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DEA Trap
March 30, 2013 11:42 PM   Subscribe

Alfred Anaya Put Secret Compartments in Cars. So the DEA Put Him in Prison.
posted by spiderskull (171 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
The fact was that he hadn’t seen any drugs, and there had been no discussion of how Maldanado had earned his small fortune. Given those circumstances, Anaya assumed that he was immune from legal trouble in connection with his meticulous creations. He was, after all, just an installer.

I don't know if this guy should be in jail or not, but I would recommend not making assumptions when you are working in a legal grey area. Consulting a lawyer should probably be considered a reasonable cost of business.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:00 AM on March 31, 2013


It's OK to sell guns to criminals. It's OK to launder their money.

But trick out their Escalade?

That's a paddlin'.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:05 AM on March 31, 2013 [102 favorites]


It's a total bummer of a story. The thing is, he does admit that he knew what some of his clients were doing with the traps - he even told the cops he was scared to be a snitch. And he saw 80 grand in cash.

He should've lawyered up at the beginning, he shouldn't have talked freely, and he should have gotten legal advice from a lawyer, when the police gave him the out, in exchange for helping take down the drug smugglers.

Sucks the D.A. was so good at her job, too. And hey, the bad, drug smugglers turned out to be bad guys, after all.
posted by alex_skazat at 12:15 AM on March 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


Having finished the article, he was prosecuted for not snitching more than anything else. It was probably a bad call not to play along, but there is no defense for 24 years no-parole for this.

If not that, it was this:

The technically savvy are on notice that they must be very careful about whom they deal with, since calculated ignorance of illegal activity is not an acceptable excuse. But at what point does a failure to be nosy edge into criminal conduct? In light of what happened to Anaya, that question is nearly impossible to answer.


Another federal prosecutor putting the technically savvy on notice that playing around with the system is not going to be tolerated.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:16 AM on March 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


he even told the cops he was scared to be a snitch. And he saw 80 grand in cash.

Well, they don't ask you to snitch on good guys. It was $800,000 according to the article, so yeah he messed up big time. But they charged him like he was one of the kingpins. Total insanity.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:18 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoa, you're right it WAS $800k - that's... that's a lot of money. In cash. That's sort of when you go, "Guess I won't work for you, anymore!"

My point with the, "he admitted to be too scared to snitch", was almost an admittance to fault. That's when he should've gone to a lawyer (if not well before), and the lawyer could at least told him the exact same thing.

There's a lot of hubris that gets painted, which makes him a little more of a unreliable narrator of his "woe is me" story. The expansive taste in luxury goods and the enticement of fame brought on by the media that loves this sort of thing.

I just had a conversation with a housemate, about people who have unlikely secret lives. We were talking first about a local strange performer and air guitar aficionado, and how he probably has a boring dayjob, but the other person brought up was the quiet accountant, who also was a cocaine dealer. The accountant knew at least to play it cool, unlike the subject of this Wired-ified story.
posted by alex_skazat at 12:29 AM on March 31, 2013


He saved up $500 to buy a wrecked 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, which he lovingly restored by hand

I don't care what else he did, I have a mancrush.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:32 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a classic Breaking Bad-style gradual slide into criminal activity. He started out doing small-time jobs, got himself in a bad place, and got tempted into helping some creep conceal almost a million dollars in cash, and at that point it was too late to back out without risking his life. I can't say I have a ton of sympathy, considering that Anaya clearly knew his work was aiding drug traffickers, but twenty-four years does seem a bit extreme.
posted by deathpanels at 12:36 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


At least Mr. White made sure he got paid real money.

The guy was completely broke and his competence was clearly clever car installations and not crime. He made a tremendous mistake and deserved to be punished so he would learn he could not mess around with this anymore, but the state and country is just plain wasting resources with that sentence.

My point with the, "he admitted to be too scared to snitch", was almost an admittance to fault.


It's not, without the story about the money he could have been totally unaware of who he was selling to until the DEA told him otherwise.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:42 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, they don't ask you to snitch on good guys.

I think some cops would like us to think of that as a tautology. Anyhow...

1) Sit in driver's seat (pressure sensor)
2) Close all doors
3) Turn on rear defroster while simultaneously pushing two window switches
4) Swipe magnetic key card across an air conditioning vent.
5) Hydraulic cylinders open a secret compartment


That goes beyond James Bond/Batman daydreams and into Indiana Jones territory. I'm picturing myself buckling my seat belt and muttering "the penitent man shall pass, the penitent man shall pass," and not remembering why.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:44 AM on March 31, 2013 [24 favorites]


And don't forget the voice activation, justsomebody! So, yes, special mantras could also be part of the summoning.
posted by ceribus peribus at 12:50 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is definitely a shame that there aren't clearer guidelines about the spectrum between aggressive ignorance and co-conspirator, but I have to say after the $800,000 thing I have to agree with the jury that a reasonable person would deduce what his customer was involved in, or at the least demand an explanation.

It really does seem like an oddball sentence for his role in the whole thing though.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:55 AM on March 31, 2013


alex_skazat: "My point with the, 'he admitted to be too scared to snitch', was almost an admittance to fault."

I don't think this follows rationally. I mean, if they walked into his shop off the street and said "hey, we're from the government, would you help us keep tabs on some random citizens for no reason" - yeah, it would be a clear admission of guilt for him to say "heck no, those random citizens are dangerous criminals!"

But that's clearly not what happened. What happened was that the cops hauled this dude in and questioned him at length to make sure he wasn't in the know and working with the smugglers. By the end of that kind of questioning, it would have been apparent to everyone in the room what the cops were investigating. When they had determined that he was just a patsy, they said, "look, these guys are big-time drug smugglers. We need your help to catch them - will you help us?"

I mean, this is just how modern police interrogations work. If the guy had known well that these were dangerous smugglers when he walked into the police station, the cops would almost certainly have gotten him to slip up and admit that. But they were satisfied that he knew nothing.

The only reason he really knew these guys were scary was because the police and the DEA told him they were. He may have known that they were kind of creepy, but the actual fear seems to have been put in him by whatever the cops and the DEA told him.
posted by koeselitz at 1:01 AM on March 31, 2013 [19 favorites]


As these traps grow more complex, it seems inevitable that they'll continue to evolve into real life point-and-click/escape the room adventures, until they eventually reach Gabriel Knight 3 level of insanity. E.g. to open the secret compartment, you'll have to combine the gear shifter knob, turning signal switch and cup holder into an improvised tool to open a secret compartment under the driver's seat where you'll find something that at first sight looks like a spare ignition key, except if you look closely, you'll see a small diamond symbol engraved on it. You'll have to search the car for the full set, then use them all in the correct order to open the real trap; get it wrong three times in a row and the car explodes.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:06 AM on March 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is bullshit.

You're a struggling small business owner, first generation American. You aren't a great businessman, but you're excellent at your job, a real craftsman. You lose everything and you're forced to work out of your home, which strains your marriage. Then one day the cartel comes by and throws a reasonably sized cash life preserver your way. Of course you know what they're going to use it for. This isn't Wisconsin, it's SoCal. But you're not doing anything illegal, they are. It's not even like you can say no to these guys. It's the fucking cartel.

Save the false piety for the Wall Street Journal. This is just the feds fucking over another Mexican because he wouldn't play ball, out of fear for the mother of his children, and his sons.

They were just pissed off because the cartel is a hell of a lot more scary than they will ever be.

Yet another example of how our justice system is just a reflection of your innocence being judged by how much cash you can afford to prove it.

Should have consulted a lawyer, my ass. This is a completely unfair double standard. You might as well arrest the assembly line at the Glock factory in Georgia every time someone gets shot with one of their products. What about the people who make hollow point pistol ammunition and sell it to civilians? What other use does that even have?
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 1:07 AM on March 31, 2013 [163 favorites]


then use them all in the correct order

...wearing a false moustache made from cat hair.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:08 AM on March 31, 2013 [14 favorites]


Also remember that underlining the seriousness of what's happened is a common interrogation tactic used to generate fear in order to elicit confessions - "these friends of yours have been doing some very dangerous stuff! We're talking federal grand juries, major drug busts, you name it! I'm sure you just did this because you were scared, but we need you to confess right now and maybe we can protect you from this very, very serious shit!" The fact that none of this actually got anything they could use to prosecute is pretty telling. Regardless, it would be hard for Anaya to walk out of that kind of thing without being scared shitless, I think. The police and the DEA just miscalculated severely about how to play this, frankly; they probably pretty much knew he was a patsy from the phone tap, so the lengthy questioning was a mistake that scared him bad.
posted by koeselitz at 1:15 AM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know its their job and all but I don't think this would keep me warm at night knowing what I'd just done to another human being:

I don’t feel bad at all today. In fact, this is a pleasure.

"Tough on crime" bullshit. She must be getting ready for her political career. What a fucked thing to say.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:19 AM on March 31, 2013 [22 favorites]


It is definitely a shame that there aren't clearer guidelines about the spectrum between aggressive ignorance and co-conspirator

Yeah -- I have seen this before and this sentence applies. Short version is that an attorney (in my conclusion) practiced aggressive ignorance of his client's intend to commit tax fraud by the creation of a dummy corp. The attorney's legal secretary, my friend, was an officer, and practicing aggressive wanting-to-keep-her-job, if you like. The corp apparently handled one real-estate transaction and went dormant. Something like eight years later, the feds really put the screws on my friend to inform on the scheme but she had had no inkling of its nefarious purpose. Eventually the client and the attorney went to the pokey. For the record, they were very, very white, and the client was at least partly very rich, so this isn't just about poor Mexican-Americans. It seems to be a favored tactic at this level.
posted by dhartung at 1:21 AM on March 31, 2013


Montiel also shared a potentially damning anecdote regarding the negotiations over the Honda Ridgeline’s trap. “We asked him to build us a hidden compartment for 10 kilos,” he testified. “I remember we had problems because he asked, ‘Well, what’s a kilo like?’ I remember I saw a brick on the ground, and I said, ‘It’s a little bit bigger than this. I need you to do it for 10.’”

