Saturday, September 5, 2009

Properly Applied Law?

A former Goddard [Kansas] police officer admitted he offered to help dismiss a drunken driving charge in exchange for sex with a woman he arrested in February...

Aside from the abuse of power and position in this case and he admits to the crime and the argument that he deserves to be punished, there is one aspect of the law applied here that I find disturbing. The officer was charged with wire fraud in federal court, specifically with violating Title 18 United States Code, Section 1343 and Section 1346.

Who was he defrauding? The people of Goddard for whom he was serving as a police officer. How? The charging document states:

"CALVIN SCHAFFER, the defendant, for the purpose of executing the scheme and artifice to defraud and deprive knowingly transmitted and caused to be transmitted by means of wire communication in interstate commerce writings and further the scheme and artifice to deprive the Goddard Police Department and the citizens of Goddard, Kansas, of his honest services."

That is the basis of the charge right there. Even though the ellipses indicate I left something out, what I listed is the essential description of how the law was violated. Think about that for a second. A public servant used a publicly-owned communications system to send non-work related communications that crossed state lines and by doing so defrauded the public of his services while doing so.

Here is the specific part that goes where the ellipses are:

...that is, the defendant, while on duty as a Goddard police officer and with computer equipment belonging to the Goddard Police Department and the citizens of Goddard, Kansas, sent e-mails to a person he had previously arrested containing pictures of himself nude and partially nude...

Yes, that is certainly offensive. But think about how the law was applied for a second. What if the public servant is sending an email to a craigslist contact asking if an item is still for sale? Or come up with a scenario on your own. The charge of wire fraud is not concerned with the type or content of the communication, only its purpose and effect. Emailing a craigslist contact certainly deprives the public of services just as much as sending an email containing nude photos.

So is this a true case of wire fraud for which the law was designed or is this a case where the law can be applied?

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