November 02, 2007

Street Crime or Terrorism?

Random story of the day: Edgar Morales, the first gang member charged under New York state's counterterrorism law, was found guilty of manslaughter and a whole bunch of other crimes. The terrorism statute bumps up the penalties for each charge considerably. The Times has quotes from civil-liberties types who think it's awfully reckless to use terrorism statutes for ordinary street crime. Also reckless is the way the law was initially passed:
Adopted by the legislature six days after 9/11 with almost no debate, the law was initially viewed as a symbolic gesture because tougher federal terrorism laws already existed. In fact, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver commented at the time that he didn't think there would ever be a prosecution under the state law, saying he voted for it more as a show of legislative solidarity in a time of crisis.
That's nice of them. By the way, the Village Voice's earlier coverage made the whole case seem awfully fishy. Immediately after the original shooting of two bystanders, Morales was charged only with trespassing and tampering with evidence. Later on, one of the other gang members who was present at the shooting but had then fled the country, Enrique Sanchez, was arrested, pleaded guilty, and then agreed to cooperate with prosecutors by testifying against Morales. (Sanchez may have been ordered to come back and "take the fall" by the actual shooter, who threatened Sanchez's family in Mexico, although that's unclear.)

So, a year and a half later, the two guys who were originally suspected of doing the shooting still couldn't be found, and the prosecution then decided to use Sanchez's statements and go after Morales. That, I guess, is the backdrop for this weird passage at the end of today's Times piece: "Though jurors said they did not believe portions of Mr. Sanchez’s testimony, they blamed Mr. Morales for not leaving once he felt that a shooting would take place." Um, okay... And yeah, yeah, without knowing more, it's probably pointless to second-guess the jury, and yes, the stories about the gang itself are horrific, but, still, that's odd. What do I know, though.
-- Brad Plumer 12:59 AM || ||