This is a disturbing news story out of Australia, but it should serve as a reminder that we can’t take the personal liberties enjoyed by Americans for granted. A 42-year-old mortgage broker named Richard Pusey was recently sentenced to ten months in prison. The crime he was charged with was Outraging Public Decency and it stemmed from his decision to film the scene of an accident by the side of a highway. Of course, that doesn’t really tell the entire story because this guy truly does act like a monster. He had been pulled over by the police for speeding, but while he was “relieving himself” in the ditch located off the side of the road, a truck came by and smashed into his car, four police officers and their two police vehicles. Rather than attempting to render any aid to the dead and dying police officers, Pusey began filming them and narrating his video in a most unpleasant fashion. (Associated Press)
A speeding driver in Australia was sentenced to 10 months in prison on Wednesday for offenses including what a judge described as the ”heartless, cruel and disgraceful” filming of four dead and dying police officers who had just been hit by a truck on a freeway.
Richard Pusey, a 42-year-old mortgage broker, had earlier pleaded guilty in the Victoria state County Court to a rarely-prosecuted charge of outraging public decency over his commentary in crash scene videos shot with his phone. It was the first time the charge had been prosecuted in the state since 1963…
Judge Trevor Wraight sentenced Pusey to 10 months in prison, backdated to when he was taken into custody 296 days ago.
[Potentially disturbing content warning]
As Pusey filmed the carnage, he could be heard saying things including “he’s smashed,” “justice,” “absolutely amazing” and “beautiful.” He followed those comments up by saying, “I think everyone got cleaned up. I guess I’ll be getting a … Uber home, huh.”
When a passer-by stopped and asked why he wasn’t helping, Pusey can be heard simply telling him, “They’re dead.”
Pusey wasn’t the only one to wind up behind bars. The truck driver (who was found to have been impaired by drugs) received 22 years. So I’m guessing that most of us hearing this story could conclude that Richard Pusey is pretty much a garbage person. He seemed to completely fail to realize that his was one of those “there but for the grace of God” stories. Had he not needed to leave the road to go urinate, he probably would have died also. But his callous response certainly angered and horrified many people.
With that said, the question I would raise is whether or not he deserved to be convicted of a crime. Is “Outraging Public Decency” a law that would even make it onto the books in the United States and survive a court challenge? After all, as awful as his remarks were, what he was actually doing was speaking while recording a video. Heartless to be sure, but locking people up for saying words should rankle anyone who has lived their life under the protection of the First Amendment.
I bring this story to your attention today primarily to put it in the context of the so-called “hate crime” laws that are being passed right and left around our own country. These are thought crimes, and they should never have been able to pass constitutional muster. And yet here we are. We’ve definitely lived to see the First Amendment be significantly eroded. Are we really all that far away from the day when Americans will be charged with Outraging Public Decency? And before you answer, keep in mind that the party in power at the time of your “offense” will be the people who get to define what is decent and what is outrageous.