The irony here is that the DA's aggressive ignorance of the witnesses' perjury is what enabled the conviction of Anaya who probably never broke any laws.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:44 AM on March 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


The misuse of the justice system to pursue ethical rather than legal remedies annoys me for some reason. Perhaps because it's even more arbitrary a standard than the usual, but maybe I'm just too much of a purist.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:47 AM on March 31, 2013


I don't know if it is so clear that is perjury. The article presents, "Anaya points out—correctly—that his San Fernando home contains no brick," as if that was damning evidence there could not have been a brick on the ground...it's not. You should treat that kind of testimony with skepticism, but with a guy who saw a secret compartment full of cash and stayed in the game it's not clearly false.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:51 AM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


The "but he figured if they didn't say they were using it for drugs he'd be fine" reminds me of those old "this software is only for educational use!" on warez sites or the "I don't own the copyright to this song!" on Youtube videos. Technically, they may be correct, but it's not something I'd like to bet on especially if my freedom was at stake.

(Which absolutely doesn't justify the massive jail sentence and tough on crime BS).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:53 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's the logic that keeps head shops open in a lot of states, but ask Tommy Chong if they can throw you in jail if the feds decide they feel like it.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:54 AM on March 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's not perjury beyond a reasonable doubt, but it's highly unlikely that it's true, and in any case, should not have been sufficient evidence to convict the guy. In the end I blame the jury.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:01 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Irish immigrants + prohibition + rumrunning -> the Kennedy fortune
Mexican immigrants + the War on Drugs + cocaine/heroin smuggling -> the next great American aristocracy?

Anaya was just born too early.
posted by fredludd at 2:14 AM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ooh! Paul Pope illustrations too.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 2:27 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


How do say alarm or safe installers fit into this? Is it illegal for them to accept work they suspect might be involved with the drug trade? Anyone who's spending thousands on security is going to be doing so to protect something worth many times that.
posted by onya at 2:33 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


This guy absolutely knew he was a key player in the importation and distribution of illegal drugs. I have absolutely no pity for him.
posted by HuronBob at 3:15 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


He knew exactly what he was doing.
posted by unSane at 3:30 AM on March 31, 2013


Also, the article is at pains to say that he installed these compartments for people who used them for non-nefarious purposes, to hide legal guns or valuables. Yeah, right.
posted by unSane at 3:32 AM on March 31, 2013


^ Even if he did know what he was doing, did he deserve 24 years in prison, non-parole? There are killers who don't do that much time.
posted by Broseph at 3:34 AM on March 31, 2013 [20 favorites]


That's another argument. I'm just saying there are a whole lot more sympathetic people caught up in the WOD than a guy who built compartments for gangsters to hide guns, drugs and money in, had an illegal assault rifle in his home and guns tattooed across his chest.
posted by unSane at 3:50 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hell of a movie in this. Breaking Bad meets Pimp My Ride meets Donnie Brascoe?
posted by colie at 4:00 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


"... did he deserve 24 years in prison, non-parole? There are killers who don't do that much time."

Well, he had a hand in this:

"Drug abuse kills about 200,000 people worldwide each year, according to a new United Nations (UN) report. "
posted by HuronBob at 4:33 AM on March 31, 2013


So the hidden compartment builder should do far more time than the people actually smuggling and selling drugs?
posted by drezdn at 5:06 AM on March 31, 2013 [13 favorites]


Can't wait to see what the Cadillac dealer gets for a sentence.
posted by spitbull at 5:11 AM on March 31, 2013 [14 favorites]


So the hidden compartment builder should do far more time than the people actually smuggling and selling drugs?

There are two questions here: 1. Should he be considered part of the group importing and distributing drugs, did he have a role, was he aware that there was illegal activities going on, should he be prosecuted and convicted? The answer to that is yes. The second question is, 2. does the US justice system work as it should? The answer to that is no.
posted by HuronBob at 5:23 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree that drug abuse represent and enormous social problem. All the DEA agents, DOJ prosicutors, and prison contractors who lobby for unjust bullying laws that prevent treatment need to do jail time so that we can address addiction successfully. Aa a bonus, we'd avoid rediculous senarios like locking up guys who make otherwise legal car custimizations.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:24 AM on March 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Drug abuse kills about 200,000 people worldwide each year, according to a new United Nations (UN) report. "

Just wait till you hear about the deaths caused by the designer drug "nicotine".
posted by ymgve at 5:27 AM on March 31, 2013 [27 favorites]


Drug abuse kills about 200,000 people worldwide each year

Alcohol causes 2.5 million deaths a year: WHO

I think they should have offered to relocate his family and given him a job with the DEA as an expert.
posted by knapah at 5:32 AM on March 31, 2013 [28 favorites]


"Drug abuse kills about 200,000 people worldwide each year, according to a new United Nations (UN) report. "

Tobacco products kill 5,000,000 people every year, and diabetes deaths largely due to poor diet and sedentary lifestyles are closing in on 3,000,000 deaths every year. When do we start imprisoning CEOs, employees, and marketing firms in tobacco and processed food industries for knowingly selling products that get abused and end up killing people?
posted by tripping daisy at 5:32 AM on March 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh, OK, now I get it. If x kills more people than y, then we ignore y. check.
posted by HuronBob at 5:40 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since the article hints at implications for technical professionals will this cause anyone to be more cautious in the future? Are there any jobs where this sort of liability crops up in surprising ways?

As I understand it, in banking you are required by law to ask about suspicious activities in order to absolve yourself of liability for dealing with money laundering. Could that be a related legal/moral obligation?
posted by jrsnr at 5:49 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, OK, now I get it. If x kills more people than y, then we ignore y. check.

You remember that you were the one who brought up how drugs killed 200,000 people a year after someone said that killers get less jail time than that. I think it's a fair question: do you believe that tobacco CEOs should do more or less jail time than Anaya or is there something special about his situation that demands such jail time?
posted by Green With You at 5:50 AM on March 31, 2013 [20 favorites]


Oh, OK, now I get it. If x kills more people than y, then we ignore y. check.

I don't think it's a matter of "ignoring it", rather, it's a matter of logical consistency and scaling the punishment to the crime.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 5:53 AM on March 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wonder if the trap installation jobs were on the company books, since they were "legal", or did he just pocket the cash? Did he include it in [his company's] taxable income? Did he issue receipts? Or was he treating them as shady, cash only, under the table deals?
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:12 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, America. Your justice system is terrifying. Is it any wonder you have such a huge prison population?
posted by Decani at 6:12 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, OK, now I get it. If x kills more people than y, then we ignore y. check.

The proper response to having your argument pointed out to be nonsense is to change your argument.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:13 AM on March 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


Oh, OK, now I get it. If x kills more people than y, then we ignore y. check.

No, you develop a proportional response that has some basic common sense at its foundation. This is especially important in regards to laws: they should be based on a careful consideration of facts instead attempting to enforce narrow viewpoints of morality on everyone else.

The morality police (DEA, state and local) are unmitigated failures. When they're not accidentally shooting American citizens in their own homes, they're gunning down civilians in Honduras during joint military operations (not to mention the toll in the proxy wars in other nations that have killed tens of thousands more.)

And what has the effect been on drug use? Literally nothing, despite dumping 1.5 trillion dollars on the problem since 1970.
posted by tripping daisy at 6:24 AM on March 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


And what has the effect been on drug use? Literally nothing, despite dumping 1.5 trillion dollars on the problem since 1970.

That's a raging success compared to the War on Terra.
posted by goethean at 6:31 AM on March 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure how anyone can have the nuts to casually bring up tobacco (or drinking for that matter) as a parallel to this situation and talk about proportionality and thereby pretend like they're making a deep point.

It is, for example, logically inconsistent to get popped for a DUI, while there are many people who drive drunk and don't get caught, there are bars where it is legal to drink an unregulated amount of alcohol, and where bartenders are generally not legally obligated to check if a person has a ride home, etc. Alcohol kills 320,000 people annually under the age of 29 worldwide. It is the leading risk factor for disease in the United States. Over 6% of all male deaths are related to alcohol.

Not only are alcohol manufacturers not getting arrested, they own huge stadiums and put their name on it. And in those stadiums we obsess about punishing "players using steroids" and "what a bad influence that is on children" and "think of all the kids that die of steroids." Is that logically consistent, when alcohol puts 100 times more people in the emergency room than steroids? This is one of the main points of the documentary Bigger, Faster, Stronger.

Politically, alcohol and tobacco are lifestyle decisions that have been around for decades, where the burden falls on the drinker and smoker to pay the consequences. Glossing over some very minor exceptions - basically, no one above the individual is going to jail for any of this. We do not use the word "cartel" to describe companies that sell these substances.

Now, if your business in the Valley is to install secret compartments in cars, and pretend like you don't know what's going on when a couple of gangsters that the DEA is investigating roll up to your spot, then refuse to cooperate with the Feds in a sting, then refuse to cop a plea deal, then yeah, you might end up hung on a cross. While I don't know Anaya personally, I hope for the best possible outcome for him and his family if he is indeed innocent. The Wired article goes to great lengths to portray him as a victim, not necessarily sure I buy it, but he ultimately chose his fate. And trap-building just isn't as socially acceptable as say, selling cigarettes. A jury might look at trap-building as in and of itself a criminal activity. Banking, smoking and drinking are not inherently criminal activities. I am of course, not defending prejudice; simply explaining it.

Wow, America. Your justice system is terrifying. Is it any wonder you have such a huge prison population?

