Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams Is A Thug

Politics & Current Events

Thugs defy or ignore the rule of law, and instead follow the rule that the strong and the politically powerful should prevail over the weak and the powerless. In theory, the government should pursue the rule of law, rather than the rule of thuggery. But reality bears little relation to theory or aspiration, least of all when police officers are involved.

Today's example: Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, who is pursuing the rule of thuggery over the rule of law.

Radley Balko knocks this story out of the park, so I will be brief (for me). Philadelphia resident Mark Fiorino carried a firearm openly in a manner that was fully legal — at least under the rule of law. But Mark Fiorino erred in disregarding the law of thuggery, not bearing in mind that the police are frequently ignorant of applicable gun laws, frequently have strong opinions of what gun laws ought to be, and are frequently and violently outraged that citizens think they are bound by the former (the rule of law) rather than the later (the law of thuggery). Mark Fiorino found himself confronted by screaming police with guns drawn and threatened with death:

Fiorino offered to show Dougherty his driver's and firearms licenses. The cop told him to get on his knees.

"Excuse me?" Fiorino said.

"Get down on your knees. Just obey what I'm saying," Dougherty said.

"Sir," Fiorino replied, "I'm more than happy to stand here -"

"If you make a move, I'm going to f—— shoot you," Dougherty snapped. "I'm telling you right now, you make a move, and you're going down!"

"Is this necessary?" Fiorino said.

It went on like that for a little while, until other officers responded to Dougherty's calls for backup.

Fiorino was forced to the ground and shouted at as he tried to explain that he had a firearms license and was legally allowed to openly carry his weapon.

"You f—— come here looking for f—— problems? Where do you live?" yelled one officer.

"I'm sorry, gentlemen," Fiorino said. "If I'm under arrest, I have nothing left to say."

"F—— a——, shut the f— up!" the cop hollered.

Fiorino lived that day. He was in the right, legally, but he was also very lucky not to be shot, or tased, or beaten into a coma, or sodomized with a broom handle, or arrested immediately for some invented offense.

But Fiorino's experience was not over. He had taped the encounter. He put the tapes on YouTube.

And — as we well know — embarrassing the police is a sure way to get prosecuted by their lapdog prosecutors.

Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams has allowed his office to file charges against Fiorino for “reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct” — two charges frequently employed because there's no explicit law on the books for "contempt of cop." Apparently the government's theory is that Fiorino was "belligerent and hostile” to the investigating police, and that his persistence in asserting his rights required many police to race to the scene to confront him, threatening public order. The police theory of the case sounds similar:

Police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said the department believes that Fiorino wanted to get into a confrontation with cops, that he wanted to see them lose their cool so he later could file a lawsuit.

The District Attorney and the police, ostensibly guardians of the rule of law, have thus retreated into thuggish wife-beater logic: "you know that you provoke me when you mouth off like that, so why did you make me hit you and make a scene?"

Fiorino walked down a street carrying a firearm in compliance with all applicable laws. Confronted by out-of-control police, he responded by asserting his rights. The YouTube videos put the lie to the government's claim that he was "belligerent and hostile" — at least as free people would define those terms. Assertion of rights is only "belligerent" or "hostile" if the government official hearing the assertion is thuggish, hostile to those rights, or pathologically entitled.

But remember: some cops, and some government officials, feel entitled not only to our adherence to the rule of law, but to unquestioning compliance with their every demand. They expect us to grovel.

The criminal charges pursued by Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams represent the thuggish fist of the government lashing out at a citizen who failed to grovel. Williams is a thug, and should be treated like one.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Scott Jacobs  •  May 19, 2011 @9:12 am

    I wonder if I start being friendly to Mr Fiorrino now, if I well get to enjoy a bit of the mountain of money the city will be giving him in about a year or so…

  2. SPQR  •  May 19, 2011 @5:29 pm

    Hear hear.

  3. concerned  •  May 20, 2011 @4:10 am

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Officer Michael Dougherty's ignorance does not excuse his reckless endangerment, assault with a deadly weapon, his childish and unprofessional disorderly conduct, his unlawful arrest and abuse of process. What Sgt Michael Dougherty did was very dangerous, reckless, negligent and stupid. Sgt Michael Dougherty recklessly endangered lives. Sgt Dougherty committed aggravated assault, threatened a peaceful lawful citizen with deadly force, acted in an extremely unprofessional, childish and emotional manner, and lied (but thankfully was caught on tape). Thankfully the victim, Mark Firorino, remained calm, professional, orderly and rational and was able to deescalate the reckless situation Officer Dougherty created. Officer Michael Dougherty should suffer serious discipline and if he should remain on the Philadelphia police force at all, Sgt. Michael Dougherty should never be permitted to carry a firearm while on duty again. Officer Michael Dougherty's reckess, dangerous, unlawful and disorderly conduct will likely and rightfully cost the City of Philadephia money time and resources.

    D.A. R Seth Williams is no better. Attorney R. Seth Williams charged the victim for Dougherty's reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct after the truth became public when the recording was posted to youtube. R. Seth Williams' retaliatory charges violate the the attorney's code of ethics and constitutes malicious prosecution and abuse of process. If it has not already been done a bar complaint should be filed against R. Seth Williams and the state bar should exercise appropriate snactions against him.

  4. ParatrooperJJ  •  May 20, 2011 @7:13 am

    Have you filed a complaint against him with the PA bar?

  5. Base of the Pillar  •  May 21, 2011 @12:03 am

    Philadelphia is far worse than Mos Eisley (they of course have the police unit known for crimes Serpico would shudder at ; cases in which, btw, the police involved are still getting paid by the citizens who love each other in a brotherly manner)

    Anyhow, I was reading up on this the other day and read some of the stories at the Philadelphia Inquirer (the city's main newspaper) site. Two things disturbed me.

    First, an editorial who blames the victim. "He was legally right, but irresponsible", as if you need a reason more than a legal right in order to comply with the bullies of the world (see editorial here: Stu, the Cop's Bitch)

    And far worse was that (presuming it's genuine, which I really don't doubt given the idiocy of that police dept), there is a letter from a Philly police captain berating an innocent, legal citizen and essentially pinning the next police death on him (Captain berates innocent man). Oh, did I mention that this captain was known for a series of DUI obstruction cases?

    If you even sniff near Philly, you must be cautious.

  6. mike  •  May 24, 2011 @1:46 pm

    How about the prosecuter in the D.A.'s office who was dating a drug dealer, no action was taken against her by Seth , google Jennifer Mitrick

  7. Mark Brooks  •  May 28, 2011 @7:30 am

    U.S. Supreme Court Decision:

    Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451 (1987)
    Police officers are not justified in making arrests for disorderly conduct-type charges, where an individual questions or otherwise criticizes an officer’s actions. Even fighting words, when directed at an officer should be treated differently since trained officers are unlikely to respond to such words. “The freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state”