The August 24, 2011 raid of Gibson Guitar in Tennessee wasn’t really about wood from endangered tree species. It never was.
Gibson’s very success made it a fat target for federal prosecutors, whom [Gibson CEO] Juszkiewicz alleges were operating at the behest of lumber unions and environmental pressure groups seeking to kill the market for lumber imports. “This case was not about conservation,” he says. “It was basically protectionism.”
Two months before the raid, lobbyists slipped some arcane supply-chain reporting provisions into an extension of the Lacey Act of 1900 that changed the technical definition of “fingerboard blanks,” which are legal to import.
With no clear legal standards, a sealed warrant the company has not been allowed to see too this day, no formal charges filed, and the threat of a prison term hanging over any executive who does not take “due care” to abide by this absurdly vague law, Gibson settled. “You’re fighting a very well organized political machine in the unions,” Juszkiewicz concluded. “And the conservation guys have sort of gone along.” Hey, what’s not to like about $50,000?
And this isn’t an isolated incident. Just ask Harvey Silverglate, Boston lawyer, activist, civil liberties advocate, and author of Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. As he explains, the Feds routinely take advantage of the vagueness of many of our laws by starting from the target and working backwards, selectively prosecuting people they want to go after by charging them with crimes they often don’t even know exist.
Juszkiewicz appears to have committed two sins against the current regime’s diktats: He donated to Republicans, and he resisted unionization of his workforce. Our government has been weaponized to strike at people who fail to step in line, both to harass them and to make an example of them for others to learn from.