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kaitie
04-06-2013, 10:06 PM
Okay, I've just written a situation I didn't expect in which my MC recorded a dude trying to convince him to commit a crime for him. The person in question is a major political figure, so it's going to be a tough situation in the first place because of his clout.

Anyway, I'm trying to figure out if he's done anything he could be charged with. Basically, he's trying to get someone to dig up dirt on his opponent in the coming election. He hasn't said how to do it or to commit any crimes.

There's more weirdness to it than just this, but basically, I'm trying to figure out if saying, "I want you to find something on this guy and expose it" is in and of itself illegal. As far as I can tell, it's not.

Also, the politician threatens the guy to try to get him to cooperate, which I'm pretty sure is illegal, but how direct would the threat have to be to charge someone? It's pretty vague right now, but it's clearly meant to be intimidating.

I know that the guy isn't going to be prosecuted, and the prosecutor is actually going to be forced to stop pursuing the case, but I'd like to know the terminology regarding what exactly he could be potentially charged with (even if it's so I can say "he can't be charged with blah blah blah" because of blah blah blah").

I'm not entirely sure I'm making sense, but basically I'm trying to write a conversation with the prosecutor saying why they don't have enough to go on, or what she'd like to go on and then her boss says "that will never stick because..."

This was a lot easier before they actually had the recording, but it makes too much sense for my MC to have recorded the conversation to pass it up.

mirandashell
04-06-2013, 10:10 PM
Incitement to a crime is illegal, I think. But the evidence would need to be extremely strong if the guy is a powerful figure. He would need to mention the crime in the recording, at the very least.

King Neptune
04-06-2013, 10:15 PM
Mirand is right. It has to be specific. People can talk all day about committing a crime, and that's just noise.

kaitie
04-06-2013, 10:23 PM
See, that's why I thought that one wasn't viable. He never mentions the crime--just says "I want you to find something." He thinks he's talking to a criminal, but that proves nothing. He could just mean take pictures of the dude with his girlfriend. So if I wanted to say there wasn't enough for a charge, it would be an incitement charge?

That's good because, like I said, I don't want there to be enough to charge on that element. What about the threats, though? How specific would that have to be?"

He technically kidnapped this guy, but I don't think that can be considered kidnapping because his security guard did it, and they're claiming that they caught the guy breaking into the house. Basically, they're saying "we apprehended a criminal."

mirandashell
04-06-2013, 10:28 PM
Yeah, it's not going to wash. He's a powerful man with major protection. You need concrete evidence to get the CPS to even consider charging him.

ironmikezero
04-06-2013, 10:51 PM
Kaitie, where does this take place (the jurisdiction/applicable laws will matter)?

kaitie
04-06-2013, 10:54 PM
Virginia? That can be changed if necessary.

mirandashell
04-06-2013, 10:56 PM
Ah! Sorry mate, I assumed it was in Britain for some reason. Take no notice of my posts.

kaitie
04-06-2013, 11:04 PM
Lol! Sorry about that. I should have clarified up front.

I have another related question to add to all this. This little plot change has complicated matters lol.

If they can prove that the politician dude had planned to basically grab this guy and hold him and force him to do their bidding, what would that be, if anything? Like I said, I know they have to drop charges, but the situation I'm going for is basically this: The prosecutor can't convict, but she wants to pursue the case because she has enough of something to suspect/know that the politician dude was doing something illegal/shady. Because the guy has a lot of clout, she's basically pushed to drop it and not pursue it further by her boss. Which is a big inciting event, blah blah blah.

Without the recording, it's almost easier because they don't know exactly what was going down, which gave them reason to investigate to try to figure out whether or not anything illegal had happened.

I've tried reading legal information to figure this out, but to be honest so much of it just goes right over my head. Anyway, this is a major event in the story and a lot of what happens later depends on how all this plays out, so I want to make sure I get it right before I put something on paper that completely doesn't work.

King Neptune
04-06-2013, 11:05 PM
See, that's why I thought that one wasn't viable. He never mentions the crime--just says "I want you to find something." He thinks he's talking to a criminal, but that proves nothing. He could just mean take pictures of the dude with his girlfriend. So if I wanted to say there wasn't enough for a charge, it would be an incitement charge?

