Understanding the law can be difficult

It seems to me that understanding the law can be difficult for us ordinary folks. By that I mean sometimes legal cases brought to the public’s attention by the news media lead to our scratching our heads and wondering whether we missed something or didn’t quite appreciate the fine points of the proceedings. Here are a couple I came across that kinda fall into that category.

By now most everybody has heard something about how former Speaker of the US House of Representatives J. Dennis Hastert is facing federal charges.

According to the indictment Mr. Hastert broke bank laws by withdrawing large sums of money and lying about it to federal authorities. Over five years Mr. Hastert withdrew about $1.7 million in cash from his various bank accounts — at one point about $100,000 a month.

The large withdrawals in question – which began in June 2010 and included 15 of $50,000 each – continued until the spring of 2012. That was when the bank asked him about those cash withdrawals noting that federal law requires reporting transactions of $10,000 or more as part of efforts to track money laundering and other criminal behavior. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Hastert began making regular withdrawals of less than $10,000, allegedly to circumvent federal banking laws requiring disclosure of larger cash transactions. The formal investigation by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service began in 2013 and led to the indictment.

OK, this is all pretty straightforward, right? But what’s bothersome is that the reason Mr. Hastert was making these cash withdrawals was that he was being blackmailed by a person known only as “Individual A” whose identity is being “shielded” by the prosecutors. Prosecutors allege that, in 2010, Mr. Hastert met with and agreed to pay $3.5 million to that person “to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A.” They further noted that Mr Hastert’s wrongdoing occurred earlier than 1981 when he entered state and federal politics.

Anyway, in this case it sure looks like silence was golden for “Individual A.” You know, I thought blackmail was illegal – which would make Mr. Hastert a victim of extortion being forced to meet the exorbitant demands of a criminal. In addition, the blackmailer received around $1 million in cash which makes a body wonder if this criminal income was reported to the Infernal Revenue Service.

Income tax evasion is also a crime also, isn’t it? Kinda peculiar, huh? The blackmail victim faces heavy fines and prison for using his own private funds to silence the extortionist and concealing the payoffs while the blackmailer is “shielded” by the authorities. So who is the true villain and who is the true victim here? Guess it depends on who the “authorities” figure is the biggest fish to land.

OK, moving on. Another news item involving the law recently featured the story of a young woman who was charged with murdering her unborn child by using an abortion pill she bought online. The 23-year-old Georgian allegedly took the abortion pill, Cytotec, to abort her five-and-a-half-month-old. By the way, this drug, also known as Misoprostol, is reportedly promoted by abortion advocates as a home abortion remedy available online. Anyway, once the drug began to take effect the woman got a neighbor to take her to the hospital, but she delivered the baby boy in the car on the way.

Police reported the baby died after about half an hour at the hospital – which led to charges of malice murder and possession of a dangerous drug. Well, the county district attorney has now dropped the murder charge but woman still faces a misdemeanor charge of possessing a dangerous drug – which Georgia law defines as any drug requiring a prescription.

Yep, the “it’s her body and she can do anything she wants to with it” advocates won the day. What is peculiar about this case is that if the car in which she was riding had been involved in an accident and the unborn child didn’t survive the crash, the driver at fault could have been charged with homicide. Go figure.

Can we learn anything from these cases? For one thing keeping your money under your mattress may not be such a bad idea after all. It may make the bed a bit lumpy but if the feds don’t know about it, they can’t tell you what you can do with it.

What else? Well, there is that ago-old truth that some do-it-to-yourself projects are better left to the professionals – doing so sure reduces the stress level for everyone involved with cleaning up the mess. At least that’s how it seems to me.

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