Hencefore, USA v Neilson shall be known as the “Case of the Misplaced Modifiers” by decree of Nowdoucit.
A misplaced modifier is just that: a phrase, clause, or word placed too far from the noun or pronoun it describes. As a result, the sentence fails to convey your exact meaning. But misplaced modifiers usually carry a double wallop: They often create confusion or imply something unintentionally funny.
There’s nothing funny in Patsy Brumfield’s story on NEMS360. She reports the jury hearing USA v Neilson has decided one of the five counts of the Indictment and deadlocked on four. She also reports the jury asked Judge Aycock to define “substantial”. A form of the word “substantial” appears in counts one and two – and likely those are two of the four counts the jury has deadlocked on deciding. Unintentional or not, Neilson faces a “run-on sentence” of 25 years and the lost of his pension for 21 years of service to a Government that with the use of “selective punctuation” and misplaced modifiers has subjected him to “trial by grammar”
Little wonder there’s a deadlock! Take a look at the first count, one of the two similarly written counts using a form of the word “substantial”.
while employed by the FBI, did willfully participate personally and substantially as such FBI employee, through recommendation, the rendering of advice, and otherwise, in a particular matter in which, to his knowledge, he had a financial interest, in that Neilson recommended and advised that the FBI lease additional space in the Oxford FBI Building.
Now, take a look at this comment from the blogging lawyer of North Mississippi:
I’m being told that “substantial” crops up in two counts in the indictment– that Neilson had to be a “substantial” investor in the business.
Given that he was one of three and had enough in it to take out $50K at one point in some form, I’m puzzled that the jury would stick on that point.
The indictment doesn’t charge Neilson with being a substantial investor! It charges him with being a substantial participant!
I saw it! Now, do you see it?