And the railroading of Ben Boyd begins…

I previous posted about the idiocy of hiring Ben Boyd — who had previous pled guilty to possession of steroids — to be the next football coach for Caroline County High School. Even worst, there have been allegations that he had failed to disclosure his convictions on his application when he applied for the job (I use the word “allegations” because there has been a dispute regarding whether that’s true or not).

As bad as that decision was, and as bad as the School Board’s decision to reaffirm his hiring, the reaction to his hiring has reached the point of absurdity:

Several days before the School Board meeting, Caroline Sheriff Tony Lippa filed a formal complaint with the Virginia Department of Education about the process that led to Boyd’s hiring.

Search committee members said Boyd’s conviction wasn’t listed on his application, and Lippa cited a Virginia code that states anyone who makes false statements regarding a crime of moral turpitude on a teaching application is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. That person’s teaching license will be revoked upon conviction.

School Board member Sims said Boyd is a licensed teacher who will instruct a brand-new strength and conditioning class at Caroline.

“The misbranding of a prescription drug shows moral turpitude,” Lippa said. “It’s fraud.”[1]

First, let’s review the definition of “fraud”. Fraud, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, is “[a] knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment”.[2]

Second, let’s review the charges that Ben Boyd pled guilty to. The charges were possession of steroids (a federal misdemeanor) and misbranding of a prescription drug (also a federal misdemeanor). What exactly was misbranded? According to a story from The Roanoke Times handily available via LexisNexis:

Boyd was charged with misbranding various types of steroids because the labels did not include the warning “Caution: Federal law prohibits dispensing without prescription.”[3]

You folks might be wondering how the heck is that fraud, right? Well, it ain’t. If the guy had, for example, been putting aspirin in a bottle with a label that said hydrocodone (a drug similar to OxyContin) and selling it as hydrocodone, yeah, that would be fraud. But as the facts of the case stand according to The Roanoke Times, the guy never committed fraud.

Now, you may be asking yourself, even if the crimes weren’t fraudulent in nature, were they still crimes of “moral turpitude”? Here’s what the Attorney General of Virginia stated in an opinion to Delegates Danny Marshall regarding a similar statute requiring certification to school boards by contractors regarding their employees [original footnotes omitted]:

Question Four

You next inquire what specific crimes would be considered crimes of moral turpitude.

I find no statute or case that contains an exhaustive list of crimes of moral turpitude. Determining whether a particular crime involves moral turpitude begins with an examination of the nature of the crime. The Supreme Court of Virginia has defined a crime involving moral turpitude as “‘an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.'”

The Virginia Supreme Court has held that crimes involving dishonesty, including petty larceny and making a false statement to obtain unemployment benefits, are crimes of moral turpitude that may be used to impeach witnesses. The Virginia Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of Virginia also have determined that drunkenness and illegal possession of liquor, assault and battery, gambling, transportation of untaxed liquor, and indecent exposure are not crimes constituting moral turpitude [that may be used to impeach witnesses].

Therefore, it is my opinion that whether a certain crime involves moral turpitude depends on the facts and the nature of the crime. However, crimes involving dishonesty do involve moral turpitude.[4]

Do misdemeanor convictions of steroid possession consist of “crimes involving dishonesty”? No. Do they consist of a crime that is “an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man”? Not in my interpretation.

If they do, that means anyone that failed to report a misdemeanor conviction for possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia could be charged and have their teaching license revoked. That’s probably a lot of people nowadays and I don’t think that would fit into the desire of the legislature when they wrote the law.

And as someone pointed out to me, if a statute and its application towards a particular defendant is ambiguous, the ruling should be made in favor of the defendant.

And here’s a even bigger question: Why is the sheriff interjecting himself into the hiring practices of a School Board? It isn’t his job to approve or disapprove of School Board hires and how accurately and completely they submit their applications. Does the School Board comes to his office and tell him who he should hire or not and determine whether his job applicants have submitted all their necessary paperwork and accurately filled out their forms? I sure as heck hope not.

I also have to wonder the following: Was Sheriff Lippa too busy focusing on this matter and sending a formal complaint to the Virginia Department of Education to use the Caroline Alert System to quickly and inexpensively send pictures out of two missing teenagers to over 2,000 people (which he didn’t do)?

  1. Taft Coghill. “Caroline coach’s hiring reaffirmed.” The Free Lance–Star. 10 Jun. 2009: <http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2009/062009/06102009/472181>. []
  2. “Fraud.” Black’s Law Dictionary. 3rd pocket ed. 2006. []
  3. Ray Cox. “CRIMINAL RECORDS DOESN’T COST BOYD.” The Roanoke Times. 11 Oct 2006: LexisNexis. []
  4. Office of the Attorney General of Virginia. Opinion to The Honorable Danny W. Marshall, III. 5 Jan. 2007: <http://www.oag.state.va.us/OPINIONS/2007opns/06-084-Marshall.pdf>. []

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