On Tuesday, May 8, I had the honor of testifying with Congressman Broun before a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on our bill to repeal and change parts of the Lacey Act.
I was pleased that the hearing was organized by the committee, and also pleased to see so much interest from both the witnesses and the general public regarding the fact that this law is causing innocent Americans to have their businesses raided by armed federal agents, their property seized, and even to be sent to federal prison.
However, I was disappointed to read Rep. Earl Blumenauer's (D-Ore.) piece on this site yesterday titled "Truth Takes A Back Seat in Lacey Act Hearing." In that piece, Rep. Blumenauer called me a liar and proceeded to set forth a series of unsubstantiated claims.
If you're going to call someone a liar, the very least you can do is attempt to make it look like you've read everything you cite and perform the bare minimum research required to make such accusations.
Rep. Blumenauer cites one of the cases I mentioned in my testimony yesterday -- that of Abner Schoenwetter and David McNab, who were sentenced to eight years in federal prison for violating Honduran regulations regarding lobsters.
Rep. Blumenauer writes that my outrage about the prosecution of these men is unjustified, stating that:
The two fishermen were doing far more than carrying lobsters in the wrong containers -- they were found guilty by a jury of conspiracy, smuggling, and money laundering. Their convictions were upheld by a U.S. federal district court and also by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
If Rep. Blumenauer would take the time to actually read the Circuit Court case he mentions, he would see that I am not exaggerating regarding the reasons these men were sent to prison.
Yes, these men were convicted of conspiracy, conspiracy to violate a foreign fishing regulation. Blumenauer fails to understand that the injustice is in convicting Americans for allegedly breaking a foreign law which even the Honduran government argued was not a valid law.
The injustice is in expecting Americans to be culpable for breaching foreign laws promulgated in a foreign language. The injustice is that due process entails fair notification.
How can we expect fair notification of laws passed in foreign lands -- indeed the Lacey Act binds us to all future laws in foreign lands.
"If the lobsters were not imported, transported, and sold in violation of Honduran law, there could be no Lacey Act violations. Accordingly, if the lobsters were brought into the United States legally and were not criminally-derived property, there could be no smuggling or money laundering violations."
U.S. v. McNab 331 F.3d 1228, 1232 (11th Cir. 2003) (emphasis added).
The regulations included such "horrible" offenses as packing lobsters in plastic bags instead of boxes, and lobsters possessing tail lengths of less than 5.5 inches.
One of the witnesses during the hearing yesterday mentioned that the whole scenario sounds like something out of a Kafka novel. He's right.
He might also enjoy reading the book, One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty, which provides further details regarding this case.
I am sure that once Rep. Blumenauer reads this case and realizes that he unfairly slandered these innocent men in his report yesterday, he will reconsider his position and support S. 2062 and HR. 4171. I would welcome his support.
Sen. Rand Paul (R) is the junior Senator from Kentucky.