A 52-year-old man who used a sledgehammer and pickax to destroy President-elect Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 26, two weeks before the November 8 elections, recently appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to one count of felony vandalism.
The man’s actions, and the resulting destruction of the star on Hollywood Boulevard near Highland Avenue, was captured on video showing the man wearing a construction vest as he hacked away at the star.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, the man expressed his disdain for the president-elect. “I just sort of had enough of Mr. Trump’s aggressive language toward women and his behavior, his sexual violence with women and against women. Four people in my own family have been assaulted or have suffered sexual violence. Mr. Trump’s remarks all became very personal to me.”
If convicted, the “accused” could face a possible maximum sentence of three years in jail. He is scheduled to return to court on December 5.
Something’s really wrong about this picture, not the video of the man doing his thing, but the plea the man was permitted to enter in court. I’m a lawyer. I understand “innocent until proved guilty.” I’m all for that. Most of the time.
But something’s wrong when our public resources must be wasted trying this man for his alleged crime. Alleged? Really? He was caught on video committing the “alleged” crime. He admits that he did it. He admits that it was premeditated and intentional. (He came to the site wearing a construction vest and brought a sledgehammer and a pickax. He said why he planned and intended to do it, and then did it.) Furthermore, nothing in president-elect Trump’s obnoxious remarks justifies the “alleged” criminal behavior.
Our courts are overburdened and suffering from terrible budgetary issues. Why do we have to let this man and his lawyer plead him not guilty and waste our public resources, and the taxpayers’ money, on such frivolity?
Shouldn’t we have a rule that says when someone pleads guilty in a “patently obvious” situation, he must reimburse the judicial system for the public resources he wastes, and must put up a bond in advance of being permitted to go to trial that guarantees and insures he will pay those costs in order to get his day in court if he loses his case? Shouldn’t that bond also insure that he will pay the public cost of restoring the president elect’s star if the “accused” is found guilty?
Of course, there are those who will say it’s ill advised to start down a “slippery slope” because the next case may not be so obvious. But judges decide all kinds of subjective matters in discharging their responsibilities every single day. Like in the case of the Supreme Court Justice who said “I can’t define obscenity, but I know it when I see it.”
And then there are those who will ask “What if the defendant can’t afford to pay for the bond and the underlying costs if his not guilty plea is found patently meritless?” (Probably because of the money he spent on the construction vest, the sledgehammer and the pickax.) No problem, we can put him to work cleaning litter along the freeways until he can afford to be responsible. (If he could vandalize the property, he can’t certainly pick up some litter.)
Maybe a set of arrangements such as what I’m suggesting here might encourage, if not persuade, the man to rethink his actions before he engages in such patently obvious misconduct?
I don’t blame the man for pleading not guilty here; I blame our system for allowing him to do so when not allowing the plea in patently obvious circumstances will hardly denigrate the innocent until proved guilty concept.
By the way, if the “accused” believes the trial court judge has abused the “patently obvious” test I suggest as an exception to innocent until proved guilty, he can appeal that decision to a higher court—so long as he posts a bond to cover reimbursement of that public expense as well if the higher court affirms the lower court’s patently obvious decision.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Just think how much extra money we’ll have to pay for the turkey and the trimmings if we don’t have to waste our hard earned money underwriting the public expense paying for these patently unnecessary court proceedings rather than requiring the guilty to do so.
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