Perp walk politics

I know I have lost

Photo by Sarah Galasko (cc)

When the most hated man in America – Martin Shkreli – was arrested on securities fraud charges, I thought to myself that I bet there is a politico-performance element to it.

What are the chances that this hate figure just happens to come to the attention of the federal authorities shortly after making himself widely “hated” for increasing the price of a drug he owns by 700%?

What are the chances that Reuters just happened to be there when he was arrested?!

Turns out I am not alone in wondering this, from Popehat:

Based on my experience with perp-walked clients1, I think the more likely scenario is that a government agent responsible for investigating and prosecuting Mr. Shkreli tipped Reuters off about the arrest — that someone told Reuters to be there to catch the perp walk.

If Reuters was there through independent investigation, then good for them. But if Reuters was there because of a tip from law enforcement, then I’d like to ask a couple of questions.

There are two subjects on which Reuters could have informed its audience, two sets of questions it could have answered:

Subject One: Who leaked the time and place of the arrest? Was it an FBI agent, a prosecutor, staff, a coordinating local cop? How high up in the government did the decision to leak the arrest go? Did the leak violate the law? Did it violate the defendant’s rights? What was the government’s purpose in leaking the time and place of the arrest? How does this instance fit into the pattern of which arrests get leaked and which don’t? Which nonviolent defendants without records get arrested, and which get summonsed in (or self-surrender through arrangement with their lawyers), and why? What impact does a front-page picture of a defendant in handcuffs have on the jury pool? Is that impact a feature, or a bug, of leaking it? Was the leak intended to inflict extra-judicial humiliation and punishment on the defendant? If the government lies about whether or not it leaked, would you still keep it secret?

Subject Two: What would Martin Shkreli look like being led away in handcuffs?

It seems Reuters chose to address the second subject.

The authorities are want to look good by going after this hate figure. I believe there probably is a case to answer, but I also think there are large dollops of “extra-judicial humiliation and punishment” being dropped on the defendant.