As for this particular comment, seeing as it's coming from a user in the UK, I'm not sure our justice system is any more terrifying than living in a city where all my public movements are monitored by the government without a warrant.
posted by phaedon at 6:31 AM on March 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


He knew exactly what he was doing.

Other people have already pointed this out upthread, but the article mentions the people actually running the drugs got a smaller sentence than he did, in part by helping incrminate him. I can't figure out a scenario where this makes sense, except for the authorities tuning their strategy to maximize total jail time.
posted by Dr Dracator at 6:31 AM on March 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's punitive for not cooperating with the Feds. Makes perfect sense (from their view).
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:39 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Other people have already pointed this out upthread, but the article mentions the people actually running the drugs got a smaller sentence than he did, in part by helping incrminate him. I can't figure out a scenario where this makes sense, except for the authorities tuning their strategy to maximize total jail time.

I don't agree with this rationale, but:
Anaya has technical knowledge and ability to facilitate drug smuggling far in excess of people whose qualification is a driver's license. Stopping him (and the presumed chilling factor on other potential trapsters) would be a greater blow than stopping drivers.
posted by Etrigan at 6:43 AM on March 31, 2013


If he'd just laundered a billion dollars of cartel money like HSBC he could have gotten away with a fine, I guess hid real crime is being poor.
posted by onya at 6:46 AM on March 31, 2013 [27 favorites]


I could think of a lot worse uses for the whitehouse.gov petition site (hell, cite them if I were in the mood) than demanding a Presidential pardon for this guy.
posted by Naberius at 6:46 AM on March 31, 2013


....the article mentions the people actually running the drugs got a smaller sentence than he did, in part by helping incrminate him. I can't figure out a scenario where this makes sense...

Ironically, people seem to complain when we do have mandatory sentencing guidelines, and they complain when we don't......

This is an interesting read in light of this discussion. I have to wonder if Anaya had the opportunity to understand the ramifications of not cooperating.
posted by HuronBob at 6:49 AM on March 31, 2013


I'm not sure how anyone can have the nuts to casually bring up tobacco (or drinking for that matter) as a parallel to this situation and talk about proportionality and thereby pretend like they're making a deep point.

Are you really trying to argue against proportionality?

As for this particular comment, seeing as it's coming from a user in the UK, I'm not sure our justice system is any more terrifying than living in a city where all my public movements are monitored by the government without a warrant.

The UK spent approximately 250 million pounds (or half a billion USD) on CCTV in 2009. The United States has 16 separate intelligence agencies that have a yearly budget of 50 billion dollars. That's roughly the size of the entire Ministry of Defense.

The per capita breakdown looks like this:

US: 50 billion US / 310 million = $160 per person
UK: 4.4 billion US / 63 million = $69 per person

That does not include the MIP programs that would bring the total of US intelligence spending to 80 billion dollars per year.
posted by tripping daisy at 6:58 AM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow, America. Your justice system is terrifying profitable. Is it any wonder you have such a huge prison population?
posted by Decani



Fixed that, etc.
posted by spitbull at 7:06 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it really seems like they went full-bore on him because of his refusal to turn informant thanks to being legitimately terrified that those he was supposed to inform upon would maybe kill his entire family if they found out.

Also, I can't help but wonder: did they prosecute him in Kansas because a San Diego jury would likely be much more racially/ethnically mixed?

phaedon: As for this particular comment, seeing as it's coming from a user in the UK, I'm not sure our justice system is any more terrifying than living in a city where all my public movements are monitored by the government without a warrant.

Say what you like about the current shitshow of a government in Westminster, currently dismantling the NHS and gutting what's left of the social safety net because reasons, but at least they're not conducting warrantless wiretaps and targeting British citizens with drone strikes (though one suspects it's only a matter of time and/or budget).
posted by Len at 7:08 AM on March 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Are you really trying to argue against proportionality?

This is a typical lazy online counter-argument. Link to a Wiki article instead of actually making a point. That's fine, I was talking about reality, but feel free to pigeon-hole me as someone who needs to read a book or two. I don't do the whole explaining my qualifications thing..

The UK spent approximately 250 million pounds (or half a billion USD) on CCTV in 2009. The United States has 16 separate intelligence agencies that have a yearly budget of 50 billion dollars. That's roughly the size of the entire Ministry of Defense.

You do know that at least on paper the CIA does not engage in domestic surveillance. Not to mention the quote you use includes army, navy and air force intelligence. I mean, really, good use of statistics.
posted by phaedon at 7:18 AM on March 31, 2013


He knew exactly what he was doing.

Even if that could be proven to a legal standard, wouldn't the more correct sentence be three years in state prison (as stipulated by the law in California) as opposed to this utterly trumped-up federal charge? (And an utterly mind-blowing sentence)
posted by ShutterBun at 7:24 AM on March 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


If they want to prosecute people for making traps, just make all traps 100% illegal, period. This guy likely never would have been involved in any of this, had the law simply been less ambiguous.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:28 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


He knew exactly what he was doing.

So? It's not illegal to get your car modified.

I agree that drug abuse represent and enormous social problem.

The "social" problems from drug use are largely due to its criminality. This is not a "both sides have good points" situation. I don't understand why there always needs to be a ritual denouement of "drugs" before we meekly ask that we consider not waging war on people for engaging in a non-violent act. The drug war and drug "abuse" are not even in the league.

HuronBob: There are two questions here:

Actually, you pose more questions than two:

Q: 1. Should he be considered part of the group importing and distributing drugs,
A: No, don't be ridiculous.

Q:was he aware that there was illegal activities going on
A: Irrelevant.

Q: should he be prosecuted and convicted?
A: If modifying a car is illegal, yes.

Q: The second question is, 2. does the US justice system work as it should? The answer to that is no.

A: Your answer here is correct. And the reason that's so is because the authorities answered the earlier questions in the same way you did.
posted by spaltavian at 7:45 AM on March 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Next up, arresting and prosecuting people who install secret compartments in people's homes, right?
posted by rmd1023 at 7:48 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


The length of the sentence and the fact that it is so much longer than those of the actual drug traffickers is outrageous and wrong. However, let's get real here: He knew all along that these traps would be used for illegal activities, but figured he could make himself safe under the law by relying on a "plausible ignorance" technical loophole he believed to exist. This is made clear in the article, and especially once he discovered the cash any possibity of plausible ignorance goes out the window. There is no way a reasonable person wouldn't have known the traps were being used for an illegal activity after that. Given the magnitude of the trafficking abetted by his traps, some penalty doesn't seem unreasonable.
posted by slkinsey at 7:52 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure our justice system is any more terrifying than living in a city where all my public movements are monitored by the government without a warrant.

The US already has this, you just might not know about it yet.
posted by LionIndex at 8:03 AM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


some penalty doesn't seem unreasonable

Right: some penalty. He should have been charged under the California state law with regard to compartment instillation. The feds had absolutely no right to go after him, let alone in the aggressive manner that they did. And this:
McCracken’s case may have been largely circumstantial, but she did an effective job of portraying Anaya as a man who enjoyed the perks of drug trafficking. She spoke of his “expensive motorcycles and four-wheel bikes to go on the sand,” his collection of guns, and his vast array of Snap-on tools. On several occasions, she mentioned that he had a backyard pool “custom built with his name in the bottom of it in marble.”

Anaya’s lawyer tried to explain that all of these supposed extravagances had been bought on credit and that his client was on the brink of bankruptcy. The name by his pool—not in it, as McCracken had claimed—was an $8 DIY project hacked together from grinding concrete and artfully applied stain. But the jury bought into McCracken’s narrative; it convicted Anaya on all counts.
makes me sick to my stomach and absolutely terrified of the US justice system. Seriously, fuck the DEA, fuck Sheri McCracken, and fuck the USDOJ.
posted by item at 8:07 AM on March 31, 2013 [13 favorites]


However, let's get real here: He knew all along that these traps would be used for illegal activities... some penalty doesn't seem unreasonable.

Why do you impose such an obligation on him? If he didn't see the drugs; why is it's his job to help the state enforce its (mind numbingly stupid) laws? There's this post-9/11 mindset that we're all supposed to be the government's enforcers that is really scary.

I am not an agent of the state, and neither was this guy. The argument that he was trying to get away with a technicality is exactly right; and is why he shouldn't have even been prosecuted, let alone convicted. All laws are technicalities. And we're super-strict about following them when it fucks over the defendant, but we're pretty fast and loose when it comes to the law enforcement officials themselves. Cops can bust down the wrong door without a warrant or frisk someone on the street for not reason, because they were acting in "good faith", but this guy should have known better for some reason.

This society is obsessed with punishment.
posted by spaltavian at 8:13 AM on March 31, 2013 [20 favorites]


I could be mistaken, but I think the moral of this story is that if the feds are prosecuting you as part of a multi-million dollar drug ring, don't be the one guy that shows up with a court-appointed lawyer.
posted by ryanrs at 8:21 AM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


The technically savvy are on notice that they must be very careful about whom they deal with, since calculated ignorance of illegal activity is not an acceptable excuse.

Excellent. I look forward to the application of this standard for the occupants of corporate boardrooms and political offices. That is what's going to happen, right?
posted by Jakey at 8:21 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


HuronBob: "Should he be considered part of the group importing and distributing drugs, did he have a role, was he aware that there was illegal activities going on, should he be prosecuted and convicted? The answer to that is yes."

This seems insupportable to me. I certainly don't take it as proven that this guy knew nothing simply because I read this convincing article; but if everything in this article is true, then there is no way in hell that Alfred Anaya is guilty of being part of a conspiracy to smuggle illegal drugs.

