Nigel Bradham’s Criminal Accident
October 5, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Following a previous arrest for assault not too long ago, he was just arrested on a misdemeanor concealed weapons charge. Before judging poor Bradham too harshly, however, consider the facts:
TMZ reported that Bradham was arrested on Sunday for bringing a loaded gun to Miami International Airport. He reportedly put his backpack through the X-ray machine, and a TSA worker noticed the loaded gun. He told workers he forgot the gun was in his bag and showed them his concealed weapons permit.
According to TMZ, officials said “it was clear that there was no criminal intent on his part,” but they couldn’t let him go because he’s still out on bond because of a July arrest. Bradham was arrested for a second-degree misdemeanor and was released later in the day on a $500 bond.
There’s an old Chris Rock bit where he makes fun of people who want some sort of special thanks for doing basic things any person should be doing anyway. It’s pretty funny, and it’s tempting to use that line of reasoning here and dismiss the fact that Bradham had a concealed weapons permit as something fundamental. It does seem like the sort of thing he should’ve done anyway, and that would’ve made things much worse had he not rather than a mitigating factor. But the fact Bradham bothered getting a concealed weapons permit in the first place at least shows he tried to follow the law.
When you add to that the fact he simply forgot the gun was in his bag, it’s hard to comprehend why they charged him in the first place. It was the sort of simple mistake anyone could make. If he did intend to bring a concealed weapon into the airport, putting it through the x-ray machine was a really terrible way to accomplish that. Bradham didn’t try to sneak the bag past anyone. He didn’t pretend it wasn’t his bag. No one seems to doubt that he didn’t want to hurt anyone. He didn’t want to disrupt anyone. He didn’t even intend to bring the gun into the airport. Bradham is just a guy who left a gun he lawfully possessed in his bag and then accidentally put that bag through an airport’s x-ray machine.
Officials’ comments about there being no criminal intent despite the fact they arrested him for a crime and only released him after he posted a bond are absurd, but they’re a necessary result of the laws we have. When criminal laws require no intent, it’s not inaccurate to say that any intent is criminal intent. That’s troublingly broad, but at least it avoids the problem where authorities are hauling people off in cuffs before announcing that they acted with no criminal intent.
On top of that, officials’ excuse for arresting Bradham isn’t exactly the model of clarity. An arrest must be based on probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. The fact a guy was out on bond might be sufficient to tip a decision to cite and release or arrest one way or another where probable cause for an offense exists, but it doesn’t mean anything if what the person did isn’t actually illegal. Police can’t just arrest someone for violating conditions of release without sufficient basis to believe there was a violation either. No matter how bad a crime someone committed to get them on pretrial release, that alone does not allow police to turn something that isn’t a crime or a violation of release conditions into cause to arrest.
Those officials were probably just punting. They wanted to make it seem like it wasn’t their decision to arrest, as if their hands were tied and they had no choice. In reality, though, they could’ve easily shown him the gun in the bag, scolded him, and told him to take it home. They could’ve not told anyone about it. Bradham would’ve avoided any negative impact on his release in his pending case. He wouldn’t have caught whole bunch of bad press too, something he surely wants to avoid. He would’ve come back without his gun, hopped on his flight, and learned his lesson.
Arresting Bradham was a complete waste of time for everyone involved. Even if the law was rightfully applied to him, it serves no legitimate purpose. If he did it by accident, how is this going to deter him? It’s almost analogous to charging people who’ve accidentally left children in their cars with murder, except that here, not only was no one killed, but no one was even hurt. The only consequence of Bradham’s actions was the consequence created by authorities’ decision to charge him despite the fact that they admitted he lacked criminal intent.
Bradham seems to feel pretty stupid:
“You don’t want that to be part of your legacy at any time throughout your career and it’s my first year here,” Bradham said on July 28, while talking about his previous arrest. “I just started and I definitely didn’t want to start out with that being in the news and everything.”
Maybe he earned his first arrest and case, but any impact his new arrest has on his legacy certainly isn’t earned. If anyone should be embarrassed about situations like Bradham’s, it should be the people who pass stupid laws with no specific intent element and the police who enforce them despite their pointlessness.