Guilt By Association: You got served

Chapter Six take one | Main | Chapter Seven

Last time we ended with me urging Suzie to run as far and as fast as she could away from the rest of our Merry Band of Protesters before they destroyed her life. This being a novel written by Michael Farris instead of me, of course that didn’t happen.

Instead, Suzie triumphantly goes to call Author Avatar Peter Barron for help. Saintly Mom Gwen, now Gwen Barron, takes the call and seems utterly surprised that Suzie might call her from the other side of the state. Naturally, Gwen thinks Suzie must be joking when she says she’s being sued for a million dollars.

Let’s think about this a minute Gwen. You’re surprised to get a phone call from Suzie since she’s off in Bellingham, suggesting that Suzie must not call them up on the random while she’s at school. That’s a pretty big hint that if she’s making a long distance call on a Saturday morning it must be something important. So of course the appropriate reaction is to ask if it’s a joke. Oh well, Gwen is the one who almost kidnapped her kid out of foster care in the last book, no one ever accused her of having common sense.

Poor Suzie almost starts crying, wondering, “Why won’t anyone believe me this morning?”

Move far, far away from all of these people and change your name, Suzie, it’s for the best.

Aaaaaaand, of course the conversation with Author Avatar Peter gets passed off to the Creepy Colonel Control Freak and Pastor Randy Wallace while the women wait in the other room. Couldn’t possibly have the women contribute to their own defense, nope, that’s men’s work.

By the way, anybody think it’s the least bit odd that Suzie is getting sued for a million bucks under RICO and yet hasn’t called her parents yet? In Farrisland that’s the first thing I’d expect a 19 year old kid to do. *cough*you might be in a cult if they cut you off from your family*cough*

Finally. Colonel Control Freak acknowledges that Suzie’s done a good job, “I appreciate your persistence, Suzie. Thank you.” Of course no acknowledgement that he’s a colossal control freak and mansplaining douche, because the best way to keep someone under your control is to tear them down and then dole out faint praise without ever admitting that your screw up nearly screwed everyone over. And poor Suzie is so brainwashed that, “Suzie smiled, beaming confidently in the colonel’s acceptance.”

Run, Suzie, run.

image

And now, what I know you’ve all been waiting for, we get to find out how Author Avatar Lawyer Peter, Saintly Mom Gwen, and little Casey have been fairing since the end of Anonymous Tip.

Gwen is pregnant, and wonders whether it’s possible for Peter to love this baby as much as he loves Casey. Peter’s adopted Casey, what with her father oh so conveniently crashing into a lake and getting killed off last book. I think Farris is trying to tell us that Peter loves Casey like she’s his bio kid, but that’s an awkward way to do it.

Oh no! Is there trouble brewing in paradise? Gwen isn’t all that happy about Peter’s busy schedule, even complains that he spent 45 minutes going to his office and printing the legal papers relating to the lawsuit against our Merry Band of Protesters before rejoining her and Casey at the park.

Anyhoo, our favorite protesters are being sued under FACE and RICO, and of course Farris has to give us the proper Bluebook cite on the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, because that’s totally what the readers care about.

I just literally LOL’d at this line. “As experienced as he was with the federal system, he had never had the occasion to read this particular statute before.” Do you have any idea just how many federal statutes there are? This is like Sarah Palin saying she read all of the magazines and papers, but she just hadn’t happened to read the Podunk Post Gazette before. There’s a shit ton of federal statutes, it’s pretty much to be expected that he hadn’t read FACE.

image

Back to trouble in paradise, Gwen and Peter are having a bit of a disagreement about whether he should take the case, what with it being off on the other side of the state and all. Gwen’s worried about how much time it’s going to take up, and Peter’s getting irritated with her for asking for specifics.

This whole conversation is making me seriously dislike Author Avatar Peter because he’s so passive aggressively manipulating Gwen into getting her to agree to what he’s already decided he’s going to do, while making it seem like the whole thing is her idea.

”Honey, this is a really important case, not only because it’s Suzie, but because of the work they’re doing. These people are saving dozens of lives each month. I think I should help them, don’t you?

“Of course I do,” Gwen agreed, relaxing a bit.

Then, after discussing how many days he’ll be gone—he thinks seven days max over six to eight months, she thinks things always take twice as long as he expects (she calls that being “optimistic” about time, I call it “deliberately underestimating everything to get his wife to agree to things”), we get this exchange.

”Honey, if you don’t want me to take the case, just say so. I don’t want this to cause a problem between us.”

Gwen smiled, “No, Peter, I want you to take it. I like when you’re fighting for things like this. I just want you close by as much as possible.”

Notice what he did there? He set it up as if it’s her choice, but it really isn’t, because the choice is either leaving Suzie hanging out to dry and letting dozens of lives get taken every month, or else her agreeing to let him take it. If she doesn’t agree, she looks unreasonable, but now if she says anything about him being gone too long, it was her decision so why is she complaining?

Remember, Peter Barron is our author avatar, and this is how Farris is writing his avatar? As a manipulator who corners his wife into decisions? This is not a good look for you, Michael Farris. Not at all.

Back in Bellingham the next day, our Merry Band of Idiots Protesters, have a conference call with Author Avatar Peter to discuss the case. Guess this means Farris doesn’t have a problem with working on Sundays, this is probably how he convinces himself he’s not a fundamentalist.

I’m super excited, because I get to talk about RICO now!

Peter explains that RICO, “was really designed by Congress to go after organized crime, but the abortion industry appears to have twisted it into something they like to use against pro-life protesters.”

Here’s the thing. RICO wasn’t just used to go after random protesters, it was used to go after protesters who had a repeated pattern of breaking the law to the point that they fit the statutory requirements to be considered organized crime.

What Farris couldn’t have known when the book was written was that several years later, in the 2006 case Scheidler v. NOW, the Supreme Court ruled that RICO didn’t apply to pro-life groups, not because the groups who were sued under RICO didn’t fit the definition of organized crime, but because SCOTUS found that because Congress passed a law specifically dealing with criminal activity by anti-abortion protesters, FACE, that meant that Congress intended FACE to apply and not RICO.

That said, if not for FACE, in NOW v. Scheidler in 1994 (decided pre-FACE), SCOTUS found that profit motive wasn’t necessary for groups to be considered organized crime under RICO. I happen to think that was a terrible decision, which, as much as it pains me to admit it, puts me in agreement with Farris here.

I don’t think that protest groups, even protest groups who break the law repeatedly, should be considered racketeers. We’ve got a long history on both sides of the aisle in this country of civil disobedience being carried out by protest movements and I think if people ever get in the habit of routinely using RICO against protesters it would have a chilling effect on protest. It’s the kind of tool that would have been used against the civil rights movement in the ‘60s if it had been at the FBI’s disposal back then.

Okay, I’m sure you’re not wanting me to stay on my soapbox about how much I dislike that they’ve removed the profit motive requirement from RICO, so I’ll carry on.

Our Merry Band of Protesters is busy insisting to Author Avatar Peter that they didn’t do anything that falls under “threat of force” or “physical obstruction” that would make FACE apply to them. Given the scenario in chapter one that read to me as potentially being a threat of force, I’m not so sure about their insistence that they never did anything to violate FACE.

That doesn’t really matter though, because I’m sure Mysterious Vince’s doctored tape is going to come into play in chapter seven.

image

Chapter Six take one | Main | Chapter Seven