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Monday, October 23, 2006

Get out of town. On second thought, make that the country.

The Jurist reports on a case out of the Cheektowaga Town Court in Erie County, New York, where a Town Justice agreed to a no-jail plea bargain for a defendant charged with sexual abuse on the condition that he not return to the United States for the next three years except to meet with his probation officer. The defendant, a U.S. citizen, has a Canadian wife and family. Canadian officials apparently have not applauded this effort to ship a non-Canadian sex offender north of the border. The Toronto Globe & Mail has more details.

Does explicit banishment even happen any more – and I don’t mean the functional types of banishment being argued, for instance, in connection with some registered sex offenders being "zoned out" of certain communities, but real get-out-of-town-or-else sentences? Based on my own experience, I was quite surprised to read about a plea bargain involving not just local banishment, but the national banishment of a U.S. citizen. All by a local judge, no less. The Toronto paper reports that even the Erie County District Attorney called the plea agreement “a little dicey.” Perhaps there was something to that New York Times series on Town and Justice courts after all.

Posted by Brooks Holland on October 23, 2006 at 04:54 PM in Criminal Law | Permalink


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A bit of spousal promotion--my husband's just-released book [Steve Hendricks, THE UNQUIET GRAVE: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country], reports the following about banishment from South Dakota to California:

On his arrest, [Dennis] Banks [a leader of the American Indian Movement] told California’s governor, Jerry Brown, that he feared for his life in a penitentiary run by [Bill] Janklow .... When Janklow demanded Banks be returned to South Dakota, Brown rebuffed him. Banks enjoyed asylum in California as long as Brown remained governor.

By way of reply Janklow announced, “We feel there is a beacon in California saying, ‘Give us your felons, your pickpockets, your crooked masses yearning to be free.’ So we are going to send to California every crook in the state. Anyone with a felony conviction who has not hurt anybody will be invited to go to Sacramento, and as long as they stay in California we won’t do anything. We believe in equal treatment.”

He was nearly as good as his word. For seven years he gave accused (not convicted) nonviolent felons a choice between a one-way ticket to the Golden State and prosecution. No one turned down the ticket.

Posted by: Jennifer Hendricks | Oct 24, 2006 10:16:52 PM

I am a former (or recovering, depending on your perspective) public defender who worked in a southern state, and while I cannot recall a judge ever explicitly banishing a client, I have had judges consider the fact that my client says they will not return to the state as a mitigating factor.

Posted by: Deborah | Oct 24, 2006 4:56:52 PM

Glad you mentioned those Town and Justice courts, which I had never heard of before. I don't think there's anything in California quite like them (well, a bit different but perhaps only slightly less perverse, is the flourishing private system of arbitration, which in California may be handling more commercial cases than the courts: wonderful article on this by Eric Berkowitz in Los Angeles Times' West magazine yesterday).

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Oct 23, 2006 5:40:22 PM

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