I mean, where in the world are you going to draw the line here? Are you going to convict the Cadillac dealers who must have known something wrong was happening when a customer walked up and paid cash for a brand new car? Are you going to convict real estate agents who certainly have some suspicions when people buy or rent apartments or houses the same way? Are you going to convict the radio installers who might have referred people to Anaya? And are you going to convict the defense attorneys who almost certainly have much more extensive knowledge of their clients' nefarious dealings than Alfred Anaya ever did?

It is not a crime in this country to have a suspicion that someone is breaking the law and not say anything. If it were, this would be a state worthy of Orwell's nightmares; but thankfully we don't generally prosecute thoughtcrime in the United States - or at least we're not supposed to. If you'd like us to do that, you'll have to pass extensive thoughtcrime legislation and set up a branch of the executive to police thoughts.

Until then, it is not against the law to put secret compartments in cars, which is all Alfred Anaya seems to have been doing.
posted by koeselitz at 8:26 AM on March 31, 2013 [14 favorites]


There are plenty of legal activities that become illegal if you do them with the knowledge that the activity or result of the activity will be used in the commission of a crime. It's legal to sell a guy a gun, but not if you have reason to know that he is a hit man. People who create or sell otherwise legal things that they know are probably being used in a criminal activity take deliberate steps to protect themselves by making sure they can claim 100% ignorance of how the customer will use their wares or work product. This is, of course, only a technical protection since they usually know full well that they are selling something intended for illegal use. But the point is that you have to be scrupulous and 100% consistent and refuse to do business with a customer forever the second you might reasonably know he was going to use your work product or wares in an illegal act. This is especially true for work products and wares that are commonly known to be used frequently or most offen in illegal acts. This is why even hinting you are going to smoke some weed will get you kicked out of a head shop in a lot of states (although, needless to say, the stakes are considerably lower compared to drug trafficking). This guy failed on that count. It was obvious that he knew his traps were used in drug trafficking. He did it anyway. He got caught. He paid the price. We can argue about the severity of the price he paid, and I am on the side of those who say it is way too high, but I don't see how it can reasonably be argued that he shouldn't have paid any price.
posted by slkinsey at 8:35 AM on March 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


This seems insupportable to me. I certainly don't take it as proven that this guy knew nothing simply because I read this convincing article; but if everything in this article is true, then there is no way in hell that Alfred Anaya is guilty of being part of a conspiracy to smuggle illegal drugs.

I'm making an earnest effort to see if I can dig up any records on this case. Would it influence you, for example, if in a judge's response to a motion to suppress the wiretaps, it is stated that Anaya was recorded discussing "detection by custom officials" and the use of "x-ray-interfering carbon paper and mirror-like surfaces" to build his traps?

These tactics would almost exclusively be used to avoid trap detection at the border. Does this not rise to the level of conspiracy?
posted by phaedon at 8:37 AM on March 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Another federal prosecutor putting the technically savvy on notice that playing around with the system is not going to be tolerated.

Yea take that banks! And Wall Street! And oil companies that have federal forms filled out in pencil so they can be inked in later by government officials!
posted by rough ashlar at 8:41 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


>>However, let's get real here: He knew all along that these traps would be used for illegal activities... some penalty doesn't seem unreasonable.

Why do you impose such an obligation on him? If he didn't see the drugs; why is it's his job to help the state enforce its (mind numbingly stupid) laws?


I'm not saying he had an obligation to help the state enforce its laws. I wouldn't suggest he had to report those guys to the police. But he does have an obligation under the law to abide by the state's laws. And once he saw thousands of dollars stuffed into the trap he created for these guys, any argument he could make that he didn't reasonably know the traps were being used in illegal activities went out the window. The validity of the argument that "there isn't anything illegal about driving around with multiple thousands of dollars hidden in a trap" is for a jury to decide, but probably won't pass the smell test.
posted by slkinsey at 8:42 AM on March 31, 2013


A number of people upthread have pointed out that it's not illegal to mod your car. Don't worry: I'm sure some analog/durable good doppelganger of the DMCA is coming along soon enough.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:54 AM on March 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you're asking juries to apply the "smell test" why even bother having due process?
posted by spaltavian at 9:13 AM on March 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


But he does have an obligation under the law to abide by the state's laws. And once he saw thousands of dollars stuffed into the trap he created for these guys, any argument he could make that he didn't reasonably know the traps were being used in illegal activities went out the window.

What does presuming someone else is breaking the law have to do with abiding the law? Do 7-11 clerks have to make sure you're not you to roll blunts with those Dutchmaster you're buying at 1 am?

There's this belief that one should "get away with" something, even if it isn't actually illegal.
posted by spaltavian at 9:19 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's worth pointing out that having large amounts of cash is also not illegal. And if you have large amounts of cash, keeping it somewhere safe is a good idea.
posted by Nothing at 9:22 AM on March 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


A number of people upthread have pointed out that it's not illegal to mod your car.

Right. Because it's legal to mount a Howitzer on the hood of your '97 Civic. Interesting the fact that the Wired article didn't mention the carbon paper and mirrors, but instead went with the fun stuff, like swipe cards. And that no one is entertaining the fact that he had conversations on the phone with his customers about avoiding custom patrols.
posted by phaedon at 9:25 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


You've repeated that. You haven't explained why it maters. No one here is arguing that he didn't know the traps were being used for drugs. Who fucking cares?
posted by spaltavian at 9:28 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


slkinsey: “I'm not saying he had an obligation to help the state enforce its laws. I wouldn't suggest he had to report those guys to the police. But he does have an obligation under the law to abide by the state's laws. And once he saw thousands of dollars stuffed into the trap he created for these guys, any argument he could make that he didn't reasonably know the traps were being used in illegal activities went out the window.”

The trouble with this is that having a strong suspicion of something is not in any way a crime in this country. Either you're committing actual conspiracy, which means actively discussing a crime with people and committing it with them, or you're not. You can't say well, he must have known – that is not a legal argument, and it's not a reason to convict someone of committing a crime.

“The validity of the argument that 'there isn't anything illegal about driving around with multiple thousands of dollars hidden in a trap' is for a jury to decide, but probably won't pass the smell test.”

I don't understand why you'd say this, since it's so clearly false. It is absolutely not for a jury to decide whether it's illegal to drive around with thousands of dollars hidden in your vehicle. It's also not for a jury to decide whether it's illegal to have gay sex in private or be a member of the Communist party or smoke marijuana. Juries are not allowed to decide the legality of acts. On the contrary, juries exist to decide whether someone is guilty of committing an act. They generally don't even have a role in sentencing.

Legislatures make laws that tell us what is and is not illegal. Judges interpret those laws and help us sort out to particulars of them. And no court and no judge in the United States has determined that it's in any way illegal to drive around with thousands of dollars hidden on your car. Nor should they.

Please note that this is true even though most juries would love to convict people of liking buttsex or enjoying the wrong kind of loud music. It doesn't matter what they'd like to do; juries don't get to decide what's against the law.

phaedon: “I'm making an earnest effort to see if I can dig up any records on this case.”

Thanks, but I'm not sure how interested I am in the particulars of this case. I mean, sure, I'd love it if Alfred Anaya were given another chance in court, based solely on what I've read in that article; but this is much, much bigger than Alfred Anaya. I'm more concerned about the apparent belief a lot of people have that being suspicious that a crime is being committed makes you guilty of that crime.

“Would it influence you, for example, if in a judge's response to a motion to suppress the wiretaps, it is stated that Anaya was recorded discussing ‘detection by custom officials’ and the use of ‘x-ray-interfering carbon paper and mirror-like surfaces’ to build his traps? These tactics would almost exclusively be used to avoid trap detection at the border. Does this not rise to the level of conspiracy?”

Nope. It's still not illegal to discuss any of those things. If it were, you'd belong in jail, too – but you don't. If they had all these wiretaps and such and they couldn't just catch Anaya on tape saying clearly that his intention was to hide drugs or commit some other illegal activity, then they don't have anything on him. Sorry.

The state has an obligation in this country to prove that someone committed a crime beyond any reasonable doubt. And there is reasonable doubt in this case. People can be highly interested in technical problems and remain pointedly aloof as to the purposes of it. It's pretty common, in fact, among people who are very absorbed in technical stuff.
posted by koeselitz at 9:28 AM on March 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


No one here is arguing that he didn't know the traps were being used for drugs. Who fucking cares?

Well knowing that the traps were being used for illegal transport of drugs is pretty pivotal to being charged with the crime of conspiracy. If you're not interested in discussing than that, then feel free to poop out a "pass the smell test, due process blah blah" comment in this thread and be on your merry way.
posted by phaedon at 9:32 AM on March 31, 2013


You can't say well, he must have known – that is not a legal argument, and it's not a reason to convict someone of committing a crime.

When the crime he's accused of committing is constructing a hiding space that he knows will be used for illegal activity, how is that not a legal argument?
posted by Etrigan at 9:33 AM on March 31, 2013


If they had all these wiretaps and such and they couldn't just catch Anaya on tape saying clearly that his intention was to hide drugs or commit some other illegal activity, then they don't have anything on him. Sorry.

koeselitz, the few statements that are shared about what was caught on tape clearly defining Anaya's role in building the traps - missing in the Wired piece - are thus:

"Using wiretaps issued in another investigation, authorities intercepted calls involving known drug traffickers in which they discussed having hidden automobile compartments or “traps” built for them by defendant. References to detection by customs officials and the use of x-ray-interfering carbon paper and mirror-like surfaces provide evidence that the traps were intended for illegal drug-trafficking purposes. Other intercepted calls related to the possibility of defendant’s traveling to Mexico to fix a compartment that would not open."

