Hartford Courant: String Him Up!

A Hartford Courant editorial adds to the chorus fulminating against the sentence handed to Forbes Smiley last week:

Should a judge forgive a car thief because he returned the vehicle? Should a mass murderer get a lighter sentence because he led police to more bodies? To imply that Mr. Smiley’s cooperation is somehow ennobling is an affront to his victims, and they include all who value history and view its irreplaceable artifacts as sacrosanct.

Okay, two thoughts.

One, comparing economic crimes and violent crimes is unfair. Then again, the sentence the British Library was asking for was about what you’d get for manslaughter. Eloquent rhetoric about the world’s heritage and priceless artifacts notwithstanding, killing someone is still more serious.

Two — as I’ve argued elsewhere (here and here) — do you want to get your maps back or not? Your anger at Smiley notwithstanding, remember what you’re trying to accomplish. Consider that arrested criminals will do whatever they can to reduce their sentences. They cooperate because it’s in their interest to do so. Take away that incentive from a map thief — if, say, they help you find 80 more maps and then you turn around and increase their penalties because of that — then they will admit to taking as few maps as possible. Make the prosecution prove every instance of theft. Then you’re getting a dozen maps back, after a lengthy trial, rather than a hundred. There is, in other words, a reason why cooperation merits consideration in sentencing.

But, you know, if you want your pound of flesh instead, go right ahead. It’s that or your maps back. You’re not going to get both.