Stripped Of The Badge

Nearly eighteen years ago, the day O.J. Simpson was acquitted, the feds began their attempt to train me as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. One of the first things my supervisor told me was never to flash my modest federal prosecutor badge for any private purpose. That's an automatic 60-day unpaid vacation, she said.

I was a little insulted. What kind of moron has to be told that? What sort of self-involved twit uses a prosecutor's badge for private gain?

So: in my years as a federal prosecutor I never used my badge to intimidate or impress or harass, and therefore never got that 60-day unpaid leave. I did once absent-mindedly use it as identification while checking in for a flight. I realized my mistake and ran to the bathroom and hyperventilated for ten minutes. It's possible I'm not cut out for a life of crime.

But they gave us those stern warnings for a reason. Prosecutors are human, some of them are morons, and some of them abuse their badge for silly things like drunkenly demanding a free hot dog.

Case in point: Ari Pregen.

Ari Pregen was, until recently, a Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney. Not anymore. Pregen has been fired. Pregen, witnesses claimed and an investigation determined, flashed his badge for personal purposes.

How personal? Getting into a strip club without paying the cover, and then avoiding a credit card surcharge for lap dances personal.

This invokes what I call the Gary Hart Rule: some behavior does not merely show bad character. It displays a level of stupidity so alarming as to render the bad character secondary. It raises a serious question as to whether emergency personnel should be rushed to the scene to equip the subject with a ventilator in case he forgets to breathe.

Doubling down, Pregen denied misusing his badge, only to be confronted with photographic proof:

According to a termination letter written by Salomon, Pregen "denied having engaged in any inappropriate conduct and denied violating any office policies." However, his bosses subsequently received additional information from Levy such as a still image of Pregen flashing his badge inside Goldrush. Levy also told Mansfield that, despite being told not to return to the club, Pregen visited Goldrush February 2 "and repeated the unbecoming conduct."

On February 8, for the second time in two days, Pregen falsely denied acting a fool and abusing his position. "Because we had proof that Mr. Pregen's assertions were false and we found his statements not to be credible, Mr. Pregen was terminated," Salomon wrote.

By now you may be thinking that Ari Pregen is a pathetic figure, and that I'm rubble-bouncing.

Before you decide, consider this: Ari Pregen was the prosecutor who pursued photographer-rights activist and Photography Is Not A Crime blogger Carlos Miller — unsuccessfully. Ari Pregen is the one who argued this:

A real journalist, he explained, was supposed to follow police orders without a second thought. A real journalist would never back talk to police. A real journalist would never question a direct police order as to why he was not allowed to stand on a public sidewalk.

Character is destiny, you statist thug.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. says

    > By now you may be thinking that Ari Pregen is a pathetic figure, and that I'm rubble-bouncing.

    You say that as if rubble-bouncing is a bad thing.

  2. says

    "A real journalist, he explained, was supposed to follow police orders without a second thought. A real journalist would never back talk to police. A real journalist would never question a direct police order as to why he was not allowed to stand on a public sidewalk."

    Well, as I've recently burned Popehat bandwidth with multiple examples of exemplary urinalism in unquestioningly printing BS police reports…

    The inestimable Mr. Pregen does have a demonstrable point.

    Sad: Violate rights? No prob. Make the state AG's office look like idiots? FIRED!

  3. Kathryn says

    Wow. He really is like that all of the time. I wonder, sometimes, whether people have lapses of judgement, or get caught up in bad behavior and can take a breather and return to being relatively decent human beings. I like to think that most people can.

    But dude… he really thinks that is how official power is supposed to work.

    Frightening. I hope he's figuring out that he's wrong, he's had some strong hints.

  4. Damon says

    It displays a level of stupidity so alarming as to render the bad character secondary. It raises a serious question as to whether the individual should be removed from the human race.

    Fixed that for ya! Glad to see he got something near what he deserved.

  5. says

    Comeuppance defined. Excellent.

    I'd find the badge abuse temptations very strong as a prosecutor. Luckily not a problem in the patent world.

  6. Grifter says

    I won't lie. I used to carry my EMS badge, but that's because I'm a dork; I have literally no reason to carry it other than so I can look at it and go "I have one of these!" in my brain.

