Matthew T. Mangino
May 6, 2016
If Charles Manson were paroled — he is 81-years-old and his next parole interview is scheduled for 2027 — he could sell his jailhouse artwork to the highest bidder without worrying about the government seizing his profits.
What if Jerry Sandusky wrote a book? The disgraced former Penn State coach and convicted sex offender would probably never see a dime from the titillating explanations of his despicable conduct.
Then there is Teresa Giudice, the reality star from Real Housewives of New Jersey and recently paroled convicted felon, her outcome may be a little murky. If she restricted her dialogue or writing to how prison disrupted her family life, or her experiences in prison — as opposed to how she pulled off her criminal scheme — she may not be prohibited from cashing in.
Thanks to statutes referred to as “Son of Sam” laws there is little chance that Sandusky or his family will benefit by the publication of a book. But, for Manson and Giudice, they may profit in a big way.
The law, which exists federally and in 41 states, is named for David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam” serial killer who was convicted for a string of murders in New York City in the mid 1970s.
Generally, “Son of Sam” laws prevent criminals and their relatives from profiting off their crimes in any way. If there is any profit, the law directs that money to the victims or their families.
Model “Son of Sam” laws provide, “If a person has been convicted of a crime, every person who knowingly contracts for, pays or agrees to pay any profit from a crime to that person shall give written notice to the (Crime Victims Compensation) board of the payment or obligation to pay (and) . . . shall notify all (victims or victims’ families).”
New York was the first state to enact a “Son of Sam” law in 1977. However, the law faced a challenge in 1987 in a case involving the Nicholas Pileggi book, “Wiseguy: A Life in a Mafia Family,” on which the film “Goodfellas” was based. Pileggi wrote the book with the paid help of former mobster Henry Hill.
Publisher Simon and Shuster challenged the law. In Simon & Shuster v. Crime Victims Bd., the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law for violating the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression, ruling it would have encompassed works including Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
New York revised its law in 1992, and the state Senate has passed legislation seven times since 2006 to try to expand the law, most recently, to reach people held not responsible because of mental disease.
A Long Island, New York mother who drowned her three children in a bathtub is now seeking some of the children’s estate. Since the woman was never convicted — instead found not guilty by reason of mental disease — according to the New York Post, legal experts say she could make a plausible case to receive some the $350,000 estate.
While Manson and Sandusky’s victims were individuals and clearly subject to “Son of Sam” laws, Manson’s artwork is not directly related to his crimes although his artwork would have little interest but for Manson’s infamy.
Giudice likely won’t have to contend with “Son of Sam” laws. The New Jersey law was amended in 2006 and while her fraud had victims — Wells Fargo is waiting for Giudice to repay $414,588.90 — the victims are not individuals and not protected by the law.
Matthew T. Mangino can be contacted at mattmangino.com
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