Drop All Federal Charges in Rand Paul Assault
Is it illegal to physically attack another person in Kentucky? If so, it's unclear why there is any need or cause whatsoever for the involvement of federal authorities in Rand Paul's recent altercation with a neighbor at this Kentucky home. Indeed, even if Paul had been murdered, there'd still be no reason to involve federal authorities.
Murder is illegal in every one of the fifty states. It's even illegal in Puerto Rico. But, for the last several decades, there's been a disturbing trend in American criminal justice matters. Everything is being federalized.
This was not always the case, however.
This law provides for a death penalty for killing a member of Congress, a presidential or vice presidential candidate, or a Supreme Court justice, as well as imprisonment up to life for attempting to kill such a person...
The background of this law is interesting. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, it was not a federal crime to kill a U.S. president. Had alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald been tried, the trial would have taken place in a Texas state court. In 1965, Congress passed a law, 18 U.S.C. 1751, making it a federal crime to kill, kidnap, or assault the President or the Vice President.
In 1968, presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles. That was not a federal crime at the time, and Sirhan Sirhan was convicted in California state court for the murder and sentenced to death. (That sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972, when that state abolished the death penalty, and Sirhan remains in a California state prison.) In 1971, Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. 351, which extended the protection of the Federal criminal law to members of Congress, paralleling that extended to the President and the Vice President.
This fits well into the usual habit of transferring the business of criminal justice to federal authorities with the effect of further extending federal powers and increasing prosecutorial resources that can be brought to bear against the accused. This federalization helps to further diminish the role of the states in the administration of public policy, to extend the reach — and expense — of federal courts, and to impose the costs of a double-layered legal system on the taxpayers.
Prior to federalizing these laws, had there been ambiguity as to whether it was illegal to murder, kidnap, or commit battery against people? Where the streets running with the blood of murdered federal politicians?
Of course not. These laws do send a valuable message, however. They remind us that there are one set of laws for a special protected class of federal officials, agents, and employees. And there's a second set of laws for the people who merely pay for it all.