    The only reason I don't any more is because it ruined my wallet, and I'm not quite enough of a dork to buy a badge wallet for a badge with no purpose other than decoration.

  7. Blah says

    It disturbs me that a government official seemed to be taking behavioral cues from the characters on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

  8. says

    My father-in-law spent many years as an investigator with LAPD. He's now retired.

    A few years ago, we were trying to have a nice birthday for my sister-in-law in Newport Beach. She wanted to have a bonfire on the beach, so at 6:00 AM, her mom went over to the fire pits, and as is the custom, placed chairs/etc there to "reserve" our spot. Obviously there's no formal reservation system. Obviously it's first-come first-served. But it's generally assumed that this is how you "mark your spot".

    So when we arrive that evening and there's about 8 late-teen or early-20s folks sitting around that fire pit. Much of the party is understandably upset. Granted, myself, my brother-in-law, and my father-in-law know that we have absolutely no legal claim to the spot. But my wife, mother-in-law and sister-in-law are incredulous. My mother-in-law is the sweetest person I know, and I was seriously worried she was going to haul off and hit this chick that was giving her lip.

    Eventually we end up leaving, and my wife is trying to say "Dad, you should have flashed your badge!"

    Luckily he knows better.

  9. says

    You know, I have mixed feelings about the New Times/VVM.

    But I really think more newspapers should use phrases like "acting a fool".

  10. En Passant says

    A real journalist, he explained, was supposed to follow police orders without a second thought. A real journalist would never back talk to police. A real journalist would never question a direct police order as to why he was not allowed to stand on a public sidewalk.

    Obviously Carlos Miller needs a Real Journalist ™[1] badge for use on appropriate occasions.

    FN 1: Distinct from an Imaginary Journalist badge, but presumed implied by a Complex Journalist badge.

  11. bradley13 says

    What about the Secret Service? I wonder if they have the same rule? Some years ago I knew one of their agents. He used his job (and his badge) regularly as a way to impress, to get laid, etc..

  12. MattS says

    "By now you may be thinking that Ari Pregen is a pathetic figure, and that I'm rubble-bouncing."

    Some rubble deserves a solid bouncing.

  13. Kevin says

    In fairness, this is really pretty low-level official corruption by Florida standards. To really rise to the level of "man bites dog" he would have had to be at the strip club entertaining narco-traffickers whose payroll he was on.

    God I wish Dave Barry was still writing a weekly column… he'd have a field say with this.

  14. Joe Pullen says

    @MattS • Feb 21, 2013 @2:07 pm

    .Some rubble deserves a solid bouncing

    That deserves to be framed.

  15. JRM says

    Quick hits:

    – Your source for evaluation of the prosecution of Carlos Miller is not unbiased. (Granted, the "frat boy," crack lends some credence to the rest now.)

    – I think you would be unlikely to pin that prosecution primarily on Mr. Pregen's rookie head if not for this new issue.

    – Mr. Pregen is very sorry. He is filled with regret he got caught. I am sure he would do everything to avoid getting caught if he were just given his job back. (I think the bar should suspend him from the practice of law for this.)

    – Hot dog guy? This guy? Before you decide a winner:

    http://www.inquisitr.com/296008/connecticut-prosecutor-booted-for-secretly-filming-women-with-pen-cam/

  16. wgering says

    Character is destiny, you statist thug.

    That sounds like the tagline from Popehat: the Movie (starring Bruce Willis as Ken Dopefat, Defender of Logs, Seth Green as Patrick, and Clark as Himself).

  17. andrews says

    How sure are you that he is out of there? I just checked his linkedin page, and it still shows him as being with the SA's office down there.

  18. JohnC says

    "What about the Secret Service? I wonder if they have the same rule? Some years ago I knew one of their agents. He used his job (and his badge) regularly as a way to impress, to get laid, etc…"

    Yep. For the Secret Service, the Bureau, etc., abuse of credentials is an explicit no-no, and one of the surest ways to end, or at least stall, your career (drunk driving being another). Though flashing your badge a la Sterling Archer to get some trim probably doesn't rise to the level of abuse of credentials.

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