A federal judge in Tampa will soon have to decide whether to order a second embezzlement trial for William Santiago, the former postal carrier accused of stealing a few pieces of undeliverable junk mail.
This case does not belong before a federal judge and jury. It doesn't belong before any judge or jury. The first prosecution was overzealous and unnecessary, not to mention a waste of time and taxpayer money.
Santiago was accused of stealing clothing catalogs and magazines that were otherwise headed for the trash bin. The 27-year postal employee had been unable to deliver the alleged contraband because the addresses were incorrect. One magazine he kept had been addressed to a dead woman. Postal inspectors busted Santiago and decided to pursue a federal case against him in order to prove they have zero-tolerance for mail theft.
Real mail theft should be prosecuted and punished. But taking home a few pieces of worthless junk mail hardly constitutes a federal crime. The postal service should have treated the incident as an internal personnel matter and handled it administratively. Instead, the trial that ensued ended with the jury unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Jurors voted 10-2 and 9-3 in favor of acquittal before they were sent home. Santiago's lawyer is now waiting for a ruling from the judge on a motion for acquittal.
One juror told the Times the case was "something that never should have gone this far." And it shouldn't go any farther.