At no point does the court directly indicate that Anaya was on those phone calls admitting to any of this, although it is strongly suggested. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, so your point is well taken. If he didn't say this shit on a phone, instead other people were describing what he was doing for them, then all things being equal, I agree with you. That's why I said before, I hope the best for him on appeal. If this guy is a savant, at the wrong place at the wrong time, that's one thing. Being caught with dope in your pocket and saying you don't know where it came from is another.
posted by phaedon at 9:39 AM on March 31, 2013


Well knowing that the traps were being used for illegal transport of drugs is pretty pivotal to being charged with the crime of conspiracy.

According to the article, the law he was convicted under said that he had to know for "certain" what the traps are being used for. Nothing you've said proves that. I'm not saying he was naïve and unaware. Yes, he was aware of the drugs, but that's not the standard set. That's exactly why the "smell test" argument you're using is entirely unconvincing and massively misses the point. Who cares about your intuition?
posted by spaltavian at 9:44 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


You guys defending this maroon are doing about as good a job as his court-appointed lawyer did.
posted by unSane at 9:49 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Comment deleted, there is no reason to make this personal.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:53 AM on March 31, 2013


There is a broadly applicable principle that laws should not usually yield counter intuitive results. If they do, the odds favor the law itself being unjust. Amongst the numerous injustices in play here we have the war on drugs itself and bullying by agents and prosecutors. In this case, they wished to bully him into helping them, or maybe taking a plea deal later, but he considered himself completely innocent.

Anaya isn't such a paragon of morality, but the DEA, DOJ, and prison contractors are the ones creating the suffering for the addicts here. I'd treat Anaya more harshly if imagine say, heroin was legal with taxes paying for treatment, but smugglers sold krokodil to bypass the taxation on heroin. In that hypothetical situation, I'd consider his actions more directly harmed drug users because the smugglers were both undercutting treatment and distributing the extremely toxic heroin-alternative krokodil. In reality, Americans aren't doing any drugs more dangerous that meth, which doesn't move in across the border, and dealers aren't obstructing treatment. So why should Anaya care if his compartments help some banker get his cocaine fix?
posted by jeffburdges at 9:56 AM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you're going to work for criminals, at least charge enough that you can afford a decent defense attorney. If this guy had come up with rules that let him maintain plausible deniability -- maybe operate as a used car lot so it's clear that he owns the vehicles that are being modded, then making buyers sign a disclaimer that the compartment may not be used for drugs -- then he'd probably be OK. But coming into direct contact with drug dealers and pretending not to notice is definitely doing it wrong.
posted by miyabo at 10:00 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Naturally, none of the $$$ clients stepped up to have a $$$freedom$$$ attorney appear.
posted by buzzman at 10:06 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems pretty cut and dried to me:

1. The government did not prove that he did know that his traps were being used for criminal activities. They claim he "should have known" but this is not a basis for criminal prosecution.

2. The other people involved in the crime, who everyone would agree are more culpable, received dramatically shorter jail sentences.

3. Other prominent recent cases, such as HSBC, are in legal areas where the culprits do have a legal responsibility to find out what their underlings are doing - in areas where "he should have known" is a valid legal argument. The crimes revealed in those cases are far, far greater than in this one, and yet no one served a day in jail.

4. And the whole war on drugs is ridiculous bullshit and has consumed astonishing quantities of money and resulted in tens of millions of person-years of jail time with no discernable effect on the consumption or availability of drugs.

It seems impossible not to conclude that the concept "justice" or "fairness" are not involved at all in these cases, and that rather the state is attempting to stick it to the least powerful people involved every time.

Oh, and it's clear that there's also a punitive desire to "make an example" of this guy for not turning informant - also foreign to the idea of justice.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:10 AM on March 31, 2013 [12 favorites]


However, let's get real here: He knew all along that these traps would be used for illegal activities

What are you, Jack Valenti?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:11 AM on March 31, 2013


1. The government did not prove that he did know that his traps were being used for criminal activities.

One of the dealers testified that he knew. The jury obviously believed him.
posted by unSane at 10:12 AM on March 31, 2013


2. The other people involved in the crime, who everyone would agree are more culpable, received dramatically shorter jail sentences.

And the Wired article does not include the jail sentences of the two Kansas-based men involved in the ring, including James Anthony Clark, who was also sentenced to the same amount of time and forced to forfeit $3.2 million.
posted by phaedon at 10:17 AM on March 31, 2013


Yes, they clearly convinced a jury to jail this guy forever. District Attorneys convince juries to jail people on inadequate evidence all the time, particularly people with court-appointed attorneys, but your mileage may vary.

Regardless, my remaining points still stand. This is a miscarriage of justice; overall, the "justice" system of America is a broken machine that causes incalculable harm to the country by dramatically punishing footling offenses, while allowing the rich and powerful to commit massive crimes that cause great harm to hundreds of millions of people, safe in the knowledge that they cannot spend a day in jail no matter how many laws they flout.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:17 AM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


In any case, there are bad legal presidents here for after market car modifications, so ideally an organization interested in cars should find him a better lawyer. If he won an appeal that hurt the DOJs ability to prosecute other trap makers, then maybe they'd cut him a light plea deal.

As a separate matter, we obviously need much better instructions for designing and building secret compartments posted online, fewer mechanics would get into trouble for this if it became more a DIY thing. Why hire a specialist who the DEA might wiretap when you could hire anyone with a modicum of automotive knowhow and the patience to watch some good videos?
posted by jeffburdges at 10:19 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the dealers testified that he knew. The jury obviously believed him.

Anaya's court-appointed law-talking guy apparently had some success with the jury at painting that dealer, Cesar Bonilla Montiel, as "a man who would say anything to reduce his own sentence".

However, if I've learned anything in my 36 years living in the United States, it's that my peers are mostly a bunch of halfwits and I'm good as dead should I ever face the misfortune of having to stand before a jury of them.
posted by item at 10:26 AM on March 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


ShutterBun: "If they want to prosecute people for making traps, just make all traps 100% illegal, period. "

In BC it is already illegal to a)install a hidden compartment and b)not register any hidden compartment in a vehicle with the police.

And it really pisses me off every time I'm reminded of it. I can get on board with registration; the police have a valid concern to fight smuggling and registration tied to a VIN would be a perfectly sane and reasonable method of combating this. Outright ban is an over reaction IMO.

Because let's be honest that the technical skill to build these traps are cool as hell and traps themselves are both cool and have real world honest and legal uses without any nudge nudge wink wink. I'd love to be able to, for example, have a hidden compartment in my car that I could use to store my ID when I'm at the beach. Or even just to keep a few hundred dollars in emergency cash in. Or just a cool place to locate my disk changer in.

Imagine a car with a hidden kill switch that required you to pull up on two window switches while depressing the clutch to access. It would certainly add a degree of difficulty to theft attempts.

unSane: "the article is at pains to say that he installed these compartments for people who used them for non-nefarious purposes, to hide legal guns or valuables. Yeah, right."

There are lots of non nefarious purposes for such compartments. Heck just the coolness of the compartments would appeal to a broad segment of the population.

HuronBob: "Ironically, people seem to complain when we do have mandatory sentencing guidelines, and they complain when we don't......"

Generally these aren't the same people.
posted by Mitheral at 10:31 AM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


The BC law covering hidden compartments
posted by Mitheral at 11:09 AM on March 31, 2013


As for this particular comment, seeing as it's coming from a user in the UK, I'm not sure our justice system is any more terrifying than living in a city where all my public movements are monitored by the government without a warrant.

Calling the UK a city is technically incorrect but perhaps politically accurate.
posted by srboisvert at 11:38 AM on March 31, 2013


TFA describes Anaya as skipping lots of school to help his dad work on houses, and then dropping out of high school when he nails down a job at the custom stereo outfitters. Anybody but me think that just maybe he missed some critical learning during the time he wasn't in school, including math, social studies, critical thinking, logic, etc?

The article points out that he was hopeless with business decisions and money management, and yet we want him to think like a lawyer, instead of thinking like an average citizen - guessing, rationalizing, hoping for the best, expecting others to be fair - and generally only paying attention to the thing he's really good at: customizing stuff.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:16 PM on March 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Drinky Die: "Another federal prosecutor putting the technically savvy on notice that playing around with the system is not going to be tolerated."

Well, then I clearl look forward to all those Wall Street prosecutions that are due to start happening anytime now.
posted by symbioid at 12:50 PM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


My jaw is on the floor over the willingness of some to defend the US justice system in this case. I've read all the linked things, and all of the posts, and I'm still totally stunned that people can find this sort of thing justifiable.
posted by broadway bill at 12:54 PM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


phaedon: “koeselitz, the few statements that are shared about what was caught on tape clearly defining Anaya's role in building the traps - missing in the Wired piece - are thus: 'Using wiretaps issued in another investigation, authorities intercepted calls involving known drug traffickers in which they discussed having hidden automobile compartments or -traps- built for them by defendant. References to detection by customs officials and the use of x-ray-interfering carbon paper and mirror-like surfaces provide evidence that the traps were intended for illegal drug-trafficking purposes. Other intercepted calls related to the possibility of defendant’s traveling to Mexico to fix a compartment that would not open.'”

Well, to be fair, most of that actually was discussed in the Wired article – quite clearly, in fact. The article went on at great length about the technological marvels of the trap industry, and it also discussed Anaya's refusal to travel to Mexico on a request to fix a client's trap.

“At no point does the court directly indicate that Anaya was on those phone calls admitting to any of this, although it is strongly suggested. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, so your point is well taken. If he didn't say this shit on a phone, instead other people were describing what he was doing for them, then all things being equal, I agree with you. That's why I said before, I hope the best for him on appeal. If this guy is a savant, at the wrong place at the wrong time, that's one thing. Being caught with dope in your pocket and saying you don't know where it came from is another.”

