As reality show stars Joe and Teresa Giudice shuffle back to their stolen mansion to enjoy their last few months as an intact family, there are still some questions that arise in the wake of Thursday’s sentencing. “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” stars are both headed to prison for numerous counts of fraud, and for hiding income and assets in their 2009 bankruptcy filing. As we all know, the reality stars’ modus operandi has been to hustle the reality star gravy train, and that raises a concern to the law abiding public, as to what their next money grubbing scheme could be. Bravo profits, books, bar swill, or maybe a slammer friendly hair care line, there’s no doubt that the hustlin’ wheels are probably already cranking in high gear. This is where the question of how the ‘Son of Sam’ laws might come into play.
These laws were designed largely to stop violent criminals from profiting from their misdeeds, but as NJ.com reports, that there is nothing on the face of the New Jersey law that would exempt white collar criminals such as the Giudices. According to Stuart Green, a law professor at Rutgers School of Law and white collar crime specialist, this could mean that the victims of their crimes could seek to seize their profits. The first ‘Son of Sam’ law passed in New York in 1977 to prevent killer David Berkowitz from cashing in by selling the media rights to his story. Over the years, the courts have whittled away at the specifics due to First Amendment violation concerns, because of the broad nature of the laws. The current version of the law, enacted in 2003, targets income “as a result of having committed the crime, including any assets obtained through the use of unique knowledge obtained during the commission of, or in preparation for the commission of a crime.”
So in the Giudice case, they would have to truthfully spill the dirty details of how they committed the fraud, via an outlet such as a memoir, or television special in order for the profits to be seized under the law. However, if they want to share in a more general way about their tragic family heartbreak, or life inside the Big House, the ‘Son of Sam’ law would not apply. Due to the fact that the Giudices are apparently allergic to honesty, and love to play the public sympathy card, this is NOT good news. Their demographic is probably already chomping at the bit to grasp onto whatever sad sack story they want to sell, and certainly don’t want to hear honest disclosure. As far as profits from the show, Green said that the Giudices could argue that they are not directly benefiting from the crimes, and that they are just plain celebrities. Teresa also joined the cast well before her criminal escapades surfaced, and never spoke willingly about them on camera.
It is also interesting to note that the ‘Son of Sam’ law isn’t invoked often, and was designed to compensate victims of crimes. While the Giudice fraud fest certainly has it’s victims…Wells Fargo, for example, is owed over $400,000 in fraudulent loans, they are not an individual. Green said that while the language of the law is broad enough for corporations to go after their money, there are very few precedents of corporations invoking the law.