One of the basic beliefs most everyone seems to share is that once you're acquitted of a crime, you're freed of any penalty associated with that crime. But we're learning that, at least in the United States, that's not really the case.
In a decision issued Wednesday in Philadelphia, Judge Gary S. Glazer denied a motion by 2600 layout artist ShapeShifter (Terrence McGuckin) to have the full amount of his bail returned. McGuckin was arrested last August during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. All charges were either dropped or found to be without merit.
McGuckin had been held on half a million dollars bail and was imprisoned for a week. Eventually the bail was reduced to $100,000 which meant that ten percent of that in cash would be enough to get him released. 2600 staffers scrambled to raise the money and, on August 8, McGuckin was finally released.
McGuckin's trial was held on November 14 but the bail money - intended to ensure a defendant's presence in court, was not returned. Even after the appeal on the two remaining charges which were quickly found to not have any merit whatsoever, the bail money remained with the authorities - no doubt gathering interest somewhere.
Wednesday's hearing was an attempt to get the full amount returned. The judge refused, allowing $750 to be kept for administrative costs. Ironically, it was the same judge who threw out the remaining charges back in May.
To us, this is nothing short of state-sanctioned theft. What kind of message does it send if authorities can arrest people for invalid charges and then have it paid for by their victims, even after they're found to be entirely innocent? How many other times has this been allowed to happen? In this case, the authorities caused tremendous damage yet were never held entirely accountable. They squashed legal demonstrations, intimidated and assaulted innocent people, and behaved in much the same manner that we would expect to see in an undemocratic society. And now they've been rewarded for it.
This is a development that nobody can be proud of.