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By Ann Coulter
© 2000, Human Events
Gee, wouldn’t you love to be a cop, right now? Every single day you
risk your life protecting and defending people you don’t even know. And
sometimes they hate you for it.
When you avert a crime, catch a criminal, or take enemy fire, the New
York Times doesn’t run endless panegyrics venerating you. But if you
ever make a mistake — even an honest mistake, a reasonable mistake, a
mistake anyone could have made, not to be confused with a Bill Clinton
“personal mistake” like committing perjury — your name may become a
household word akin to “Hitler,” and your life will be ruined.
In a case now being treated as a classic illustration of the evils of
“racial profiling” (at least by police experts such as Al Sharpton) over
four dozen black and Hispanic women told the police they had been raped
by a black man. Consequently, the police thought they should look for a
black man — no doubt as a result of their ignorant stereotyping.
Though the rapes began back in the David Dinkins administration, it
wasn’t until 1997 that the police connected many of the rapes through
DNA tests. At the end of 1998, when sketches of the rapist failed to
produce any results, Mayor Giuliani announced a $10,000 reward for the
The Cops Cared
The rapist was not only prolific, but vicious. He often beat and
robbed his victims — black and Hispanic women between the ages of 13
and 53. He typically raped them at gunpoint, and raped one woman in
front of her young daughter.
You might not have heard about those 51 victims of barbaric rapes in
predominantly black areas of New York City. There were no angry
protests. No marches on Fifth Avenue. No sensational specials on
“Rivera Live” for two weeks straight. Al Sharpton wasn’t demanding that
the federal government intervene to bring this monster to justice. And
there were no celebrity acts of civil disobedience raging for weeks on
Indeed, the serial rapist might have continued his savagery
unmolested for another six years for all the self-appointed neighborhood
But the cops cared, because that’s their job.
So in February 1999, four white cops were looking for the rapist in
the 43rd Precinct, where a number of the rapes had occurred. Their
wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters were not in any danger from this
particular rapist, since they didn’t live in the predominantly black
areas that this rapist had chosen for his hunting grounds. The cops
were, it later turned out, less than a mile from where the actual rapist
As everyone in the universe now knows, the four cops patrolling the
43rd Precinct tried to stop a man whom they said was acting suspiciously
and whom they believed might be the rapist. In a series of tragic
misunderstandings, an innocent man, Amadou Diallo, ended up dead.
According to the policemen’s testimony — believed by a jury that
included four black women — Diallo didn’t stop after the cops
identified themselves and asked him to stop. He turned away from them
and then pulled out what they thought was a gun. One of the cops
shouted “gun!” and began to shoot. The policeman closest to Diallo fell
backwards off a step, leading his partners to believe he had been shot
The reason everyone knows what happened that night in February, is
that the New York Times alone has run over 700 articles on it.
Two months later, in April 1999, the police finally apprehended the
rapist who had been terrorizing poor minority neighborhoods for six
years. They caught him trying to sell jewelry he had stolen from one of
his victims to a pawnbroker in the Bronx. A search of his car and home
turned up yet more jewelry from the victims — as well as a cache of
firepower, including a 9mm. MAC 11, a .380 semiautomatic pistol and a
Like Diallo, the real rapist was a black man, living in a black
neighborhood, who also had a job. He was a floor polisher for a midtown
Manhattan building maintenance company. You might not know that, since
the New York Times ran only one lonely article on the rapist’s capture.
One article on the police’s apprehension of the real rapist in
April: Over 700 articles on the cops’ miserable mistake that night in
But the policemen who mistook Diallo for an armed rapist aren’t just
facing a bad press problem. They are also guaranteed several years of
horrifying legal proceedings in which they will be forced to defend
themselves from repeated accusations that they murdered Diallo. All
because of a mistake that took four seconds of their lives — a
reasonable mistake according to the jury — while on a dangerous,
thankless mission to protect the lives and bodily integrity of people
regardless of their color.
The cops have already been tried for murder — not mere involuntary
manslaughter, but intentional murder. Alas, it seems the first murder
prosecution was not duly rigged for the cop-haters. Consequently,
community activists like Al Sharpton have gone to the U.S. Department of
Justice to demand a second criminal prosecution by the federal
Though the Constitution prohibits “any person” from being “twice put
in jeopardy of life or limb” for the same offence — commonly known as
double jeopardy — the Supreme Court has read that clause to be
essentially meaningless. Since the state and federal governments are
different sovereigns, both can prosecute a suspect separately for the
“same offense” without violating the constitutional prohibition on
Reno’s Innocent Mistake
Still the law finds such judicial do-overs unseemly. As Supreme
Court Justice John McLean said in 1847, “Nothing can be more repugnant
than two punishments for the same act” (Fox v. Ohio, 5 How. 410).
The Department of Justice has fairly stringent restrictions on when a
successive federal prosecution can be brought for “the same acts or
transactions” already handled in state court. The Justice Department
must grant a “Petite waiver,” which requires a finding that the case
involves “a substantial federal interest,” that the state prosecution
left that interest “unvindicated,” and that the case is strong enough to
win a conviction.
Fewer than 100 such separate federal prosecutions for the same
conduct are brought every year in the entire country.
