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Monday, October 17, 2011

More federal jurisdiction on TV

I love when TV even indirectly or incidentally throws some law into the mix. Last night's episode of HBO's Boardwalk Empire actually turned on federal jurisdiction.

For those of you who don't watch the show, the main character is Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, an Atlantic City (N.J.) government official/political-machine boss/bootlegger/gangster in the early 1920s, loosely based on real-life Atlantic City boss/bootlegger Nucky Johnson). In early 1921, Thompson has been charged in state court with election fraud. His lawyer discovers that part of the fraud included bringing prostitutes from Philadelphia to Atlantic City to provide sexual favors for certain individuals in exchange for voting Republican. This violates the Mann Act of 1910, which generally prohibits the transportation of women across state lines for "immoral purposes." This means that Thompson now can be charged in federal court.

The lawyer arranges for the women to "report" Thompson to the New Jersey Attorney General, who is prosecuting the case. And while he  is initially thrilled about these new charges and the federalization of the case, the story makes clear that Thompson (and his attorney) welcome this development, since  U.S. Attorney General Harry Daugherty (Warren Harding's real AG) is one of Thompson's cronies and likely will make sure the charges are dismissed. Thompson later tells his mistress, with a smile, "I violated the Mann Act."

Hey, the federal government was overcharging even in 1921.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 17, 2011 at 01:20 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman, Television | Permalink


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