In Oswego, Death Sentence for Political Speech

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

“ The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.” (Samuel Adams, Father of the American Revolution).

Oswego, New York has shown its contempt for Americans and the United States Constitution by having its police agencies turn a blind eye to the most offensive violence imaginable.

Here are the facts: A man was beaten into critical condition by a soldier home on leave after serving a tour in Afghanistan. The beating came at the end of a political argument over Barak O’Bama’s recent election victory. Despite the severity of the victim’s injuries, the soldier was charged with a misdemeanor assault by Oswego police and prosecutors.

First among the firsts of the every American’s Rights is the right to political speech. In a public setting or square, nothing is more cherished that every person’s right to express a political opinion on a matter of public importance. This ideal is chiseled in the bedrock of our Federal and State constitutions. Tens of thousands have died to protect that right. Without the right to speak freely on matters of political importance, all other rights have no meaning. If you cannot express yourself without being beaten to death by soldiers, then what value does any other right present? You cannot vote if you are dead or disabled.

As a soldier in the employ of the United States, the attack and violent beating of a civilian represents the worst possible image for the military. Soldiers have no role to play in the internal operations of the United States and have no rights or authority greater than that of citizen. For one who actively wears the uniform to beat a man to near death for his political opinions, brings shame to that uniform.

Clearly we can see the how the problem escalated. Advocating for the Democratic ticket meant you opposed the War in Iraq and wanted it over. For a soldier who served in that theater to hear his efforts and those of his friends or even family were in vain and wasted can tear at the core of one’s own sense of identity and self worth. It can be taken as a direct attack on the person who cannot separate the mission from the politics.

When a soldier goes haywire and loses control and uses extreme physical force to cause critical injury to another person, and when the motive for the attack is the expression of political opinion and done so in a public space, then government charged with protecting those rights should respond harshly. The soldier should be facing a felony assault charge because by definition, “he recklessly or intentionally causes serious physical injury to another” is de facto Assault in the Second Degree under New York law, a felony. Misdemeanor assault says all the soldier did was intend to cause some injury and he did so.”

The difference between the two is miles apart. How each is prosecuted speaks loudly as to how the law is being perceived and used in Oswego. To take a passive and inconsequential posture in the prosecution of the soldier and to charge the absolute minimum offense speaks louder than any blustering politician on a soapbox. The City of Oswego Police Department and the County District Attorney are sending a message to the community that they will not take a hard stand in defense of the constitution or the citizen’s rights to exercise their fundamental liberties. No, police and prosecutors make clear their posture is to give a break to the accused because of his military status. There simply is no other excuse to be tendered to justify this pathetic and undercharged prosecution.

Instead of giving a break to the soldier, police and prosecutors need to run him up the flagpole. He should be prosecuted as an example of how important we view our rights to free speech; to be free of physical attack. As a person under arms in defense of our country, clearly he has lost sight of the reason he wears the uniform. The flag, the President, the Republican Party are nothing but symbols of some abstract concept for which he carries a weapon. By beating a man senseless because of a political opinion, the soldier is showing that the military has to be untouchable to civilians. He is demanding we see the military mission superior to the political mission under pain of critical injury and death.

The soldier more than anyone, should give great deference to citizens expressing cherished speech. He does not have to like the content of the speech. But his training should have alerted him to why he serves and for what greater principles does he risk his own life. Either training failed or he is so arrogant as to believe he can kill those who disagree with him. Whichever situation it is, the soldier should not be allowed to get off easy on misdemeanor charges.

I cant even imagine the pain and suffering which the victim and his family right now endure. What I am sure of is they take no comfort in the soldier only being charged with a misdemeanor.

If he were smart, he would walk into court right now and plead guilty. Ninety days from now, the victim will still be in pain but the soldier will be free.

In my heart I would like to think the soldier is an otherwise honorable man who for whatever reason, “snapped” and acted outside his normal personality. Such a situation would mitigate his liability on sentencing, but not on guilt.

If the soldier did that which he stands accused, then he is guilty of a felony. Society demands it. Ignore his attack at your own peril. But when we send a message that we will not protect the constitutional right to political speech in the public square, then we are all at risk. When you ignore the first Amendment, then the second Amendment comes into play.

Government, by its police and prosecutors has as its’ first duty to uphold, defend, and protect the Constitution of the United States and of the State of New York. They have a sworn public duty to take a hard position on this crime. Failing to do so is a clear abdication of responsibility of the worst kind. It is government turning its back to the People and immunizing the military.

Speak now or forever be required to hold your peace.

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