“We attach personal liability to things. You’re not guilty by mere association or mere membership — it’s just wrong. If they can get away with this, I fear for our future as free citizens.”
San Diego, Calif. – In an almost unbelievable case, a man with no criminal record, Aaron Harvey, is facing the possibility of life in prison for allegedly benefiting from the crimes of a gang.
His alleged crime was posting pictures to Facebook in which he is allegedly flashing gang signs.
Harvey, as well as rapper Tiny Doo aka Brandon Duncan, whose case the Free Thought Project reported on previously, are charged under CA Penal Code section 182.5, passed in 2000 to prosecute anyone that “benefits” from a gang crime.
This definition has obviously given prosecutors too wide of discretion in charging individuals with a crime when they go so far as to accuse Duncan of the same crime as Harvey, but for lyrics in his music, rather than for pictures on Facebook.
Harvey, Duncan and 14 other individuals are accused of conspiring with gang members under this law. The gang members reportedly shot nine people in 2013 and early 2014, according to Raw Story.
It must be noted that neither Harvey nor Duncan were implicated in any of the shootings, but are being charged under the earlier referenced law for “benefiting” from the crimes of the gang.
In the case of Duncan, prosecutors allege that the sales of his music were increased by the shootings, a seemingly dubious assertion.
In the case of Harvey, a man with no criminal record, the state is alleging that his stature increased and that is how he benefited from the gangs crimes.
“They’re saying I benefited because my stature, my respect, went up,” Harvey said. “I didn’t even know I had any stature. I don’t understand how someone can benefit from something they don’t even know exists.”
Although Harvey has never been convicted of committing a crime, he has been stopped by police over 50 times and it was at some point during this time he was put into the CALGANG database denoting him as a gang member
“If the district attorney wins this case, and I am convicted of crimes I didn’t commit or have any knowledge of, not only will my life change forever, but so may the lives of every young person who had been wrongly documented as a member of a gang,” Harvey said.
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The evidence against Harvey, that the government claims makes him is a criminal, is Facebook photos of Harvey with know Lincoln Park gang members making hand gestures.
The legal experts that have weighed in on the case have in no uncertain terms let it be know that the state is taking extreme liberty in prosecuting Americans under this arcane law.
“This is as draconian a conspiracy law as you’ll see anywhere in the United States,” said Robert Weisberg, a professor at Stanford Law School.
Recently Superior Court Judge David McGill dismissed charges against a number of defendants in the case, finding that the men didn’t “willfully benefit” from the gang shootings.
In a hearing scheduled for March 16, attorneys for Harvey and Duncan will request a dismissal of their charges. On Friday about 75 people rallied outside the San Diego County Courthouse before the hearing.
“It’s not a guessing game — they’ve made it as obvious as they possibly could,” said Dana Greisen, head of the district attorney’s gang prosecution unit. “The social media stuff is in our face, in their rivals’ faces in no uncertain terms.”
But Harvey’s attorney, Edward Kinsey, sees thing in a drastically different light.
“This is not the American justice system,” said Kinsey. “We attach personal liability to things. You’re not guilty by mere association or mere membership — it’s just wrong. If they can get away with this, I fear for our future as free citizens.”
The old adage "You can judge a person by the company they keep," has taken on an ominous overtone in the year 2015; now one can be potentially sent to prison for life through no action of their own, but simply for the company they keep.
A man with no criminal record is facing life in prison for pictures on Facebook. This story needs to be put into the mainstream of America to highlight to the masses exactly how broken our system is.
If you think this case is as absurd as we do share it with a friend and lets make it viral!
Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, freethinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay's work has previously been published on BenSwann.com and WeAreChange.org. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.