June 24, 2009

Strange justice

The Bee's Marcos Breton always seems to be trying to be as controversial as possible.

Today, he writes that there's nothing skewy about the thief who stole Lance Armstrong's $10,000 bicycle getting a three-year sentence in prison in contrast to Donte Stallworth's 30-day jail term for killing a man while driving drunk.

The thief, Lee Monroe Crider, has a rap sheet as long as your arm. NFL-star Stallworth, meantime, is suffering punishment in other ways. Still, I would maintain, the specific punishment meted out by the justice system should be appropriate for the damage and circumstance of the specified crime.

AND, the rich and famous should not get different treatment than the poor!

Breton cites a fellow columnist expressing sentiments that I like: "So much for our justice system supposedly being blind," wrote Michael Mayo of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "So much for the law applying equally to all." Mayo's column of complaint appeared a week ago in "Mayo on the side."

Since Stallworth is rich, he was able to placate the family of the man he killed with lucre, something thief Crider couldn't do. Shouldn't this circumstance be fully outside the thinking of what penalty should be imposed on the criminal? Doesn't our criminal justice system break down if paying off the family – which clearly occurred here – is something that is allowed to happen?

Let us face it: Stallworth wouldn't have bought off the family if what he was really doing wasn't buying his way around a broken, corroding criminal justice system.

Breton thinks it's powerfully significant that...

Stallworth has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. He will serve two years' house arrest after his release. He'll be on probation for eight years. He will lose driving privileges for life. He'll do 1,000 hours of community service, pay court costs and make donations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
I would maintain that what punishment Stallworth may receive from the NFL should be disregarded by American justice. The thief Crider in comparison is worse off, if you think about it, having never had the opportunity to get rich and have the priviledges of being a star.

As for house arrest, let us face it: Stallworth's house is the lap of luxury. Crider, in contrast, isn't offered house arrest, even though his house is surely modest, at best.

Stallworth, as followers of his story know, doesn't lose much from losing driving privileges since he is used to being chauffeured around and can well afford to pay for that service far into the future. Crider, meantime, probably has trouble raising the scratch for an RT pass.

As for Stallworth's equivalent of six-months' work of community service, that is punishment, of course, but will be a rather painless work project – and will in context be of benefit to him, getting him out of his confined house. And he'll probably be able to take a chauffeured ride to and from the site of his community-service work.

Justice in America is not in good shape. The contrast here is evidence of the inequity between what the poor get as opposed to what rich people get in our nation's courts.

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