Despite the cop-haters’ insistence that their threat to throw a
collective tantrum has created just such a “federal interest,” there is
no more federal interest here than in any murder trial. Even if we
assume a generalized federal interest in prosecuting murder cases, this
one was prosecuted, and fairly, so no such interest could be said to
have gone “unvindicated.” The Bronx DA who prosecuted the cops could
not exactly be accused of throwing the case: He not only indicted the
cops for murder, but compared Diallo’s shooting to a “drive-by
Finally, one (racially diverse) jury has already concluded that these
cops made a mistake, and were not acting intentionally. A second
prosecution, which would necessarily also have to establish that it
wasn’t a mistake, can hardly be described as a “strong” case.
On the off-chance that anyone cares about the law, the federal
government would be bringing suit under Section 242 of the Federal
Criminal Code for “Deprivation of rights under color of law.” That
requires proving that the cops willfully deprived Amadou Diallo of his
constitutional rights because of his color or race. Federal prosecutors
would not only have to disprove that the cops made a mistake —
something the state prosecutors could not do — but also prove that the
cops shot Diallo because of his race.
The government will have to argue that the cops intentionally
violated Diallo’s constitutional rights either by: 1) intentionally
depriving Diallo of his Due Process rights under the Fifth Amendment; or
2) intentionally depriving Diallo of his right to be free from
unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment.
The first theory would require the government to prove that these
cops went out and intentionally killed a black man because of his race
(the Manson Family on the NYPD theory). The alternative argument would
require the government to prove that the firing of 41 bullets was
unreasonable and excessive (the Hollywood conception of firearms
Does that sound familiar? It should. A duly constituted jury
already considered both those theories and quite properly rejected
them. And just by the way, the black forelady said the jury had
concluded that race was not a factor in the shooting. Not exactly
grounds for maintaining that there is a substantial likelihood of
conviction the second time around.
So the Department of Justice guidelines militate rather clearly
against a second federal prosecution, and for the record, I’m inclined
to doubt there will be one. But how would you like to have your life
and liberty dependent on the Reno Justice Department’s following its own
policies? (Atty. Gen. Janet Reno is, of course, a woman of honor and
integrity: When she ordered the attack on Waco, that was an innocent
And those aren’t the only legal proceedings the cops have to worry
about. Immediately after the shooting itself, a battery of high-profile
lawyers began campaigning for the right to sue the cops and the city
civilly on behalf of Amadou’s grieving mother — whose anguish would
apparently be lessened by several million dollars. (But Paula Jones was
in it for the money.)
CNBC’s Loaded Question
The first dream team angling for the right to sue the cops consisted
of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., Barry Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld. While
these guys frequently materialize when someone is accused of murder —
it’s usually on behalf of the accused. Indeed, amid the wrangling
between Amadou’s mother and father for rights to the probable
million-dollar payoff, various other chichi lawyers have stepped in for
a shot to sue the police, too.
The only criminal defendants in the world who can expect to have this
sort of legal talent arrayed against them are white cops.
Technically, a wrongful-death suit against the city and the cops
shouldn’t be worth very much. Liability is based on pain and suffering,
future earnings, and financial loss to one’s family. Diallo was single,
had no children, was a street vendor, and died fairly quickly. That
would typically be worth several hundred thousand dollars, if that.
Most lawyers are estimating that the city will settle for millions of
In the wake of the jury’s verdict acquitting the cops, television
news programs grilled the jurors after introductions along these lines
from CNBC’s “Upfront Tonight”: “Seven of the 12 jurors agreed to tell
us how they reached their sweeping verdict, even though the officers
admitted firing 41 shots at an unarmed man.” The interviewer, Rehema
Ellis, asked the jurors such fair-minded questions as, “Can you sleep
comfortably at night?” (In unison, the jurors said, “Yes.”)
For his denunciations of the police in the Diallo case, Time magazine
crowned Al Sharpton “the voice of black outrage” in an article titled,
“Big Al’s Finest Hour.” While the article chided Sharpton for refusing
to apologize to Steven Pagones, the white former prosecutor Sharpton
falsely accused of kidnapping and raping Tawana Brawley (and for which
Sharpton was ordered to pay $65,000 in a defamation suit last year), the
article modestly concluded: “Sharpton has the makings of a moral
Yes, it’s a good time to be a cop. A lynch mob calls for your head
for that 4-second mistake, you are tried for murder by a prosecutor
comparing you to a gang member, and after finally being acquitted, the
president of the United States immediately calls for an investigation
into the same incident.
Did you catch that? It seems Clinton has finally found something he
wants the Justice Department to investigate.
Long before the jury had rendered its verdict, the president’s lovely
wife, Hillary, called the shooting a “murder.” By contrast, she
welcomed a campaign contribution from Sean (Puffy) Combs — a.k.a. “Puff
Daddy,” the rap music “entrepreneur,” as the New York Times calls him,
who is currently facing various felony firearms and bribery charges.
Hillary’s spokesman said she had no intention of returning Mr. Puff’s
contribution, because “We believe in the presumption of innocence.”
Just not for white cops.
Not only the president and first lady but also both Democratic
candidates for president stated outright that the white cops shot Diallo
because of his race. That’s a difficult accusation to maintain in light
of the fact that cops in Washington, D.C. — where the police force is
heavily black — shoot civilians at five times the per capita rate of
the New York City Police Department.
By contrast, in the ’70s, the number of civilians killed by police in
New York averaged 63 a year, according to Clyde Haberman, a reporter for
the New York Times. Last year, only 11 were killed, one of whom
happened to be Amadou Diallo.
By contrast, in the last two years 119 cops have been killed
nationally in the line of duty.