What do you call a district attorney who won't prosecute a crime because he agrees with the political cause of the defendants?
Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter has dropped criminal charges against a pair of environmentalists who anchored a boat to block a shipment of coal bound for a power plant in Somerset Massachusetts, opting instead to fine them each $2,000 to pay back the Somerset and State police departments.
The two defendants are global warming activists and Sutter is a big supporter of climate change prevention.
“Because of my sympathy with their position, I was in a dilemma,” Sutter said afterward. “I have a duty to go forward to some extent with this case and to follow the applicable case law, but they were looking for a forum to present their very compelling case about climate change.”
Sutter is claiming the "necessity defense," which is normal reserved for immediate threats, and that the fines were sufficient punishment for breaking the law. He said charges weren't dropped, but were reduced to a civil infraction.
Kudos to NPR reporter Robin Young for asking Sutter about the dangerous precedent this set:
What if somebody who is anti-abortion dropped charges against people who stormed an abortion rights center, or prevented people from coming into that center?
Sutter dodged this question by saying the charges weren't dropped, just reduced. He then said the abortion clinic example involves "risk to others" and is therefor different.
He doesn't think people opposed to abortion believe there is a risk to others involved? The hypothetical anti-abortion prosecutor will say people are being directly killed right away. If anything, that's closer to the necessity defense than this case.
It must be great for the police to get some money back for the resources they wasted getting these protesters out of the way, but what about the coal company that was harmed by their actions? Doesn't that company deserve normal legal protections or compensation?
Sam Sutter is unfit for office. He's correct that man-made climate change is a real issue that needs to be addressed somehow, but by inappropriately excusing criminal actions and playing utilitarian games he has failed in his sworn duty to uphold the law.