Abner (Abbie) Schoenwetter: Poster boy for Florida’s American Law for American Courts Bill

For several years the Florida legislature has considered a bill titled American Law for American Courts (ALAC). ALAC was crafted to protect American citizens’ constitutional rights against the infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines into American courts, including Islamic Shariah Law.

On February 7, 2013 the Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted on HB 351 – Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases. Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 9-4 to approve bill which prohibits courts from considering certain provisions of international law.

While many focus on the issue of Shariah law, there is the case of a Florida businessman named Abner (Abbie) Schoenwetter who is the poster boy for why HB 351 needs to become Florida law. In August of 2011 Brian Walsh from the Heritage Foundation reported on Abbie’s case.  Abbie was charged, convicted and sent to prison by federal prosecutors because he used plastic instead of cardboard to ship lobsters, which violated a Honduran regulation.

Walsh reported:

[S]uppose you were a small-business owner, and for twelve years both U.S. Customs and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been inspecting the shipments of seafood you were importing to sell to U.S. restaurant distributors.  Suppose that for the entirety of those twelve years you had always packaged your shipments using plastic bags rather than cardboard boxes.  Suppose that there is no U.S. law requiring you to use anything other than plastic.

It would never occur to you that you might be charged with a federal crime and sentenced to over 8 years in federal prison because a third federal agency, the National Marine Fishery Service, decided that you had violated another nation’s obscure–and invalid–regulation requiring cardboard rather than plastic.

As chronicled by this Heritage Foundation video, that is exactly what happened to Abner (Abbie) Schoenwetter.  Abbie had no criminal record whatsoever.  No one alleged that he was smuggling drugs or weapons.  He was not cheating on his taxes.  No one alleged that he used or even threatened violence.

Abbie spent six and one half years in confinement and is now under the supervision of a parole officer for three years.