Bar Exam Question: Armed men burst into a hotel room occupied by two guys and filled with merchandise for a trade show. One of the intruders yells "Don't let nobody out of this room" they then take a handful of merchandise and leave. The whole incident takes a few minutes.
What crimes have been committed? The Burglary, Robbery and Assault (all with a deadly weapon) are obvious. But did you catch the other crime? Kidnapping. Did you catch both counts?... Plus the conspiracy to commit kidnapping?
This was the scenario when OJ Simpson broke into a Las Vegas hotel room in 2007. Simpson is the one who yelled the phrase and it was enough to get him convicted of two kidnapping counts, plus one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping--and nine other felonies.
Is that what you think of when you think of kidnapping? If you had been keeping track of the statistics, would you have counted that as two kidnapping incidents?
Fast forward from OJ's 2007 problems to the city of Phoenix in 2010. At that point, Phoenix was declared the Kidnapping Capitol of the USA. Naturally, this riled up the folks who like to ignore the underbelly of illegal immigration.
How to rebut the Story? What the media needed was a catalyst. They got one in the form of a letter from a Phoenix Police officer who made a variety of complaints about the department. Here was one of the complaints.
Roberts also said the department had "inflated kidnapping statistics to unlawfully obtain federal government stimulus monies."
Wow, that's an explosive charge. That would involve falsifying the statistics and then lying to Congress about them in order to get federal money...that's perjury and fraud against the United States.
And it was frankly ridiculous. After all, who would commit that kind of crime in order to get a few million dollars in grant money for his employer--especially when that employer is a major city that gets hundreds of millions of dollars in grants annually?
Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris made that point when he denied the charges.
"Why would I jeopardize millions in grants by lying about those statistics?" Harris said. "How many people do you know that commit fraud to get money to help the place where they work? They commit fraud to pad their own wallet."
The media however went crazy. There were dozens of stories about the implications of Harris fabricating the statistics in order to get additional grant money.
Eventually, City officials removed Harris as Police Chief.
The controversy died down after Harris was gone, but then last week an interesting thing happened--the federal audit that examined the statistics...confirmed them. Sure, there were some incidents that weren't technically kidnappings that were in Harris's total, and there were crimes that included kidnapping but weren't classified as kidnappings...but the bottom line was that Harris's totals were right. It's not even that they were wrong but he made innocent mistakes--the numbers were right.
The U.S. Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General confirmed that Phoenix had more than 350 kidnappings in 2008, just as police officials reported on a pair of grant applications to the federal government.
So we have a complaint filed by one officer--a complaint that makes no sense on its face. Followed by a media frenzy...enough pressure to sideline and eventually remove Harris...and then exoneration after he is long gone.
Just like they teach you in J School.