I'm not completely sure what you mean, but – yeah. I mean, that's really all I'm saying. If he didn't say explicitly on the phone that he was helping them with drug smuggling, then I don't believe they have much of a case for the charges they brought against Anaya. There is even some leeway for the state to punish people who probably should have known better, and there are plenty of ways for the police to do that, but to directly charge him with aiding and abetting a drug-running conspiracy? They seem to have pretty definitive proof that he steadfastly refused to have any knowledge of any such thing.
posted by koeselitz at 1:00 PM on March 31, 2013


You guys defending this maroon are doing about as good a job as his court-appointed lawyer did.

I think when it gets to point where posts like that ^ are all you're contributing, it might be time to give it a rest for a while.
posted by Broseph at 1:10 PM on March 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


Stop blaming the court appointed attorney. His problem has more to do with not having any evidence to cut a deal with.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:59 PM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: I mean, where in the world are you going to draw the line here? Are you going to convict the Cadillac dealers who must have known something wrong was happening when a customer walked up and paid cash for a brand new car? Are you going to convict real estate agents who certainly have some suspicions when people buy or rent apartments or houses the same way?
Yes?
In an attempt to prevent dirty money from entering the US financial system in the first place, the United States Congress passed a series of laws, starting in 1970, collectively known as the Bank Secrecy Act. These laws, contained in sections 5311 through 5332 of Title 31 of the United States Code, require financial institutions, which under the current definition include a broad array of entities, including banks, credit card companies, life insurers, money service businesses and broker-dealers in securities, to report certain transactions to the United States Treasury. Cash transactions in excess of US$10,000 must be reported on a currency transaction report (CTR), identifying the individual making the transaction as well as the source of the cash. The US is one of the few countries in the world to require reporting of all cash transactions over a certain limit, although certain businesses can be exempt from the requirement. Additionally, financial institutions must report transaction on a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) that they deem "suspicious", defined as a knowing or suspecting that the funds come from illegal activity or disguise funds from illegal activity, that it is structured to evade BSA requirements or appears to serve no known business or apparent lawful purpose; or that the institution is being used to facilitate criminal activity. Attempts by customers to circumvent the BSA, generally by structuring cash deposits to amounts lower than US$10,000 by breaking them up and depositing them on different days or at different locations also violates the law.
I don't know if the rules cover your hypothetical Cadillac dealer directly, but if he turns around and deposits $50K worth of twenties, that transaction must be recorded, so there's really no escape. If it later becomes convenient for the feds to lean on the dealer in various ways ("Help us catch your dangerous customer or we'll charge you with conspiracy,") I don't imagine they would hesitate.

I don't applaud the situation, I think it's ridiculous. I think going after Anaya was morally questionable, and the sentence he received is utter madness. But I'm not surprised he was prosecuted this way.

I'm pointing this out because I think the War On Some Drugs has long since eroded our oh-so-revered American "freedom" to a greater degree than is generally understood outside the criminal / law-enforcement culture. You suggest that it's absurd for every participant in a large-scale cash transaction to be under threat of prosecution, but I believe this has in fact been the case for a while.

That was, in effect, the prosecution's argument in this case: "You should have known that all that cash meant you were working for criminals, because only criminals use cash for large transactions, because we've more-or-less prohibited using cash for large transactions." Once you establish the cultural norm that only guilty people have something to hide (or that only guilty people have any interest in anonymous transactions), that's actually logical.
posted by Western Infidels at 5:36 PM on March 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Here's a question for those who think he's guilty: if his clients turned out to be smuggling say, uranium rather than cocaine, would that make a difference to you? Would he then be guilty of aiding terrorists?

In other words, to what degree to you actually think he was aware of what was occurring with his compartments, and to what degree do you just believe he must have understood *something* suspicious was happening, and that citizens have a responsibility to report such suspicious behavior even when they have no direct knowledge of a crime?
posted by crayz at 5:46 PM on March 31, 2013


Here's a question for those who think he's guilty: if his clients turned out to be smuggling say, uranium rather than cocaine, would that make a difference to you? Would he then be guilty of aiding terrorists?

In other words, to what degree to you actually think he was aware of what was occurring with his compartments, and to what degree do you just believe he must have understood *something* suspicious was happening, and that citizens have a responsibility to report such suspicious behavior even when they have no direct knowledge of a crime?


For the record, 24 years seems like a lot to me. But maybe the amount of contraband his devices smuggled was great enough to warrant such a large sentence, at least on paper.

Anyway, it depends. There are lots of legitimate uses for Cadillacs, banks and security systems. There are FAR fewer legitimate uses for secret compartments in vehicles. So the bar is raised for the installer of such things.

Does it matter whether it was uranium or drugs or guns? Not really. The idea that this guy's specialty was in creating undetectable compartments, but that he had no idea what they were being used for is ludicrous, unless every customer was a little old lady requesting a compartment the size of her pocketbook.

Did he have a duty to rat out his customers? Not unless he saw something that was illegal. But what he DID have a duty to do is not assist in the smuggling of contraband. If I sell rat poison, I had better not sell my rat poison to a guy who wants to know how much it would take to kill a human. If I program computers, I better not take the gig from the guy asking how to conceal the distribution of pictures and videos.

It's also silly that he was being punished for not cooperating with the DEA. What law enforcement says is that if you don't cooperate, you get the full ride. He didn't, and he did.
posted by gjc at 9:18 PM on March 31, 2013


Other prominent recent cases, such as HSBC, are in legal areas where the culprits do have a legal responsibility to find out what their underlings are doing - in areas where "he should have known" is a valid legal argument. The crimes revealed in those cases are far, far greater than in this one, and yet no one served a day in jail.

There have been several comments down this line and they puzzle me a bit. The argument seems to be "The rich and powerful get away with shit so everyone else should too." Wouldn't a better argument be "The rich and powerful shouldn't get away with this shit?"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:20 PM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Drinky Die: "Another federal prosecutor putting the technically savvy on notice that playing around with the system is not going to be tolerated."

Well, then I clearl look forward to all those Wall Street prosecutions that are due to start happening anytime now.


They aren't playing with the system, they are running it.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:26 PM on March 31, 2013


HuronBob: "Should he be considered part of the group importing and distributing drugs, did he have a role, was he aware that there was illegal activities going on, should he be prosecuted and convicted?"

It is incredibly disturbing that you and others would convict a person for being a part of a conspiracy they didn't even know existed. Seriously. What. The. Fuck?

Maybe Anaya really was a bad guy, but how about not celebrating someone being convicted for something they not only didn't do, but could not have known? I'm beginning to think I need to choose my clients better, though. Many of them have safes, and some of them even have rather large amounts of cash in them from time to time. I'm not terribly interested in going to prison for 24 years, but neither am I interested in being forced to take part in some ridiculous sting operation that might well get me killed.

Also, new policy (or really a restatement of old policy): No doctors as clients. I don't want to be a part of their "conspiracy" if they prescribe some meds that later get diverted and some overzealous drug warrior decides to go all scorched earth.

Seriously, I apparently have to worry about this shit given that I make and maintain things that could possibly be used for drug-related activity. Some which aren't even too far removed conceptually from hidden compartments in cars. Oh well, at least it was some other poor schlub who got nailed to the wall so I now have a chance to fire any client I've ever seen in possession of "large" amounts of cash.
posted by wierdo at 9:47 PM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


If he'd just laundered a billion dollars of cartel money like HSBC he could have gotten away with a fine, I guess hi[s] real crime is being poor.

Or just not having friends in high places that will protect him.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 9:59 PM on March 31, 2013


jrsnr: "Since the article hints at implications for technical professionals will this cause anyone to be more cautious in the future? Are there any jobs where this sort of liability crops up in surprising ways?

As I understand it, in banking you are required by law to ask about suspicious activities in order to absolve yourself of liability for dealing with money laundering. Could that be a related legal/moral obligation?
"

Not just banking, ANY business that handles financial instruments, like, say, money orders. I had to do a money laundering training course when I worked at a damn Circle K that did money orders. Like I had to time (or the paycheck) to add that to my lists of daily tasks.
posted by Samizdata at 11:31 PM on March 31, 2013


phaedon: "Wow, America. Your justice system is terrifying. Is it any wonder you have such a huge prison population?

As for this particular comment, seeing as it's coming from a user in the UK, I'm not sure our justice system is any more terrifying than living in a city where all my public movements are monitored by the government without a warrant.
"

And in 2008, Scotland Yard estimated the CCTV's only accounted for solving 3% of street crime.

So there's that, I guess.

That is acceptable for the loss of privacy and abuse of power, right?

Right?
posted by Samizdata at 11:36 PM on March 31, 2013


unSane: "You guys defending this maroon are doing about as good a job as his court-appointed lawyer did."

Excuse me, I am pretty sure he did NOT graduate the University of Chicago.
posted by Samizdata at 11:47 PM on March 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Thank you for installing this hidden compartment in my car. Whether or not you go to jail for it now depends on what *I* do. Muahahahaha!!!"
posted by ShutterBun at 12:58 AM on April 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


ShutterBun: ""Thank you for installing this hidden compartment in my car. Whether or not you go to jail for it now depends on what *I* do. Muahahahaha!!!""

So, I think you will pay me now to NOT do anything illegal with it.

And I shall store the proceeds IN the trap.
posted by Samizdata at 11:22 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Although this does have some scary impact on future tech projects.

Guy comes up to me and hires me to write a piece of software for inventory tracking that has a courier tracking/web check in module for his "business". (Well, he wouldn't because I suck at coding, but work with me here).

I write the software, he uses it for his drug business, I have the Feds breathing down the back of my neck to roll over on the client/root the system?

Gah. Do not want.
posted by Samizdata at 11:27 AM on April 1, 2013


Well, if you knew* that he was using it for his drugs business, you'd be an idiot, and if the Feds came a-knockin' you'd have to deal.

