- Last Updated: 6:26 AM, August 8, 2012
- Posted: 2:24 AM, August 8, 2012
A federal judge has ruled that a New York securities lawyer serving time for stock fraud has no constitutional right to play with jigsaw puzzles while behind bars.
Alan Berkun sued the US Bureau of Prisons, claiming that his First Amendment rights were violated after he was barring from trying to piece together puzzles while in his cell.
But Brooklyn federal Judge John Gleeson disagreed, ruling that while the Constitution protects free expression, “Berkun has failed to show that his possession of a jigsaw puzzle is expressive and therefore constitutionally protected.”
”A jigsaw puzzle generally consists of an image that has been broken into a number of pieces, which are then reassembled,” the judge said in his written decision this week.
”Even if the reassembled image itself were protected by the First Amendment, Berkun has not shown how the act of assembling the pieces is in any way expressive conduct,” Gleeson said.
Berkun - who’s serving six years in a Miami federal prison for participating in a Wall Street pump-and-dump scheme tied to the Colombo crime family - was angered after guards turned away a puzzle he ordered from online retailer Amazon.com.
Acting as his own attorney via speakerphone at a hearing earlier this summer, Berkun also argued that rules restricting inmates’ personal property because of overcrowding concerns were irrational and arbitrary.
The judge disagreed.
”Given the limitations on the ability of prisons to process and store inmate property, it is perfectly rational to favor constitutionally protected items, such as books, over unprotected items such as a jigsaw puzzle,” Gleeson said in his decision.