Sunday, October 5, 2008

O.J. + Vodka = Jail

Coming thirteen years to the day he was acquitted on homicide charges (and being a topic of discussion on yet another of my birthday celebrations), O.J. Simpson was convicted on all accounts Friday night in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- In a city where luck means everything, O.J. Simpson came out the big loser -- and his unlucky number in a case full of bizarre twists was 13.

He was convicted of an armed robbery that happened on Sept. 13 and was found guilty on the 13th anniversary of his Los Angeles murder acquittal. The Las Vegas jury deliberated for 13 hours after a 13-day trial.

And then, as only the sobs of Simpson's sister broke the silence late Friday, the lights went out.

Court marshals flipped on flashlights and shouted for everyone to stay seated. Only the judge knew what had happened. It was 11 p.m. and the courthouse lights had shut down automatically.

The 61-year-old Hall of Fame football star was convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery and 10 other charges for gathering five men a year ago and storming a room at a hotel-casino to seize Simpson sports mementos -- including game balls, plaques and photos -- from two collectors. Prosecutors said two of the men with him were armed; one said Simpson had asked him to bring a gun.

After the verdict, Simpson, the sports-idol-turned-celebrity-pariah, was handcuffed and led from the room with his co-defendant, Clarence ''C.J.'' Stewart. They could spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Of course, this is another one of those ironies of punishment and imprisonment in the United States: more serious crimes usually go unpunished, while less serious crimes (especially if you have a record) are punished more seriously.

The fact that O.J. would walk on a homicide allegation, but thirteen years later ultimately go to prison for a bungled brawl with a bunch of middle aged men who all had criminal records, speaks volumes about criminal justice in America today.

For more on less serious crimes being punished more seriously, see today's Athens Banner-Herald. Seems the first police "sting operation" on bartenders and waitresses serving alcohol to minors was conducted earlier in the week, and three "suspects" were nailed, each served with arrest warrants and charged with two counts each.

In these tough economic times (and with violent crime here in Athens up 16%), it's nice to know where our priorities lie: putting minimum wage workers out of a job, and giving them a criminal record which will follow them for the rest of their lives.

Well done.

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