I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas with Crimes from Florida to Vermont

Bing Crosby’s White Christmas is a holiday classic of singing, dancing, romance and the fidelity between soldiers who serve in combat.  However, this holiday classic has a dark message on the long train ride from Florida to Vermont that includes mail fraud, arrest warrants, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

ObstructingJustice_7536Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye’s characters Bob Wallace and Phil Davis visited a Miami night club after receiving a letter from an Army buddy. The purpose of going to the club was to see the friend’s sisters perform, arguably to help further their careers. Problem: the letter was actually sent by one of the sisters. This possibly is mail fraud, because the sister engaged in a scheme to defraud (inducing the men to see the performance for professional gain) and the mailing of said letter for the purpose of executing the scheme. Russell v. State, 675 So. 2d 961, 962 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 1996). There might not have been any financial discussions in the letter, but the object of getting Wallace and Davis to the show was ultimately for financial reasons by furthering their careers.

The sisters Betty and Judy Haynes had an outstanding arrest warrant for $200 of unpaid rent (which would be approximately $1,913.14 according to the US Department of Labor Inflation Calculator if the story took place in 1950 ). Phil Davis, and to a lesser extent, Bob Wallace, thwarted the arrest of the sisters by assisting the women out of the building, hailing a cab, providing them train tickets and causing a distraction for the women to escape.

Florida law states that if a person resists arrest without violence against a police officer is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by a $1,000 fine under Fla. Stat. § 775.083 or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 775.082(4)(a). Fla. Stat. § 843.02.

Phil Davis and Bob Wallace did exactly that as they helped the sisters escape. Florida law would treat them as an accessory after the fact for the obstruction of justice in helping the women escape out-of-state, which would make them guilty of a third-degree felony. Staten v. State, 519 So. 2d 622, 626 (Fla. 1988). Bob Wallace’s suggestion to pay their bill was the wiser idea.

Irving Berlin did not write any trial themed songs for those who obstruct justice. However, Berlin did a pretty wonderful job of writing Christmas songs people have loved for decades. It is just shocking the number of crimes committed in the state of Florida before heading to Vermont in the film White Christmas.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.