Florida will arrest you
Bloke who called himself “King Kamel” on MySpace and showed a picture of his
friends making “Eastside” hand gestures, has been arrested under Florida's
bizzare new gang law.
Elvis Rodriguez, 30, and his mates face five years in
state prison for the gang-related content of their Web pages. It seems
that coppers believe that such snaps are the use of electronic media to
“promote” gangs. Not surprisingly lawyers for the pair are pointing out that
little thing called the US Constitution which allows for free speech and the
right to associate.
The law was drawn up by a retired copper who who thought
that if gangs could not post their snaps online they would give up this gang
lark and become decent citizens. William Snyder said that no US freedoms
are absolute, and the freedom of expression is not absolute.
Rodriguez has been arrested seven times in the past 10 years for a variety
of non-violent crimes. His codefendant Figueroa-Santiago has no apparent
criminal background and, according to his father, was a student at Southwest
Florida College at the time of his arrest.
The “only in Florida” law applies
to “any person” who uses “electronic communication to intimidate or harass
other persons, or to advertise his or her presence in the community.” The
law covers Web sites, e-mail, faxes and texts, among forms of
Derek Byrd, a director of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense
Lawyers said the law was a “ridiculous” effort that cast too wide a net.
He pointed out that he would be classed as a gang member because he
coached his Little League baseball team. “We all wear uniforms, we flash
signs, we all wear the same colours.”
We doubt that this law will survive
any serious court challenge. (Al Gore also trusted Florida's courts. sub.ed.)