Maybe it should be a crime to impose regulations that drive businesses to try to bribe officials.

Arresting a private business manager for attempted bribery of a public official raises an interesting crime to contemplate.

Offering money for enhanced service is not a crime.  I’ve never heard of somebody being arrested for trying to slip a m’aitre d’ cash to find somebody without reservations a table in a busy restaurant.  And if public officials could be trusted never to take bribes, but rather simply to push those thick envelopes back across the table, there’d be no need to criminalize the attempt.

In such situations, either through oppressive regulations or difficult paperwork processes, government has created an incentive to bribe a public official, whom it cannot trust to remain honest, and so it must criminalize attempted bribery.  Maybe that’s necessary at the end of the day, but it’s a curious arrangement.

That’s particularly true in the circumstance I have in mind, as reported by Sarah Doiron.  Allegedly, LIT Lounge manager Daniel Marlo Caraballo attempted to pay off Providence Deputy Director of Licensing Jose Giusti to allow him to provide entertainment for his patrons after he had been ordered to stop doing so due to failure to pay fees for two months.  Oddly, in halting the license, the Board of Licenses specifically forbade him from hosting a specific rap artist.

The language of the cease and desist letter is difficult to square with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 21, of the Rhode Island Constitution:

At the Board of Licenses hearing on October 27th 2021 the Providence Police Department presented numerous incidents of violence at previous performances of this artist. The Board determined that allowing this artist to perform would pose a significant safety threat to your establishment, your staff, your patrons, and the City as a whole.

I can see requiring additional security or other provisions to be made based on the proven behavior of the audience that follows a particular artist, but forbidding the artist to perform entirely, particularly by denying the license of the venue, is pretty obviously a “law abridging the freedom of speech.”  (That $2,000 could have bought a lot of extra security.)

I can also see requiring overdue fees to be paid prior to a performance, but it ought to be as easy to resolve that problem as it is to attempt to slip an envelope to a city official.

So, yeah… rah, rah, Board of Licenses Chair Dylan Conley (oh, ye of the familiar name), “This is an opportunity for the world to understand what Providence is today.”  It’s a place where business owners are so much the opposition that they are driven to bribery attempts, and the city officials are so clean that they call the cops on them.


Featured image by Bermix Studio on Unsplash.

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Rhett Hardwick
Rhett Hardwick
9 months ago

Just a thought from a lifetime of experience, there is never a shortage of public officials with their hand out. When I hear of someone charged with ‘soliciting”, I don’t think of prostitutes.

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