Monday, November 26, 2012

Physicist Convicted of Being Drug Mule

Physicist Paul Frampton was convicted in Argentina of being a drug mule and sentenced to a little less than five years in prison, at least some of which is to be served though house arrest.  He was immediately suspended without pay from the University of North Carolina even though at the time he had claimed innocence and was not yet convicted.

There were strong suggestions shortly after his arrest in the physics and academic blogosophere that he was framed.  But, the evidence that he was guilty, rather than being framed, that has since been released is quite convincing and includes an electronic communication about drug sniffing dogs he made prior to the incident and a note in his handwriting coroborating his knowledge. 

By international standards, the sentence in Argentina is relatively lenient, as is the indication that he won't have to serve the entire sentence in Argentinan jails which have a less than stellar reputation.  Presumably, he gets credit for playing a minor role in the overall drug dealing world, his otherwise clean criminal record, his steady day job and his relatively advanced age as drug dealers go.  Or, maybe Argentina simply isn't as harsh as, for example, many Asian and SW Asian countries that have death penalties for similar crimes.

The events have apparently not held up his scholarly productivity.  He has published one physics article since he was incarcerated.

8 comments:

Maju said...

"Or, maybe Argentina simply isn't as harsh as, for example, many Asian and SW Asian countries that have death penalties for similar crimes".

Should be obvious: after all it's just drug trafficking. He killed nobody, stole nobody, scammed no one other than authorities. Adult people should be able to choose their drugs and not be told by the nanny state (the ugly side of the nanny state) what to do with their lives.

In the USA they get people in jail for smoking a joing or so, and it's forced work and such in private prisons, which is the same as using drugs as pretext for slavery. Argentina is not, it seems, as bad as SE Asian totalitarian regimes but neither as the USA, which is the main ringleader worldwide of persecution of drug use and, in many cases at least, also drug trafficking mafias, very especially in the Caribbean (Colombia, Haiti, Panama, Honduras, Mexico and of course the USA themselves).

andrew said...

I don't disagree that the US has a counterproductive and harsh regime of drug prohibition enforcement which would probably have imposed a more harsh punishment than Argentina, although less harsh than SE Asia.

As you may know, I live in Colorado which is at the forefront of the U.S. effort to regulate rather than criminalize marijuana use and has also taken recent steps to reduce state and local criminal penalties for other forms of illegal drug use. As an attorney, I represent medical marijuana industry participants in general business litigation and transactional matters, although I do not have a criminal practice.

I wouldn't say that the US is using drugs as a "pretext for slavery". Prison labor is not very significant economically and certainly doesn't make incarceration profitable for the state - private prisons are more analogous to defense contractors than to profiteers from prisoner labor in an economic sense.

US prison conditions leave much to be desired, but really the only link between mass incarceration and slavery is the existence of laws in many states (mostly in the South) that disenfranchise people convicted of felonies (often for drug use offenses) for life even after the sentence has been fully served as a way to suppress African American voting rates.

Mitchell said...

I like the title of this post, it emphasizes the sordid reality of what Frampton got himself into. It's like good, punchy journalism. The discussion of Frampton's case that I've seen on the physics blogs has tiptoed around depressing non-physics realities like prisons and organized crime, eager to treat it all as an embarrassing joke and a bad dream that will be wished away if the right people write letters of support; so we can all get back to the joy of discussing theory. But not this time.

Maju said...

I don't get the feeling of it being a "southern" thing but rather when I read about modern day slavery in US prisons it is the general private prisons cum forced labor what is discussed: prisons that need to be full of prisoners to be profitable because those prisons are not correctional facilities anymore but galleys on land.

http://blackagendareport.com/content/private-prison-corporations-are-slave-traders

http://www.alternet.org/story/155061/getting_paid_93_cents_a_day_in_america_corporations_bring_back_the_19th_century?paging=off

http://video.pbs.org/video/2176766758 (great documentary)

Sure: it affects especially to blacks and other minorities because they are much more defenseless against legal arbitrariness. In the end racists say: "see: 1 out of X Americans in prison is black, that's because blacks are evil, retarded, lazy"... but the truth is that 1 of X Americans in prison is black because the system is totally rigged against them and... "go tell the judge, N***r". That's the truth.

Maju said...

Also: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestoryamericas/2012/01/20121318318540671.html

Maju said...

Forced labor in Vermont and New Hampshire (with humor after all): http://kasamaproject.org/2012/02/03/vermont-state-police-truth-in-labelling/

terryt said...

"As you may know, I live in Colorado which is at the forefront of the U.S. effort to regulate rather than criminalize marijuana use and has also taken recent steps to reduce state and local criminal penalties for other forms of illegal drug use".

Yes. That made the news here, and it reinforces something I noticed while in Denver. I did a big circuit of the southern states, missing the east and west coasts. I've often said to others that Denver was the nearest thing to an Australian city that I came across in the USA. And I mean that as a compliment, even though we often knock Ozzies here.

"but the truth is that 1 of X Americans in prison is black because the system is totally rigged against them"

I don't think it's so much a 'racist' thing, more a socio-economic thing. Blacks happen to be over-represented in the lower income and unemployed population. On the other hand I agree that Black under-employment is quite probably a product of racism.

Maju said...

"I don't think it's so much a 'racist' thing, more a socio-economic thing".

It's everything. Racism feeds the socio-economic apartheid, and this one feeds racism and itself.

Something I learned recently discussing with Maoist US-Americans was that, while whites in the 50s and 60s were massively subsidized into homeownership, blacks were mostly excluded from such "American dream" easy credit schemes.

So the result is that, even with not-so-different salaries (blacks may still get paid much less than whites on average, maybe 2/3 or less), the difference in wealth between both racial or ethnic groups is simply brutal. White grandpas have homes that children inherit or use as endorsement for credit. And anyhow homeownership is the most direct factor on wealth of common citizens (rather than salary, which comes and goes).

That's why Maoists (and some more radical Afroamerican activists) say (following Lenin's terminology on the socio-economic status of ethnic Russians in the Russian Empire) that whites are "privileged" in the USA, a term I was not familiar with and that spooked me a bit.

"Blacks happen to be over-represented in the lower income and unemployed population".

What is product of a vicious circle of racism, marginalization, lack of most of the rights that have favored Euroamericans (including the most widespread "right" in creole America once: the right to plunder the Natives).

The concept of ethnic "privilege" (instead of the mere negative concept of "marginalization", which is just the other side of the same coin) really opened some understanding to me on how one ethnic group ends (in general) in relatively good standing (well off, etc.) and another in poor condition: their members get the tickets to wealth and power a lot more easily than the rest. And that happens generation after generation in an accumulative manner.

Of course it does not only happen in the USA. In New Zealand it must be the same but even in Europe it is in in the unequal historical relations between native nations, some with their ethnic state and the others stateless (for example: not the only cause of ethnic inequality anyhow).