Palmyra, Missouri city prosecutor James Lemon just got caught extorting drivers caught in a speed trap. He agreed to drop one demand after he was contacted by KMOV reporters.
US 61 through Palmyra is a limited access highway (crossroads but no driveways). In much of the country it would be posted 65 or 70, but Missouri DOT created a 55 mph speed trap.
One woman drove through around 70 and got a ticket. Mr. Lemon offered to amend the ticket to show no points if she made a “voluntary” donation to the “law enforcement fund.”
Let’s take a look at Missouri law on extortion, in Missouri Revised Statutes chapter 570. Extortion is treated as a form of stealing. If you pick it up and walk away, that’s stealing. If you coerce the owner into handing it over, that’s stealing too.
It’s illegal to threaten to accuse somebody of a crime to get money. Even if the accusation is true. It’s illegal for a public servant to demand money to take or withhold official action. The public servant has the burden of proof that the money demanded was “honestly claimed” as restitution or as compensation for lawful service. Palmyra’s prosecutor had no honest claim to the money because there’s no legal right to payment into his slush fund.
The victim was asked to sign a form saying the payment was “voluntary.” That is a common tactic of extortionists. The former police chief of Lee, Massachusetts is serving 27 months in prison for taking a “voluntary” donation to a children’s toy fund to drop charges.
Chief Buffis is in federal prison. Extortion by a state official under color of law is a federal crime too. Perhaps Carrie Costantin, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, could send her folks over to Palmyra to go hunting.
KMOV video shows the police car in the median at the intersection with Ross Street. Maybe the intersection used to be dangerous. Five years ago side street traffic could cross four lanes of highway traffic. Now only right turns onto the highway are allowed. So conflicts are low. And revenues are high.
If there was ever a justification for reduced speed it is probably gone. In my experience reduced speed limits live on long after the circumstances that justify them are gone.
The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.