8/30/2010

DISHONOR AMONG THIEVES

No one was more amazed than I was when I was released from jail and I found my yellow 1968 Ford Fairlane on blocks with all four wheels missing and "For Sale Parts" painted on the windshield. Two weeks earlier, I had been stopped by the cops for running a red light. Before I could stop the car, my buddy in the passenger seat was stuffing his dope under the seat. Of course then the cops found the dope, and told us, "Either someone claims it or you all go to jail." Being the stand-up guy that I am, I took the rap, and my crime partner drove away in my car. Upon my release from jail, I find my car up on blocks with weeds growing in the suspension, a blown engine, and a "For Sale" sign painted on the windshield. My buddies clearly showed their appreciation for my sacrifice by chasing jack rabbits in my car and having a high old time till the engine blew. Meanwhile I was cooling my jets in the Kern County Jail, which incidentally is the filthiest jail I had ever been in before or since. So much for honor among thieves.

Although people may believe in honor among thieves when they band together to commit some crime, that mythology soon disappears when the police catch the crew and put them in the interrogation room. The vast majority of the time someone snitches and everybody goes down. Usually the first snitch gets the best deal and the last snitch enjoys the hospitality of the department of corrections as a reward for keeping his or her mouth shut. One of the cops’ favorite tricks is to tell you this lie: "You know Joe told us everything, so you may as well tell your side too."

Even if you don’t snitch, you can go down for your friend’s stupidity just by being there. There is a law known as "constructive possession" which means roughly that if you are in a car with someone, or anywhere else for that matter, and they have something illegal and you know what it is and where it is and you have access to it, then you are in constructive possession of it and you can be convicted for the contraband even if it’s not yours. Do not EVER let anyone ever get in your car with dope, guns, or anything else you do not feel like going to jail for, or you will end up going to jail and trying to explain why that dope or gun belongs to someone else.

In addition to constructive possession, there is a law called "aiding and abetting" which means that if you and your crime partner agree to commit a crime, you are acting as an agent for your crime partner. He is also acting as your agent and you are responsible for any stupid act your partner commits in the commission of the offense. This is how the get away car driver who is promised that the robber will only use a water pistol in the bank goes down for murder when the robber shoots and kills the bank teller. And the kick in the teeth is that the shooter may snitch first and end up doing the same time as the driver who kept his mouth shut.

I had one client who was a notable exception to the "everybody snitches" rule. He was arrested for felony murder, and when I told him that he should expect one of his five co-defendants to snitch, he bet me 200 push-ups that not one of them would snitch. I still owe him the push-ups. In fact, after he was acquitted of murder --much to my amazement I might add-- he was arrested by the feds for dope and a gun a few years later. When the DEA arrested him and tried to get him to snitch, he said "Fuck you! Take me to jail." In federal court, just about everyone snitches, but not this guy. He kept his mouth shut and pled guilty, and now he’s in federal prison in Texas doing his time like a true gangster.

But most of us are not true gangsters, nor can we count on our buddies to be the kind of crime partners who don’t snitch. Ultimately, the best bet for a stupid criminal is to try to stay out of the wrong place at the wrong time with wrong stupid-ass friends. Just look at the economics of the situation. If you estimate the money from any crime you expect to get if you get away with it, whether its selling dope or robbing a bank, and then divide your expected proceeds by the amount of time you spend in prison for your stupidity, you will soon realize that you’re better off wearing a paper hat somewhere and asking the customers "Would you like fires with that?"than you are trying to make some easy money. If you can count money, you should be able to master the math.

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