That's good because, like I said, I don't want there to be enough to charge on that element. What about the threats, though? How specific would that have to be?"

He technically kidnapped this guy, but I don't think that can be considered kidnapping because his security guard did it, and they're claiming that they caught the guy breaking into the house. Basically, they're saying "we apprehended a criminal."

Claiming they caught him breaking in changes things. I was going to mention that a vague threat like "I'll rip you face off," doesn't go anywhere, but they could say some very nasty things to someone they are planning to say was caught breaking in, and those threats wouldn't go anywhere either.

-Hey, your character is in trouble. Listen, if you want him to get out of trouble, then he just has to do something for me. Do you know what I mean?-

Unfortunately, your character will have a lot of trouble making a legal complaint against the politician. He can try, and, if he is an old friend, then the prosecutor might believe him, even with the stack of witnesses against him.

kaitie
04-06-2013, 11:10 PM
Well, he doesn't really make a legal complaint. He raises a huge fuss in the police station to get himself off (turns out, he really was breaking in :tongue) about how he wants the guy arrested and what not. His story makes sense, and they manage to make it look like the politician and his security guards were just being overly zealous (this takes place during a big party, so the guy had reason to be on the property) and screwed up. After my MC gets out of dodge, he doesn't ever go back and try to sue or get them in trouble or anything.

It's more a matter of how it influences the prosecutor. I want her and one of the detectives to try to pursue the case against the politician, thinking that they actually have a chance to stop him because they know he was basically pulling a vigilante attack on this (supposedly innocent) bystander, blah blah blah. She gets told to drop the case, and it goes back to something someone else had said earlier in the book that just strikes her as odd, so she starts looking into it and realizing her boss is in the pocket of the politician dude.

I just need to know what elements she could be pursuing, what charges he can/can't be charged with (so I can get the lingo right), that sort of thing.

jclarkdawe
04-06-2013, 11:21 PM
A certain president, from a time long away and far ago, was musing to his staff. "Gee, I wish we knew what was going on in the other party's headquarters. It would really help me get elected if we knew this stuff."

And soon, on a nice June night in a city that shall remain nameless, at an apartment complex that also shall remain nameless, some men were caught breaking into the other party's headquarters.

Get a good book on Watergate. Figure out how this all played out. You might also look at King Henry II and Thomas Becket.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironmikezero
04-06-2013, 11:30 PM
From a US federal perspective...

If two or more people discuss and plan to commit a criminal act, that's not necessarily a crime in most US jurisdictions. However, if any one of those folks does something - anything - in furtherance of that plan, then all are guilty of conspiracy (under federal law; 18USC371).

If someone solicits another to commit a crime that includes any sort of physical force, that violates 18USC373.

Extortion, blackmail, etc. tend to be the hallmarks of those politicians who flirt with racketeering violations of 18USC1951-1968 inclusive.

Remember that the Commonwealth of Virginia has its own versions of most of these laws, and therefore concurrent jurisdiction. It's not double jeopardy; violators can be prosecuted in both state and federal courts. Subsequent sentences can be concurrent or consecutive.

Politicians routinely try to dig up dirt on their opponents - it's expected. However, should a crime or violation of civil law be committed in the process, prosecutions and/or civil suits are possible - indeed, even likely.

Politicians fear bad press almost more than anything. Just the possibility of a Grand Jury investigation can derail a campaign.

Don't forget that prosecutors are political animals, too. US Attorneys are appointed by the President, with Senate approval. State/county prosecutors (District Attorneys), with rare exceptions, run for office.

If your bad guy is to be powerful, make him the unseen, and seemingly insulated, power behind the respective political machine.

King Neptune
04-07-2013, 12:30 AM
Just go with it. They convicted that halfwit who was governor of Illinois for idle talk. Let it happen here.

kaitie
04-07-2013, 02:27 AM
That's actually what I was thinking of, Neptune. I think to the prosecutor, this is on par with that. She knows the guy was conspiring to have a crime committed, she just has to prove it, but she's shut down before she can.

Steve Collins
04-08-2013, 06:21 PM
Private Investigators are hired many times by political parties to dig the dirt. The industry name for this is 'Opposition Research'. Also you picked Virginia for the recording of the conversation which is good as it's only a one-party state (see link below) many states are two-party states and require both parties to know the conversation is being recorded.

