Thursday, June 22, 2006

"Anything you write may be held against you..."

Ah, poor Edwin Kane. On trial, accused of defrauding the government to the tune of about $700,000, Kane attempted to get himself off the hook by presenting as evidence 35 letters written by friends and family members, all saying what a swell guy he was.

But the power of the pen didn't help, as Kane's own pen was about to betray him. Along came the prosecution with some other writing as evidence. Kane's own published writing, as it turns out. A set of how-to manuals on -- guess what? -- how to commit fraud. Oh, and the tasty bit from a book titled "Mastering the Art of Male Supremacy: Training Techniques for the Home Front," which advocates disciplining your wife by spanking her with a rolled-up newspaper. Arf!

Kane and his allies called these books "humor," but the judge didn't see them that way. Kane then went for a First Amendment plea, stating that his self-expression should be protected under the Constitution and not be used against him (there's a bit of the 5th mixed up in that, but all right). The judge wasn't amused by that, either. While the spanking bit may not have been relevant to the case, the "how to commit fraud" bit was. It seems that mastering the "Art of Male Supremacy" includes such useful testosterone-enhancing techniques as faking financial records to qualify for subsidized housing and running a fraudulent mail order scheme that never delivers services paid for. Oh, and for real he-men, a section on how to display pictures of topless women in the office without getting slapped with a sexual harassment suit. Okay, that last probably wasn't relevant to the case, either. But it certainly didn't help Kane's case a bit, contrasting as it did with the character letters from his doting relatives.

Were Kane's books only humorous parody? Or were his how-to books a bit too practical? Kane and his supporters claim his books are old and don't reflect his character. But when you've got a guy who has defrauded the government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the same bugger writes how-to fraud manuals, it's hard not to connect the two.

The Washington Post has more on the Kane case here: Court: 1st Amendment Doesn't Shield Author.

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