Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who is Jeremiah Munsen, and What Does He Mean to You?

By Nicholas Stix

In 1979, I was arrested while visiting my hometown of Long Beach, New York. Not only had I not committed any crime, but no one had even accused me of committing a crime.

While I was picking up some things at the local Waldbaum’s supermarket, the manager took an instant dislike to me, followed me around the store, and started an argument with me at the cash register. (That’s the dead giveaway that I must be black, because as we all know, only innocent blacks get followed around stores by vicious white managers.)

It was a slow day at Waldbaum's.

I bought a pack of hot dogs, a few cans of tuna that were on sale, and some bagels. Instead of letting the cashier pack my bag, the manager took over the matter, and tried the novel grocery-packing method of throwing my bagels at the paper shopping bag. The bagels bounced off the bag, and on to the floor, whereupon I said, “I’m not paying for dirty bagels!” The manager responded, “That’s it, call the cops!”

I kid you not.

When the cop came, the manager told him to arrest me, but didn’t say that I’d committed any crime. On the way to the Long Beach Police Department, only a few blocks away, the policeman lectured me repeatedly from the front seat.

“None of this would have happened, if you hadn’t been a wiseass.”

“But I didn’t do anything!”

Fortunately for me, the Long Beach PD had a Solomonic desk sergeant on duty on that shift. (Although I knew half the department—Long Beach was a small town; I got around; I’d had some scrapes with the law as a kid; I had not one but two guardian angels in uniform, one white and one black; and I’d interned in the department’s records room—I didn’t know him or the arresting officer.) A good desk sergeant is worth his weight in gold. From his seat on high, the Sergeant delivered his verdict, which was not open to appeal:

“Look, you’re both going to have to give a little. You’re paying for the bagels, and you’re dropping the charges.”

So, I paid for the bagels—I don’t remember if I put the money down on a table, or had to hand it to the manager—and then dramatically threw them into a stationhouse garbage can in the same area. As a matter of law, since there is no paper trial, the arrest never even happened.

But what if the incident happened today, and there were no Solomonic desk sergeant? And what if the manager had been black, and had made up some story in which I had called him a racial epithet? He would have had the entire, totalitarian apparatus of the U.S. Justice Department’s Division of Civil Rights behind him, to grind me down.

Which brings me to Jeremiah Munsen.

On September 15, Munsen will enter federal prison, to start serving a four-month sentence, to be followed by one year of supervised probation and 125 hours of community service, to be followed by five more years of unsupervised probation. In other words, he could potentially spend over six years in prison. Indeed, he was originally up for eleven years' hard time!

Since even six years is more time than most murderers serve, you must be wondering who Munsen killed. Well, he didn’t kill anyone. In fact, according to the U.S. Constitution, he didn’t commit any crime at all.

Read all about it, in my blog, “Oh, Canada! Modern Show Trials.” And then read Patrick Cleburne’s follow-up piece, which appeared only minutes ago, “The Jeremiah Munsen/Jena 6 Atrocity: Who, whom?”


Anonymous said...

Is there any recourse after his conviction? May he appeal based on the unconstitutionality of his conviction or does his plea negative such options?

Anonymous said...

I wish I knew the answer.