Sunday, February 1, 2015

Word of the Month of February 2015: Guilty

You are GUILTY
Lately, I've been thinking about the concept of guilt. Specifically, why might a person who, with witnesses all around, pulls the trigger and then enters a "not guilty" plea.  How about the mom in Oceanside who "allegedly" drowned her 22 month son? Even after confessing to the crime and being charged with first-degree murder and assault on a child under the age of eight causing death - she pleads not guilty.

Of course, this all leads us to our word for this month:  GUILTY.  According to Black's Law Dictionary, GUILTY means having committed a crime; responsible for a crime.  A plea of a criminal defendant who does not contest the charges.  The funny thing to this is that rarely does anyone ever say they are guilty.  Heck, prisons are full people who were set-up (because no one in prison ever did anything wrong. No, really - just ask anyone in prison if they weren't set-up).

Speaking about wrong doing/doers, I was reading in the newspaper (yes, the paper version) about how some debt brokers (i.e people who buy and sell other peoples' debt) bought a number of defaulted loans/debts and then posted people's personal information on their website.  We're not talking one or two people's info.  Nope - we're talking Tens of Thousands of files with people's bank account and credit card numbers readily available on the Internet.  The problem with this is that even though the people who posted this information have been charged with violating consumer information protection laws, these broker people say they've done nothing wrong thus leading to a "not guilty" (i.e. "I didn't do anything wrong) plea.

Then there is the story of California senator Leland Yee.  On top of trying to promise guns to an undercover FBI agent, Mr. Yee allegedly sought money in exchange in passing legislation making it harder for professional football players to obtain workers compensation in California.  After being told an NFL official would pay $60,000 for his help, Mr. Yee voted for the bill and was subsequently charged with racketeering and other counts of accepting and soliciting bribes in exchange for exerting his influence in Sacramento (i.e. on bills under consideration in the state senate).  What a piece of work, huh?  Of course, even after being caught dead to rights, he still copped a "not guilty" plea.

OK, did the crime but don't want to do the time?  The question, then, is why enter a not guilty plea?  Is it to delay the inevitable?  Maybe they're hoping that time heals all wounds and the prosecutor will forget why they filed charges?  Or, as I suspect, the reason they enter the "not guilty" plea is because the charges being filed against them are harsher than they thought they would get and they are angling for a lesser sentence?  Maybe?!

Meh, I don't know.  What I do know is that if you're ever been charged with a crime and you're looking for a way out, know that the good folks at your local county law Library have the resources that you need to help you get to where you want to be.