The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

On Bob Newland's Sentence

Well, I'm not a sitting judge and I'm not sure I completely understand Judge Delaney's sentencing of my friend Bob Newland.

1. One year with all but 45 days suspended. (It's 15 days more than I guessed he would get.)
2. $2,000 fine, all suspended. (I predicted a $1,000 fine)
3. No public campaigning for Bob's cause.
This one threw me for a loop. Interesting. I don't see Bob complaining about it. Carefully read the Journal's account,

"Delaney also told Newland that he is not to take a public role in efforts to legalize marijuana for the next year."

"You are not going to take a position as a public figure who got a light sentence," Delaney warned Newland.

"Delaney said Newland case was not a typical possession case.

"I have an entire segment of society that will take note of this case," Delaney said. Several of Newland's friends and supporters were in the courtroom.

"Delaney said Newland's advocacy was not an issue, what was an issue was the idea of an adult doing anything that would encourage kids to drink or do drugs. Juvenile courts are packed with kids who have drug problems, Delaney said.

"Ninety-five percent of my chronic truants are using pot," Delaney said."
Read all that carefully. I do not know judge Delaney well. We've met. I have always been impressed. Nothing he said in court, if the Journal quoted accurately, was accidental. He did not say Bob could not advocate for his cause. He said could not publicly advocate for his cause. I believe – and I would ask Judge Delaney to clarify, if I were Bob – that the sentence does not prevent Bob from lobbying legislators or talking privately with supporters. He cannot testify before legislative committees deciding the issue, because they are covered by the media.

Bob cannot write his Journal Forum pieces. He cannot comment to broadcast media. He cannot be quoted in campaign literature. He cannot encourage others to "use" and use his light sentence as an example of what will happen to them.

I don't believe Delaney's sentence prevents Bob from finding a new spokesperson for the cause. I don't think it prevents him from coaching that spokesperson, or from assisting that spokesperson in the preparation of information intended for the media, as long as that information is under some other real person's byline.

I'm not Delaney and I don't have the benefit of being able to read his mind. But it seems to me that he's simply telling Bob to disappear for a year, not to stop working for his cause. This can be accomplished. Ask Bill. He has been the "voice" of many politicians, while remaining quiet in the background, unquoted, but effective. This may be an excellent use of Bob's skills.

Bob is quick to tell people that he has no marketable skills. However, he's a pretty good at political tactical thinking. And, as Bill will confirm, that is a marketable skill.

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