While the Bible’s Book of Isaiah condemns those who make people “a sinner for a word,” under the doctrine of “officer safety” it’s possible to accuse a silent man of multiple felonies — just ask 58-year-old Fredericksburg, Virginia resident David Loveless, who was arrested and charged with two felony counts for allegedly pointing a finger in the direction of two intrepid members of the local police force.
“He made a gesture with his hand,” insisted department spokesperson Natatia Bledsoe, insisting that finger-pointing was intended to “intimidate” two detectives who had testified against Loveless’s 22-year-old son in a robbery case.
A clearly nonplussed Loveless insisted that he had no intention of communicating any message — either benign or threatening — to the officers, because he wasn’t pointing at them.
“I don’t see how I was pointing my finger,” he told a reporter for local ABC affiliate WJLA. “If anything I was reaching into my pocket to get a pack of cigarettes. It that’s what they saw, they have a vivid imagination.
Nonetheless, Loveless — who has no criminal record — was arrested at his home shortly after the incident outside the county courthouse and charged with two felony counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer through intimidation and two misdemeanor counts of obstruction of justice.
These were almost certainly cover charges filed by the detectives as official retaliation for the unforgivable offense called “contempt of cop”: Loveless was reacting to what he perceived as perjured testimony by the detectives.
“When I said, `That’s a lie,’ the lawyer turned around and said shut up,” he recalled.
Punitive arrests and other forms of police retaliation against “disrespectful” citizens are becoming increasingly common, and the facially ludicrous charges against Loveless are probably a precedent for similar action by officers in other jurisdictions, as the opportunity presents itself. Retired federal prosecutor Joseph DiGenova points out that “There are statutes like this all over the country and they are designed to protect civilian witnesses as well as police officers. They come from a history of witness intimidation which is growing in the United States and has become an extremely serious problem particularly in the District of Columbia because of the gang wars [and] the drug wars.”
It takes a remarkable gift for self-preoccupation and the instincts of a drama queen to see a portly, mild-mannered 58-year-old who lives with his invalid, octogenarian mother as a crime lord, but the valiant badasses of the Fredericksburg PD have the necessary skills to transmute a fleeting and harmless gesture into an acute threat to “officer safety” — that highest and holiest of all social considerations. While this case appears to be the first of its kind, it’s something akin to a certainty that it won’t be the last.
“I’m not surprised by it at all, especially since the target was a law enforcement official who had just testified in a legal proceeding against the son of the defendant,” opines DiGenova, his background as a prosecutor made obvious by his instinct to accept the charge as valid. “This also demonstrates why it is important to have prosecutors who really do have a good sense of discretion…. If this gentleman has no record, no previous record, I think it is probably the kind of case that a prosecutor would break down or lower the charges.” Apparently, dismissing them outright simply isn’t a possibility: Since the Mundane “dissed” his betters, some punishment must be imposed, even if the incident involved neither a criminal act nor criminal intent.
In a way, the official persecution of David Loveless could be seen as fulfillment of a directive issued a couple of years ago by Patrick Lynch, the union boss who heads the New York City Policemen’s Benevolent Association. “We need to make it clear, that if someone lifts even a finger against a police officer, their life could be on the line,” fulminated Lynch as he demanded special sentence enhancements for people who kill police officers. Under Lynch’s standard, summary execution would be a suitable punishment next time someone is perceived to be “lifting a finger” in the vicinity of the sanctified purveyors of official violence.
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