For Rioters - Life in Prison or Civil Law Suits
Happy Medium Between Tiny Fines and Lengthy Prison Sentences
While some may say that it's about time, since misdemeanor arrests and tiny fines haven't deterred rioters from burning down entire buildings, taking over large sections a city, seriously injuring innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers, and causing massive property damage.
But prosecutors who filed the charges will probably face intense pressure to drop them, or at least let the rioters plead to much less serious misdemeanors, predicts public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who suggests a more effective way of deterring such lawless conduct without relying upon local police and prosecutors.
Moreover, argues Banzhaf, any prosecutors who try to bring felony cases to court will find it very difficult to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and may face judges who are sympathetic to the rioters' cause.
That's why Professor Banzhaf suggests that when protesters cross the line and engage in clearly criminal activities, the victims bring civil torts actions or - using the phrase he popularized, "Sue The Bastards" - where the burden of proof is much less, and the process is controlled by the victims and their attorneys, not public officials subject to pressure.
Banzhaf, a staunch defender of the First Amendment, has long advocated civil [tort] law suits against those who go beyond lawful protest and engage in criminal conduct, and especially those who deliberately harm completely innocent third parties as a way of deterring such conduct, especially in situations where police (and even national guard), threats of arrest and possible prosecution, and widespread condemnation of looting and arson simply have not worked.
He notes that, in New York City, victims are in fact beginning to sue those whose criminal conduct caused injury, with one law suit already filed, one by a civilian broadcaster being weighed, and several more promised.
A New York City police detective has filed a civil tort suit seeking monetary damages against an alleged rioter for physical injuries he allegedly sustained during widespread looting. A broadcaster discussed on his TV program his hopes of suing the criminals who damaged his studio during the New York City rioting.
The president of the New York City Detectives' Endowment Association has vowed to sue any protestor, rioter or looter who attacked its members. And a civil law suit inspired by Banzhaf against those who unlawfully blocked a bridge, effectively imprisoning thousands in their cars, and allegedly leading to death when an ambulance was delayed, is ongoing.