Thursday, April 27, 2006

Professor and Pro-Abortion Students Charged in Destroying Pro-Life Display

Remember Dr. Sally Jacobsen, who exhorted her students to trash the Cemetery of the Innocents that a pro-life student group had set up on the Fine Arts lawn at Northern Kentucky University? You will recall that, after the fact, she realized that she had gotten her students into legal trouble. You will also recall that a number of legal experts didn't expect the county attorney to charge the students with anything.

Well, now he has. Prof. Jacobsen, and those of her students who took part in the trashing (six identified so far, and maybe more to be identified later), are charged with criminal mischief and theft by unlawful taking, both misdemeanors. (That last charge needs an explanation. In short, you may not take down a political yard sign or similar sign just because you don't like the message, and you may not take anything from a public display without first asking permission. That is the misdemeanor offense of theft by unlawful taking.)

And to top it all, Prof. Jacobsen is charged with criminal solicitation, for putting the idea into her students' heads.

Her proposed defense will be that an act of vandalism against a political display with which she disagrees, and which, furthermore, she regards as harmful to the body politic, is not and should not be against the law. So now competing demands of free speech will get an airing in a court of law: whether, in essence, a person who says something that another person finds obnoxious is protected against arrest, trial, and indictment by the authorities, but is not protected against a punch in the nose by the one who found his saying obnoxious. Sorry, Professor, but the way I read the law (although IANAL), the law never excuses a punch in the nose, or the tearing up of an approved display, for no better reason than that you got angry with what the other person, or the display, said. Every person who ever wished that he could punch somebody in the nose and get away with it, and every person who ever said something obnoxious and then felt that he had to duck and run, ought to take an avid interest in this trial. For that matter, every student of the code duello should follow this trial. This issue goes far beyond the immediate political issue (whether abortion ought to be lawful or not) and now touches on certain bedrock principles of civilized behavior.

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