Thursday, March 10, 2011

A classic example of what?

A jury in Ramsey County District Court convicted Maksud Mahbub of sexually assaulting four women. According to reports in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mr. Mahbub would go to bars look for extremely intoxicated women, convince them to get in his car, and then take them hope and rape or grope them. Mr. Mahbub faces a sentence of at least four years in prison.

After the verdict, Earl Gray, Mr. Mahbub’s attorney, offered the case this way, “It's a classic example of someone who doesn't understand our culture being convicted of crimes he didn't intend to commit.” What is Mr. Gray trying to say? The phrase “classic example” does not make sense. If one says something is a classic example of mistaken identity, the listener instantly understands that the wrong person has been identified. The situation is classic because we have all seen or read of this situation in movies, television, or books. One example is the Alfred Hitchcock film “The Wrong Man.” Likewise, if someone says that a child is a “classic example of an only child” the listener understands that the child in question has parents who spoil the child. Again, we know what the speaker means because various media have presented us with the situation in the past. This stereotype is so common that articles are written trying to debunk it.

What examples are there of “someone who doesn’t understand our culture being convicted of crimes he didn’t intend to commit”? Mr. Gray says that this is a “classic example” of that particular phenomenon. I have no idea what he means.


  1. I'm more concerned about what it means to be convicted of a crime you didn't intend to commit. Does that mean if you kill someone in a violent rage it's ok because you didn't intend to do it?

  2. AG: Touchay. But Earl Gray's a "classic example" of a highly successful criminal defense lawyer. His mixed metaphors and malapropisms cause him no lost sleep and they soar way over the heads of the general public.

    He's "amazed juries" for 30 years. He is "one of the most elite attorneys in the US, not just Minnesota." (

  3. Earl Gray is a classic example of a scumbag defense attorney who will rot in hell for making a living trying to free guilty people to harm others. I'll never understand how heartless pigs like him can sleep at night. We can only hope one or more of the losers he has "successfully" defended commits the same atrocious acts on him or his immediate family. Then and only then will he begin to see the light.

  4. Anonymous 1,
    I would think killing someone in a violent rage would be considered either second degree murder (killing someone in perpetuation of a felony) or third degree murder (killing someone when the intent was to harm, as opposed to kill, the victim). Mr. Torvik, who has more experience in criminal matters than I, may have a different view.

  5. Anonymous 2,
    No question that Mr. Gray is a sucessful defense attorney and certainly one of the more celebrated defense attorneys in Minneapolis. That said, I still don't understand what he was getting at in the phrase I mentioned in the post.

  6. Anonymous 3,
    While I yield to no one in my respect for the Federal Farmer,, your anonymous slur and threat of Mr. Gray are a classic example of what Farhad Manjoo was writing about in his recent article on why we need to get rid of anonymous comments. See

    After conferring with Mr. Torvik, in the future we will remove anonymous comments that are slanderous or threaten violence. So if you, or any other readers wish to engage in these sorts of slurs, you can do so by either putting your name on your posts or you can do so elsewhere.

  7. Here's what I think Mr. Gray was getting at. When you are a stranger in a strange land, it can be difficult to parse out the arbitrary rules of conduct that subtly guide people's actions. For example, I think of the movie "Starman" starring Jeff Bridges. For a long while, Starman had been driving cross-country -- from Wisconsin (where he crashed) to Arizona (where he could get picked up by his buddies, or something) with the lady that found him after he crashed. He had been observing the lady drive, and finally she let him drive. He dutifully observed the rules of the road until he came to a light that turned yellow as he approached the intersection. He gassed it and flew through the intersection, nearly causing an accident. His companion (the lead from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," I think) was aghast, and yelled that she thought he had been observing the rules of the road. He responded that from observing her he understood the rules to be, "Green light, go; Red light, stop; yellow light: go very fast."

    So this is pretty much a classic example of what I will call "Starman driving" phenomenon.

    Or not.


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