*ask yourself, if the guy walked like a dealer, talked like a dealer, had the reputation of a dealer, and you saw $800,000 of cash hidden in his car, whether you'd still write the software for him because, in jailhouse-lawyer-think, you didn't actually know-for-certain.
posted by unSane at 12:18 PM on April 1, 2013


unSane: "Well, if you knew* that he was using it for his drugs business, you'd be an idiot, and if the Feds came a-knockin' you'd have to deal.

*ask yourself, if the guy walked like a dealer, talked like a dealer, had the reputation of a dealer, and you saw $800,000 of cash hidden in his car, whether you'd still write the software for him because, in jailhouse-lawyer-think, you didn't actually know-for-certain.
"

Still strikes me as a doubleplusungood thing.

We live in a culture that tells us that you are nothing if you are not rich via capitalism, and that the richer you are, the less the law applies to you.

That makes it awfully easy to, ahem, overlook things and suffer horribly for it later, when all you are trying to do is what society tells you.
posted by Samizdata at 12:41 PM on April 1, 2013


It is incredibly disturbing that you and others would convict a person for being a part of a conspiracy they didn't even know existed. Seriously. What. The. Fuck?

So what in your opinion should be the standard for "knowing" a conspiracy exists? Can I drive truckloads of foreigners across unguarded border points every day and later claim I had no duty to check their passports? Can I accept an $800,000 loan for my business and pay it back in $100,000 increments over the next eight months because this guy I met needs a tax break?

At what point does being claiming to be an idiot become a legal defense?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:06 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


unSane: “Well, if you knew that he was using it for his drugs business, you'd be an idiot...”

Yep. And in the Brave New World you're hoping to create, being an idiot is a crime punishable by two and a half decades in prison. (Which seems like an easy way to deal with all those developmentally-disabled people.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:07 PM on April 1, 2013


No, committing a crime because you're an idiot is what's punishable. Unless you think being an idiot is now an affirmative defence.
posted by unSane at 1:41 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


A buddy of mine used to keep his stash in the escape pod of his childhood Star Wars Land of the Jawas playset. I wonder if the toy store clerk who sold it to his mother just before Christmas thirty-odd years ago is now an accessory.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:00 PM on April 1, 2013


Are you so confident you haven't committed any felonies, unSane? Or that you'll never commit racketeering? Yes, your felonies are far more innocent than Anaya's felonies, but they prosecuted him for not helping them. Are you so comfortable trusting prosecutor's discretion?
posted by jeffburdges at 2:07 PM on April 1, 2013


Yes, your felonies are far more innocent than Anaya's felonies, but they prosecuted him for not helping them.

??? I'm pretty sure that wasn't in the indictment.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:49 PM on April 1, 2013


Are you so confident you haven't committed any felonies, unSane?

I'm reasonably confident I'm not in business with drug barons, so there's that.
posted by unSane at 3:15 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It sounds like his crime was not "being an idiot", but rather "not putting his family at risk by being a snitch like everyone else". That's a very chilling effect on someone who writes the just-described software package that a drug dealer uses. "Volunteer" to help them or go away fr a long time for crimes only tangentially related to your actions.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:11 PM on April 1, 2013


"His ex-wife, Aimee Basham, with whom he recently reconciled, brings the family to visit at least once a month. But Anaya is anguished by the prison’s restrictions on personal contact with his children; he can scarcely believe that his youngest son will never again sit on his lap."

His son won't be allowed physical contact with his father for 24 years? Am I understanding that correctly?
posted by homunculus at 7:24 PM on April 1, 2013


It sounds like his crime was not "being an idiot", but rather "not putting his family at risk by being a snitch like everyone else"

He put his family at risk when he started installing secret compartments for drug dealers to hid their guns, cash and contraband in.
posted by unSane at 7:39 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


homunculus that jumped at me too but I figured he's in the sort of prison where visits are conducted through glass. Which seems completely crazy for a technical crime like his.
posted by Mitheral at 8:13 PM on April 1, 2013


unSane: “No, committing a crime because you're an idiot is what's punishable. Unless you think being an idiot is now an affirmative defence.”

You're missing my point. He can only be guilty of a conspiracy if he knew very well what was going on and agreed explicitly to be part of it. If he's enough of an "idiot" to not realize, even if it's a willful sort of ignorance where he closes his eyes and shoves his fingers in his ears (which appears to be exactly what he did) then he's not guilty of a conspiracy – unless just being stupid is a crime too now.

Look, we seem to be arguing in circles. Really, the main thing I'm objecting to is this game of throwing people in for multiple decades on unprecedented technicalities. I know this guy is really dumb, but nobody here wants to give the guy a medal, least of all me. All I'm saying is the whole legal system is too damned important to throw away just because you or I dislike this one person. If we're going to arrest and charge and convict people of things, those things ought to at least be actual crimes, and it'd be nice if we didn't convict idiots who did dumb things they should have known not to do of conspiracy as though they were planning and executing a smuggling ring.

I mean, for god's sake, just make it illegal to build secret compartments like this already. Give it a rational sentence, but at least have the law on the books so no lawyer has to sneak around the law and shove a ridiculously large sentence down the throat of some two-bit player like Anaya. Nothing solves problems like this like clarity and clarification.
posted by koeselitz at 10:58 PM on April 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


You're mistaking what I'm saying, K.

The idiocy lies in thinking that his weaksauce plausible deniability argument was a defence.

I don't buy it, the jury didn't buy it and I don't understand why you buy it on the basis of a sympathetic article in a magazine.

In every functional way he was part of that conspiracy. He knew, in the sense that any reasonable person would have known, what his clients were up to and what the compartments were being used for. You don't need a signed contract to prove a conspiracy. The feds got one of the dealers to testify that he knew knew. The article tries to imply that he was lying, but the jury either bought his testimony, or decided that even if he was lying, this fellow knew.

The technicality - 'but I didn't know for certain, your Honour' - is what he was hoping would keep him out of jail, not land him in it. That kind of stuff rarely flies in court because juries make judgements about the crediibility of the defendant, and if they would have known, they will presume the defendant knew.

I'm not making an argument about whether he deserved his sentence or anything else. In his situation, you would have known, I would have known, and we would both have been idiots if we thought pretending to be ignorant would keep us out of hot water.

He's clearly an edge case -- that's why there's an article about him. But there's no travesty of justice going on here in the sense of whether he was guilty or not.
posted by unSane at 3:05 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


He put his family at risk when he started installing secret compartments for drug dealers to hid their guns, cash and contraband in.

That's one level of risk, and could reasonably lead to being arrested and punished for installing traps for illicit purposes. And if that's all that happened, I'd say, yeah, guy got what's coming to him just like a head shop busted for selling paraphernalia, labeled as "for tobacco only".

But that's not what looks to have happened - instead, because he didn't want to help by actively fucking with drug dealers' livelihoods, he was punished far out of proportion to his actual crime. And, honestly, given the choice between pissing off the dea and pissing off dealers, I don't blame him for not cooperating - his family is still alive, after all, because while the Feds will sometime let people get away with murder, they're much less likely to commit it, themselves. But not volunteering your support to the dea comes with its own punishment, which is every thing they can find to fuck you up with in order to 'motivate' you.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:26 AM on April 2, 2013


If the head shop were facilitating million dollar drug deals, they'd get the same treatment.

This wasn't some guy installing places for you to put your personal stash of weed. He was in deep with narco-traffickers. People who kill people. If he was afraid enough of them not to snitch, he should surely have been afraid enough of them not to get involved in the first place.

He was knowingly swimming with sharks, thinking that the flimsy cage of deniability he was in would protect him.

Yes, he ended up in a horrible situation, and I don't know which I would have chosen (he could certainly have demanded witness protection for him and his family if he'd co-operated) but the point is he put himself in that situation.

Maybe I'm sensitive to this because I have a close relative who consistently makes these kinds of decisions, always gambling that he can stay just the right side of trouble (which he's drawn to like a magnet) to avoid it. He's almost always wrong, and I've had to clean up the mess too many times to be sympathetic to it. He never thinks any of it is his fault, it's always so unfair. But it isn't, it's just bad decisions leading to entirely predictable bad consequences.
posted by unSane at 4:46 AM on April 2, 2013


Anyway, I'm repeating myself so I'll bow out now.
posted by unSane at 4:52 AM on April 2, 2013


The War On Drugs Is Still Not Working
posted by homunculus at 1:29 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not crazy to think this guy was an idiot doing unethical things without actually managing to do anything illegal. I'm not exactly shedding huge tears for him, but at the same time, I like the justice system to restrict itself to the actual letter of the law.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:49 PM on April 2, 2013


unSane: "if the guy walked like a dealer, talked like a dealer"

What the fuck does this even mean? Do you think that by dint of being a drug dealer people turn into outwardly disgusting gollum-like creatures?
posted by wierdo at 3:15 PM on April 2, 2013


What the fuck does this even mean?

I am reminded of a recent occurrence at the SCOTUS - Sotoymayor called out a prosecutor for this: The defendant, Bongani Charles Calhoun, had claimed he was on a road trip with friends and didn’t realize they were about to engage in a drug transaction when one friend arrived in a hotel room with money. Ponder asked this question:

“You’ve got African-Americans, you’ve got Hispanics, you’ve got a bag full of money. Does that tell you—a light bulb doesn’t go off in your head and say, This is a drug deal?”

posted by rmd1023 at 3:41 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Alright, We've all idiot acquaintances or distant family whose messes we'd never touch, unSane, but this discussion should not be about Anaya's stupidity. Stupid is a quintuple rainbow.

