Law Life: Ten years for 'Tangela' tattoo

By Pat Murphy

The Daily Record Newswire

When Michael Greer steps out of a federal prison in 2019, you can bet that Tangela, the love of his life, will be there to greet him.

After all, her name is tattooed on his arm. And when a young guy gets a tattoo, what more needs be said? We're definitely talking never-ending love, right?

Then there's the little matter of the "Tangela" tattoo clinching Greer's conviction.

In 2009, a jury found Greer guilty of one count of possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. That bought Greer a 10-year prison sentence.

The conviction stemmed from events that occurred in Rochester, New York, on Aug. 17, 2007.

Greer had a prior felony conviction. An informant tipped police off that Greer was carrying a gun, a definite no-no for a convicted felon.

During the course of a ruse to flush Greer out, police found themselves following Greer driving a light blue Hyundai Sonata. When police tried to pull Greer over, he fled.

Police later discovered the Sonata abandoned in the parking lot of an apartment complex. They found Greer hiding in a nearby apartment.

In addition, police found a Glock Model 22 semi-automatic pistol and the keys to the Sonata in a white garbage can near the entrance to the apartment.

A search of the Sonata yielded a magazine which contained nine bullets and fit the Glock 22 from the garbage can.

At trial, federal prosecutors had the task of linking Greer to the abandoned Sonata and the ammunition found inside the vehicle.

Unfortunately for Greer, this task was made easier by the "Tangela" tattoo on his left arm, combined with the fact that the Sonata was rented to a woman by the name of Tangela Hudson.

Greer argued that it violated his right against self incrimination when one of the arresting officers testified about observing the "Tangela" tattoo on Greer's arm.

Recently, the 2nd Circuit agreed that the tattoo evidence was testimonial in nature and therefore qualified for Fifth Amendment protection.

"The government relied on the tattoo not as an 'identifying physical characteristic' but for the 'content of what [was] written,'" the court explained. "The tattoo was therefore testimonial and, because it linked Greer to the ammunition, incriminating."

The court nonetheless held that there was no constitutional violation.

"The voluntary tattooing of an incriminating word to Greer's arm was ... not the product of government compulsion. In the absence of compulsion, Greer's Fifth Amendment claim fails," the court said. (U.S. v. Greer)

So young Mr. Greer stays in prison, comforted by the daily reminder of his intended, Tangela.

And who can doubt that ten years hence it will be Tangela showing up to greet Greer as he steps from the shadows of prison? Certainly their love is as permanent as the ink staining Greer's arm.

Published: Fri, Apr 8, 2011