SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 21, 2014

Our view: Snays law would paint with too-broad brush

What Daniel T. Snays is accused of doing with his state Lottery winnings is disgusting and horrifying.

The 62-year-old level 3 sex offender — level 3 offenders are considered to be the worst and most dangerous — was arrested on charges of using some of his $10 million windfall to bribe a young victim whom he had molested.

The criminal justice system is quickly responding — Snays has been arrested in his hometown of Uxbridge and faces serious penalties. If he is convicted, his record as a convicted sex offender will make the penalties even more severe.

It’s an awful crime, certainly something that taints the state Lottery.

But as is so often the case when a previously unheard of crime occurs that captures the public attention, some on Beacon Hill are immediately set into knee-jerk mode. That scenario is playing out with the Snays case.

State Treasurer Steve Grossman has begun to push for a law that prohibits lottery winners from using their winnings “to support criminal activities or threaten the safety and well-being of others.” The details have not yet been fleshed out, but presumably, the state would be empowered to strip lottery winners of their money.

We hope that calmer heads, such as the leadership shown by Senate President Therese Murray, will prevail. Murray and others are reticent to jump onto the bandwagon. Broad-based laws based on singular events are usually recipes for unintended consequences and problems. And that is what Grossman’s idea is poised to create. Better that a proposal like this be thoroughly examined, well after the initial furor has died down, than in the heat of the moment.

Given that Grossman is a candidate for governor, this has the smell of an election year headline-grabber. It certainly worked. It plays to our widely held belief that money derived from public sources cannot be used for illegal purposes.

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