Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers who have been concerned about the misuse of the three strikes law have reason to be alarmed. This law is typically used for offenders with an alleged history of violent crime. However, state prosecutors are considering charging a man with no history of violent crime, but a record of fraud, under the three strikes law. This sets a dangerous precedent, and must be opposed strongly.
The accused, Timothy Barnett is accused of 23 felonies including real estate fraud, and identity fraud. He's accused of talking five people into granting him title to their homes and pocketing the proceeds. He has pleaded not guilty. His first two strikes were for burglary in 1997. Under the three strikes law, burglary is lumped as a strike with dozens of other crimes. The three strikes law allows any felony to be counted as the third strike. That means that a conviction on any of the 23 charges that Barnett is facing could lead to him spending life in prison.
If Barnett is indeed convicted, then it would be one of the first times in the state's history that the three strikes law was used for white-collar crimes. State prosecutors argue that his history of fraud demands that the three strikes law be applied to him. According to them, what he did - using his ability to sweet talk people into trusting him and going after their money - was “horrible.”
It sets a dangerous precedent when you take someone's “horrible” actions and justify using the three strikes law against them. Barnett may have a history of fraud, but he has not killed anyone. It’s absurd to use a law that was originally meant to be used against persons accused of repeated and violent crime, against him.