Punishing Unknowing Criminals - Hung 1 Wei Cyrus Hung Legal...

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Hung, 1 Wei Cyrus Hung Legal Studies 109 - Aims and Limits of the Criminal Law Professor Kutz 28 February 2008 Punishing Unknowing Criminals A Dr. Mohammed Hussein has been accused of violating the law by giving to his cousin, Abdullah Hussein, a cell phone that was later found at the scene of an attempted airport bombing. Mohammed Hussein says that he knew that his cousin was involved in radical politics, but did not think, in giving him the phone, that he himself was helping a terrorist attack. The actions of Dr. Mohammed Hussein can be defined as a crime under U.S. Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113B, Section 2339A, defining an offense as “Whoever provides material support or resources… knowing or intending that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out an act of terrorism”. It continues to define material support or resources as “any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more individuals who may be or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials.” A prosecution or conviction of Dr. Mohammed Hussein, an unknowing participant, in an attempted terrorist act, highlights issues of whether to punish Dr. Mohammed Hussein, and to what degree, both which require an analysis of the statute, various punishment theories and the purposes of punishment, all of which result in similar outcomes.
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Hung, 2 Dr. Mohammed Hussein unintentionally and unknowingly provided material support for a terrorist act. A strict reading of the statute would not convict Dr. Mohammed Hussein because he did not let his cousin have his phone “knowing or intending that [the phone was] to be used… in carrying out an act of terrorism” as stated as a condition of guilt in the statute. Even though Dr. Mohammed Hussein knew his cousin was involved in radical politics, the idea of radical politics does not have to entail a terrorist act, but could entail legal acts such as flag burning or demonstrations. If the assumption that radical politics results in terrorist acts, then a hotel would be unable to provide housing to the ACLU, a liberty rights group sometimes referred to as a radical politics group, out of fear of providing material support. Furthermore, if the act of
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