In truth, I've no improvement upon my first comment, the prison-industrial complex is an evil exploitive aristocracy hiding "just the right side of trouble". Any counter-intuitive convictions like this represent nothing but the admixture present and historical abuse by law enforcement personnel more interested in promoting themselves than solving problems.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:02 PM on April 2, 2013


koeselitz: "I mean, for god's sake, just make it illegal to build secret compartments like this already. Give it a rational sentence, but at least have the law on the books so no lawyer has to sneak around the law and shove a ridiculously large sentence down the throat of some two-bit player like Anaya. Nothing solves problems like this like clarity and clarification."

I don't think the problem is a lack of a specific law because I think it's crazy this guy was arrested for this in the first place. The problem is broad, vague, poorly written and inclusive net like laws that can trap people peripherally involved at best to the stupid war on some drugs.

Everytime some law maker or cop says "Yes technically this makes foo (where foo is something everyone does like ignore EULAs) illegal and punishable by 10 years in prison and indentured servitude for the rest of their lives but we'll only use it to lock up bad people" I want to stab them and everyone responsible right in the eye with spork. See pretty well every civil forfeiture law.
posted by Mitheral at 5:51 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apparently I was too subtle. What of the betamax decision? Doesn't the fact that the traps have nonillegal uses matter?
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:33 PM on April 2, 2013


People who kill people. If he was afraid enough of them not to snitch, he should surely have been afraid enough of them not to get involved in the first place.

You should be a lawyer if you aren't already. Seriously. This is such a simple, obvious explanation I can't believe it took this long for someone to come up with it. He can't claim ignorance about conspiring with criminals while at the same time claiming to be afraid of them because the are criminals.

And to answer another question: you don't have to know really super well that you are involved with criminals to be convicted of conspiracy. That's why courts have a reasonableness test, to get around these weird areas. He is claiming plausible deniability. The jury said no, it really isn't plausible. A reasonable person would have known what was going on. I think making this claim stick also shifts the burden onto himself. Since a reasonable person would have known what was going on, he has to prove that he is not reasonable and it isn't his fault.
posted by gjc at 7:20 PM on April 3, 2013


gjc: "This is such a simple, obvious explanation I can't believe it took this long for someone to come up with it. He can't claim ignorance about conspiring with criminals while at the same time claiming to be afraid of them because the are criminals."

It's also an explanation that ignores the arrow of time. Nothing in any of the linked articles stated that he was afraid of his customers until after the police questioned him about it and asked him to cooperate. Perhaps that's an error in the article, but as presented, that explanation makes no sense whatsoever.
posted by wierdo at 7:52 PM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


unSane: "People who kill people. If he was afraid enough of them not to snitch, he should surely have been afraid enough of them not to get involved in the first place."

gjc: "You should be a lawyer if you aren't already. Seriously. This is such a simple, obvious explanation I can't believe it took this long for someone to come up with it. He can't claim ignorance about conspiring with criminals while at the same time claiming to be afraid of them because the are criminals."

I guess you missed this, but several other people already gave this explanation. I explained above why it doesn't make sense. weirdo just explained it again.

He was only afraid of snitching after a very long interrogation in which it was hammered home to him for hours on end that us clients were very dangerous. He doesn't seem to have been afraid of those clients at all before that extended interrogation. Which makes sense. He was being an idiot and trying hard not to think about the danger he was in. The article mentions him getting angry and expressing frustration in front of these very dangerous clients. Are you really going to claim that he'd do anything so stupid if he weren't willfully forcing himself to stay ignorant of how dangerous his clients were? No matter how you feel about whether he committed a crime or not, it makes zero sense to paint his fear this way.

But these are the kinds of arguments that are often made in court - fallacious and engineered to obscure the truth rather than explicate it. So you may be onto something.
posted by koeselitz at 12:56 AM on April 4, 2013


Eric Holder working towards parole for Enron's Skilling after 12 years of his 24 year sentence (via)
posted by jeffburdges at 12:17 PM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


That seems eminently reasonable, if Skilling has actually been confined for 12 years now. 24-25 year sentences are unnecessarily long. It's a waste of money paying to keep him in prison. We should have just given him a nickel and told him he could never again work in a position where he's responsible for or has influence over financial reporting.

Of course, it's also complete bullshit since nobody else gets treated that well.
posted by wierdo at 11:36 AM on April 5, 2013


No, fuck that. Skilling committed numerous crimes and fucked over millions of people so he could make a few extra bucks, and I'd bet significant fractions of all the money that I'll ever make that people died when he and his buddies were deliberately causing blackouts in the California summer so that they could pretend supply was low and raise their rates. Meanwhile people whose worst crime was possession of drugs continue to rot in prison, but it's okay, Eric Holder is stepping up for a man who-

Nah, fuck it, I can't continue to be coherent on this. This is outright evil and Jeff Skilling should die in prison. He should never be given the chance to see the sun again. This is another example of how rich people get special treatment when they commit crimes that damage society while poor people get fucked for doing barely anything at all. Eric Holder should be forced out of his position and investigated for corruption.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:31 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree that drug laws are shit, but the penalties for simple possession are not "rotting in prison" penalties. To get that kind of sentence, you have to be possessing way more than just a personal use supply, or have some other thing that makes the crime worse. (Guns, violence, multiple convictions, etc.)

Skilling fucked up, but 24 years is an awful lot of time for what he was convicted of. 12 years in jail for a non violent crime is NOT special treatment.
posted by gjc at 3:47 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


To get that kind of sentence, you have to be possessing way more than just a personal use supply

You have to be possessing more than what legislators think is a personal use supply, which is not necessarily connected to reality in any significant way. Carrying more than a couple of doses is generally enough to get busted for dealing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:28 PM on April 7, 2013


12 years in jail for a non violent crime is NOT special treatment.

It some senses you are correct, but the scale of the economic damage from Enron resulted in deaths of retirees. It's not directly violent, but the consequences were as bad as if it were.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:21 PM on April 7, 2013


If you send somebody to a Gulag, you're responsible for their death, but if you pull their job and their savings and their retirement out from under them, well, that's the game, right?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:33 AM on April 8, 2013


It some senses you are correct, but the scale of the economic damage from Enron resulted in deaths of retirees. It's not directly violent, but the consequences were as bad as if it were.

That sounds a lot like the argument that many people use for heavy drug-possession sentences -- if you use drugs, you're supporting the distribution system, which gets people killed.
posted by Etrigan at 4:24 AM on April 8, 2013


But that isn't a good argument. It's the prohibition itself that creates the violent distribution system. Legalizing what Enron did would not make the retirees less in need of their savings to live.

Two issues are kind of going past each other here. What Enron did should be considered among the worst of crimes with the stiffest penalties. It's just that our idea of what is an appropriately stiff penalty for the worst crimes is way out whack and we don't make good faith efforts at rehabilitation. 24 years may be too long, but not because it is not the most serious of crimes.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:32 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was going to post a response to Pope Guilty, but Drinky Die knocked it out of the park already.
posted by wierdo at 4:38 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and correct me if I'm wrong, but Skilling was only really implicated in the accounting fraud. I thought it was Lay and a few others, but not Skilling, that was running the trading fraud that created the electricity shortages in California.
posted by wierdo at 4:41 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


A certain part of me does find the Chinese way of handling corporate crime appealing. Not like it's made them less corrupt though.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:32 PM on April 8, 2013


That sounds a lot like the argument that many people use for heavy drug-possession sentences -- if you use drugs, you're supporting the distribution system, which gets people killed.
posted by Etrigan at 4:24 on April 8 [+] [!]


But that isn't a good argument. It's the prohibition itself that creates the violent distribution system. Legalizing what Enron did would not make the retirees less in need of their savings to live.


OTOH, now that I think about it, what Skilling did would have had much less dire consequences if we had public healthcare and a slightly better social security system.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:07 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


But that isn't a good argument. It's the prohibition itself that creates the violent distribution system.

I would argue that the violent distributors (and, to bring it back around to the subject, the people who knowingly assist them (because, let's face it, Anaya knew what he was doing)) are the ones who create the violent distribution system -- much like I assign responsibility for Skilling's actions to Skilling, rather than to deregulation of the energy market or to capitalism.

Would I personally advocate putting Anaya away for the same amount of time as Skilling? No. But he deserves some time in prison.
posted by Etrigan at 6:39 PM on April 8, 2013


I would argue that the violent distributors (and, to bring it back around to the subject, the people who knowingly assist them (because, let's face it, Anaya knew what he was doing)) are the ones who create the violent distribution system

Everybody is responsible for their own actions, but the prohibition is what creates the ecosystem in which the violent distribution is an inevitable result. Given our experiences with alcohol prohibition and decades of the War on Drugs, I find it hard not to consider our laws the biggest single knowing assist at this point.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:53 PM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find it hard not to consider our laws the biggest single knowing assist at this point.

Ditto energy deregulation in the Enron case. Why are you so willing to blame the law in one but the man in the other?
posted by Etrigan at 7:43 PM on April 8, 2013


I don't find it hard to see multiple causes in either case.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:46 PM on April 8, 2013


Your eyes may see multiple causes, but your fingers are pretty consistently blaming the law in one case, blaming the person in the other, and refusing to admit to the parallels between the two.
posted by Etrigan at 8:09 PM on April 8, 2013


I don't think my comments have indicated that, but if they have I would like to clarify that I do see the parallels and don't disagree with you that they exist.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:11 PM on April 8, 2013


We may all disagree about the exact ratio of apportionment of blame though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:56 PM on April 8, 2013


I'd consider energy deregulation partially responsible for the Enron situation, well most lobbyists and many representatives knew they were respectively buying and selling the opportunity for fraud. Yet, you obviously blame the law more as more people fall afoul and fall afoul for sillier reasons. And obviously Skilling directed fraud personally, while Anaya merely created tools, big difference.

In any case, I'm less worried about their sentences than that Eric Holder has gotten involved personally, while so much financial crime continues to cause more real damage than drug use.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:23 AM on April 9, 2013


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