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May 03, 2013

Opinion: Jahar's Buddies Killed Officer Sean Collier With Their Cowardly Silence

Indeed. Corrected: The slain officer's name is Collier, not Collins, as I mistook it to be.

Giuliani argues that by obstructing justice they were not just aiding and abetting Jahar after the fact, because the shooting of Collier would come later. He thinks they can and should be charged as accessories to murder.

The federal code has a seldom-charged law, "misprison of a felony," that makes it illegal to actively conceal knowledge of a felony. I'm not sure how that's much different than obstruction of justice, and, in addition, it only carries a sentence of three years. (Although the law itself states that it's illegal to merely not report a felony, a limitation imposed by a court in 1977 adds the requirement of active concealment. But that wouldn't help Jahar's buddies. But I think the law, as the courts have refashioned it, is now basically just obstruction of justice by another name.)

As for Giuliani's argument that the buddies can be charged as murders, I'm not sure the law of aiding and abetting can be pushed that far. The language seems vague enough to allow a prosecution, but as in the case of misprison of a felony, judicial rulings have almost certainly limited that broad language. The aid the buddies rendered did not have a direct relationship to the crime Giuliani suggests they be charged as principals in; an indirect relationship, yes, but nothing direct like providing them with a gun or ammo or keys to a getaway vehicle.

I don't know if such a direct relationship is required, but I'd bet money that something like that is in the law on this. Giuliani's theory is too broad-- I don't think the law can hold you responsible for all the crimes someone commits if you offer aid to them that isn't foreseeably connected to those crimes.

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posted by Ace at 12:40 PM

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