Russell Secord
04-10-2013, 10:14 PM
Ripped from the headlines ...

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/04/republicans-threaten-legal-action-over-mcconnell-recording----heres-why-they-may-be-out-of-luck.php?ref=fpb

Someone taped a meeting of Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) staff while they talked about countering Ashley Judd, who had threatened to run against him (she has since dropped out). According to the linked article, it's likely nobody will be charged with a crime, since only one party in Kentucky (as in Virginia, noted above) needs to consent.

While I'm here, a suggestion. Instead of finding dirt on the opposing candidate, how about something dirtier? The agent is caught trying to plant something incriminating or embarrassing in the target's house. If he was invited to the party and didn't take anything, it's technically not burglary. The target won't press charges because that would bring the manufactured evidence to light. So the agent doesn't confess and goes free, but obviously he was involved in something unethical.

Hendo
04-14-2013, 09:51 PM
Okay, I've just written a situation I didn't expect in which my MC recorded a dude trying to convince him to commit a crime for him. The person in question is a major political figure, so it's going to be a tough situation in the first place because of his clout. On its own there's nothing wrong with this. I could tell someone to go into a deli and steal a soda for me but I'm not trying to coerce them into doing it. Odds are they'll just say no and it would be done with. But it would be different if say person A told person B that if they didn't steal the soda they would tell the person B's wife about an affair he was having.

Anyway, I'm trying to figure out if he's done anything he could be charged with. Basically, he's trying to get someone to dig up dirt on his opponent in the coming election. He hasn't said how to do it or to commit any crimes. I'm a little lost here... are the trying to convince him to commit a crime and dig up dirt on an opponent separate? Anyway, on its own, someone can hire a private investigator to look into someone. That can be highly effective but there are also limits on what they can and can't do. Basically a PI needs to follow the law. They can't break into someone's house and search the content of a desk for something incriminating. Because then it would become a matter of, "ok well where did you get this information from?" You would however be surprised about that amount of information that can be discovered about someone through legal means. It's like mudslinging in a presidential election.

There's more weirdness to it than just this, but basically, I'm trying to figure out if saying, "I want you to find something on this guy and expose it" is in and of itself illegal. As far as I can tell, it's not. Now I know you said he is not telling him to commit any crimes but just because a PI is required to follow the law doesn't mean they always will. Maybe your character finds and pays a dirty PI or one who has flexible integrity. Then he could go with an "I don't want to know where you got it" mentality. Anonymous things turn up in the mail at police stations and news agencies all the time with no clue as to who sent them. They can't always be used but in the right hands they might be just what's needed to get the ball rolling through legal or public means. Since this revolves around an election, it could just be something that isn't even true or provable but still makes up the public's mind for them. The mind of the average voter can be swayed pretty easily by hear-say.

Also, the politician threatens the guy to try to get him to cooperate, which I'm pretty sure is illegal, but how direct would the threat have to be to charge someone? It's pretty vague right now, but it's clearly meant to be intimidating. What kind of threat are they making? And will they be able to prove the threat actually happened. The range of things you could have someone being charged with is pretty broad. I had a Sgt. in my academy who arrested a guy for saying "I'll kill you." It was pretty minor and said during a traffic stop by someone I would never take seriously in that respect but he charged the guy with making terroristic threats (NJ 2C:12-3. Terroristic threats. if you want to see the law itself ~ oh and it should be noted that NJ is a little weird when it comes to laws)

I know that the guy isn't going to be prosecuted, and the prosecutor is actually going to be forced to stop pursuing the case, but I'd like to know the terminology regarding what exactly he could be potentially charged with (even if it's so I can say "he can't be charged with blah blah blah" because of blah blah blah"). Again, would need to know the type of threat being made, what evidence has been collected etc... anyway I hope this all helps a little. Also don't forget that laws vary from state to state with NJ being the most @%$ backwards lol

I'm not entirely sure I'm making sense, but basically I'm trying to write a conversation with the prosecutor saying why they don't have enough to go on, or what she'd like to go on and then her boss says "that will never stick because..."

This was a lot easier before they actually had the recording, but it makes too much sense for my MC to have recorded the conversation to pass it up.

hope this helps a little