case?

Especially, why Minnesota?

Let’s see: Tom Brady is in Massachusetts. The New England Patriots are in Massachusetts. So why did Brady and the NFLPA take their lawsuit against the NFL to a Minnesota Federal Court?

Their answer: Judge David Doty of the Minnesota Federal Court more often than not rules in the player’s favor.

Is that because the law supports the player or because the Judge does?

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the NFL took its lawsuit to the New York Federal Court. With NFL headquarters in New York, this makes sense. At the same time, the reputation of the New York Court is that its Judges would more than likely favor the NFL over the Player’s Association.

The NFLPA lost round one – they didn’t get Judge Doty. Instead, they got a judge that apparently had the same questions I had. The assigned judge said he saw no reason the suit should be filed in Minnesota. He sent it to New York where he said it belonged.

If the law is the same regardless of which federal court hears a lawsuit, shouldn’t the NFLPA be just as happy to have their suit heard in a New York Federal Court as in one in Minnesota?

Instead, the NFLPA expressed its great disappointment in not getting Judge Doty and even more in having to represent its case in New York where the NFL has often prevailed.

Is that because the law is secondary to personal opinion?

I think I know the answer.

One thing I know for sure. When the case is heard in New York’s Federal Court, Tom Brady will not be presenting his phone as evidence favoring his case.

It seems that Brady had his cell phone destroyed the day before he was to appear before Ted Wells during the initial investigation of ‘deflategate.” He claims the timing of the destruction of his phone was purely coincidental.

He claims the destruction had nothing to do with the fact that Ted Wells wanted to talk to him about his text messages.

He may be telling the truth that the destruction of his cell phone on the day before he was to appear before Ted Wells was purely coincidental.

If you believe that, I have some ocean-front land in Arizona for sale.

I realize you might not find where the ocean borders Arizona, but some experts claim that will be the case in 100 years – which is about how long it will take for me to believe that it was a coincidence that Brady destroyed his phone when he did.

Or that there was nothing in that phone that would incriminate him.

- Mike Cooney