Who still loves Paul LePage, Maine’s poutine-for-brains excuse for a governor?
Criminal defense lawyers, that’s who.
On Aug. 26, LePage handed every person of color arrested for drug offenses in this state a gold-plated get-out-of-jail-free card. A black or Hispanic dope peddler could be driving up the Maine Turnpike in a van with “United Heroin Service” printed on the side and speakers on the roof blaring the Tubes’ “White Punks On Dope,” and this miscreant wouldn’t have to worry about being convicted of anything more serious than questionable taste in music.
Here’s how the governor did it. He told reporters during a semi-delirious press conference that he had no problem with law enforcement using racial profiling to identify drug dealers. “When you go to war,” LePage said, “if you know the enemy and the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, then you shoot at red. … You try to identify the enemy, and the enemy right now – the overwhelming majority of people coming in – are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”
LePage followed up three days later by telling a Boston reporter, “Meth labs are white. They’re Mainers. The heroin-fentanyl arrests are not white people. They’re Hispanic and they’re black, and they’re from Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts; Waterbury, Connecticut; the Bronx and Brooklyn. I didn’t make up the rules. That’s how it turns out. But that’s a fact. It’s a fact. What, do you want me to lie?”
There are a couple of problems with this line of (to use the term loosely) reasoning. First, all sorts of statistics – the population of drug traffickers in the state prison system, data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Service – indicate the overwhelming number of dope dealers, both nationally and locally, are white.
So far, the only white person Republican LePage has suggested taking action against is Democratic state Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. The governor left Gattine an obscenity-laced voice-mail message on Aug. 25 and later told reporters he wished he lived during a time when dueling was legal so he could shoot him “right between his eyes.” Gattine’s offense: He opposes many of LePage’s legislative initiatives. Legal experts suggest that under the U.S. Constitution, that doesn’t rise to the level of a crime meriting capital punishment.
The other problem with the governor’s blather is the courts have repeatedly ruled that racial profiling is unconstitutional. Since LePage is nominally the boss of the Maine State Police, any competent attorney could argue his comments constitute an order to the troopers to stop people on suspicion of drug dealing for no other reason than the color of their skin.
Unless the cops come up with something more rational to justify pulling over and searching random black and Latino drivers (“Well, your honor, after the Tubes song, his loudspeaker started playing ‘Heroin’ by the Velvet Underground, and I don’t think Hispanics even listen to the Velvet Underground”), cases like this are going to be thrown out by judges for lack of probable cause. Even if the car’s trunk turns out to be filled with bricks of smack, that evidence won’t be admissible.
There are rumors the Maine Society of Shady Shysters and Corrupt Counselors At Law plans to present LePage with a lifetime achievement award for making their jobs so much easier.
But lawyers aren’t alone in appreciating the more crazed LePage. He’s also proving to be a boon for tourism directors in any place other than Maine. His statements have virtually insured that no blacks, Latinos or other sensible people will plan a vacation in this state so long as he’s in office.
And finally, LePage has earned the gratitude of Connecticut and New York drug dealers. Until his racist rants, these criminals probably had no idea that using black or Hispanic mules to transport their products into Maine was likely to attract attention. Now, they’ll be doing some racial profiling of their own by hiring only white people to smuggle their dope.
While law enforcement is surveying incoming traffic for dark skin, traffickers will slip by them disguised as people who look sort of like LePage.
Give me the straight dope by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.