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Civil Rights of Bounty Hunter Dog Chapman Violated

Just when you thought that the soap operas were confined to the Soap Channel or daytime television, there is bounty hunter and reality TV star Duane “Dog” Chapman who utters the name of God and the infamously famous “n-word” with seemingly equal gusto – or so the unsuspecting public is led to believe by smear merchants and sensationalist television shows everywhere.

What is known is that the Bounty Hunter, as his show is entitled, is enormously popular not only for cracking down on the crack heads but also for his jovial dealings with locals and felons, while at the same time maintaining close ties with his family. As a matter of fact, his bail bonds agency is largely run as a family business and the television frequently features him as a family man first. His faith in the Christian God, so commonly maligned on national television, is frequently displayed on the show and factors into his decision of how to treat apprehended fugitives.

Duane Chapman is no stranger to controversy, and his much celebrated apprehension of convicted rapist Andrew Luster – the multimillionaire was found guilty of raping 20 women who were under the influence of drugs making them compliant, while also being charged with 17 counts of raping women who were unconscious, and a few other charges – who escaped to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.

Yet while public sentiment was on Dog’s side during his scuffle with Mexican authorities who did not take kindly to having a partying Andrew Luster removed from their vicinity – an action they were either unwilling or unable to perform themselves – it backlashed viciously, severely, and unequivocally against Duane when a tape surfaced featuring a most foulmouthed bounty hunter who drops the n-word at every juncture. At issue, it appears, is the notion that Dog does not approve of his son Tucker’s dating relationship with an African American lady because she might funnel information about the liberal use of the n-word to interested parties, such as the National Enquirer. As a matter of fact, Duane himself alleges that the unnamed girl, who was later identified as Monique Shinnery, has threatened that she was “gonna wear a recorder.”

In an amazing act of filial contempt, Tucker then sold the tape to the National Enquirer, a gossip outlet that was quick to make hay from the windfall and effectively not only showcased the elder Chapman’s ability for foul mouthed rants but also pretty much destroyed his reputation, affected his capacity to earn a successful living that would support his family, and ruined his relationship with his son.

Roy Innis, respected civil rights leaders and instrumental in the uncovering of the Tawana Brawley race baiting incident, is a leader of the Congress of Racial Equality yet was quick to enter the fray by declaring that Dog should not have a show anymore. Since early November, Duane Chapman has conducted his own apology tour and is attempting to rescue, maintain, and perhaps even regain the respect and public goodwill he has undoubtedly lost. At this point in time, the Bounty Hunter on A&E has been canceled until either the incident blows over or public sentiment changes to such an extent that the network is not afraid to once more show Duane and family in action.

While this may appear to be a lengthy recount of the situation, the facts of this case are not without interest to the general public. The questions that are raised span a multitude of levels, yet leaving out the obvious familial questions of what to do with a child who will sell out the rest of his siblings and parents for an undisclosed sum to the National Enquirer, or why a man professing the Christian faith will so blatantly disregard the command to not let “any unwholesome talk come from your mouth,” what makes this case of particular interest are the civil rights implications.

First and foremost is the question as to how the National Enquirer obtained the tape. Obviously there was no warrant issued, but instead a one-sided tape was prepared without the knowledge or permission of both parties involved in the private phone conversation. Governed by Hawaiian law, it would appear that according to §803-42 there is a legal problem in the making since the disclosure of oral communication with the help of an external device is specifically prohibited.

In addition to wiretapping laws, there is the pesky issue of civil rights. While civil rights activities are quick to rightfully decry the deplorable use of the n-word, there appear to be no protesters who are marching in support of Chapman’s right to privacy, which is part and parcel of the First, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. Granted, in Bartnicki v. Vopper the court held that the freedom of speech supersedes the right to privacy if the information that is given out is of significant public concern. In this case, however, it is questionable how the ill advised and ill conceived rants of a father toward his son are of any public concern.

Interestingly, the same public that is so quick to gobble up the titillating tidbits disseminated by the Enquirer and other media outlets is up in arms about the possible implications about encroachment of their rights to privacy via the Homeland Security office and other government bodies. Does this, in effect, mean that an invasion of privacy and a departure from the civil rights guaranteed in the constitution is acceptable, as long as it is done in the name of entertainment but is to be thwarted if it is done in the name of public safety? The bastion of secular progressiveness known as Planned Parenthood referred to the right to privacy by quoting Justice Brandeis who named it the “most comprehensive of rights.”

So where does this leave you? Will you continue to eagerly consume the ill gotten gains of those who abuse another’s right to privacy for a quick buck? Will you be complicit in the trampling of another’s civil rights for your enjoyment and entertainment? Or will you see the Constitution as a buffet where you can pick some and leave some, depending on how your particular mood hits you? If so, what will you do when you anger laden private conversations land on the front page of the paper, are played (in stereo) at Sunday worship services of your church for all to enjoy, or perhaps recounted during your child’s parent-teacher conferences – in the assembly hall for all the better to hear?

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