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Ron Radosh

Andrew Sullivan’s Bust: The Real Issue

September 11th, 2009 - 1:29 pm

It seems that Andrew Sullivan’s application for US citizenship hangs in the balance — but not really, and that is the issue. Gawker and other sites report that this past summer, blogger and columnist Sullivan was arrested on national seashore in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for illegal possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor that would incur a $125 for Sullivan, if he was found guilty. No big deal — it happens a lot in that area of our country.

The only stumbling block is Sullivan’s pending U.S. citizenship, which might have been adversely affected should he have been brought to court. Enter the office of the U.S. Attorney. The local court was ordered to drop the charges, so that Sullivan would be able to gain his citizenship without a problem. It was clearly special treatment afforded the illustrious pundit. Robert Collings, the magistrate who would have heard the case, was stunned.

One court report noted: “Collings says he expressed his concern that ‘a dismissal would result in persons in similar situations being treated unequally before the law. … persons charged with the same offense on the Cape Cod National Seashore were routinely given violation notices, and if they did not agree to [pay the fine] were prosecuted by the United States Attorney. … [T]here was no apparent reason for treating Mr. Sullivan differently from other persons charged with the same offense.’” You can read the entire court comment by Collings here .

The question, then is simple: Why did Andrew Sullivan get special treatment from the U.S. Attorney? As the Collings statement makes clear, other similar offenders have regularly been hauled before the court, and forced to pay the fine if found guilty.  In Sullivan’s case, there are other far more important implications.

Andrew Sullivan has moved from the stance of a fierce conservative to that of a liberal supporter of the Obama administration. When Obama met after his election with liberal journalists, Sullivan was part of their group—not among those of the conservative journalists who met the President-elect.  He regularly blasts conservatives, especially those having anything to do with the Bush administration, and stands among the group constantly demanding fierce punishment for Cheney and company for authorizing torture of Gitmo detainees.

Now, more than ever, it appears that the United States Attorney is repaying a debt to Sullivan for his support to the administration. Why else would he be singled out for exclusive treatment? And doesn’t it also mean that Sullivan now will be more careful than ever to continue giving the administration his approval, at least until after he becomes a citizen? A debt paid leads to a debt owed.

As one journalist commented, and I paraphrase him, Sullivan has backed the Obama stimulus, and universal health care, becoming what this man calls “a shameless publicist for the administration.” Another journalist spoke to a friend who works in the office of the U.S. Attorney, and got this response from one of the attorneys:

The judge is spot on.  In fact, these sorts of misdemeanors are typically handled by 3rd yr. law students, detailees  from main Justice, or the new guy on the totem pole, with no review by meaningful scrutiny by senior management.  This sort of treatment is nothing short of extraordinary.  All criminal charges go through screening by management, but misdemeanors don’t get attention, except to see if there’s a potential felony.  This is paradigmatic of special pleading–and successful.

Finally, one journalist quipped: “As for the potential sentence: ‘The maximum penalty upon conviction of  the offense is a fine of $5,000, six months imprisonment, a $25 processing fee and a $10 special assessment.’ The $25 processing fee strikes me as excessive.”  I would add the $10 special assessment.

No, and hold the complaints — I don’t want Andrew Sullivan to face a problem gaining citizenship because he chose to smoke pot on a forbidden federal beach. I think the drug laws should be changed, and anyone found engaging in this “crime” should find the charges dismissed, if even the culprit is arrested.  What the marijuana does to his body is between himself and his health.

But the implications of his special treatment are important. And Sullivan, who blogs about everything, to this moment (4:30 pm East Coast Time) has not said one word about the situation on his own blog, although it is all over the internet.

So come on Andrew. Fess up. Give us the backstory, before we hear it on Glenn Beck.

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