Re: Thoughts on Sentencing

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I’ve been amazed at the eagerness with which blogospheric and MSM pundits alike have latched onto the Paris/Scooter analogy. Clearly, we are all Maureen Dowd now.

Joe’s thoughts on the synchronictious sentencing are, however, somewhat unique and I’d like to respond to them. First, this observation:

Seems to me that could work either way in these cases: Neither Paris nor Scooter would be facing jail time if they weren’t part of “a certain group of people,” namely celebrities. In Hilton’s case, if she were another, less famous rich girl, say the daughter of a prominent Beverly Hills orthodontist, the court might have given her a stiff fine for get caught DUI while on probation, maybe some community service and sentenced her to rehab.

I think Joe’s half right. If Paris were merely rich, she might not have gotten jail time. But if Paris were merely rich, she also might not have had the arrogance to repeatedly violate parole — which is the real reason she was sentenced to jail time, not the underlying DUI. She got a fairly light DUI sentence, one of the few restrictions being that she wasn’t to drive her car for a year. For a lot of people living in LA, that might be a real hardship. But Paris was not exactly just out there trying to drive to her minimum wage job at the widget factory.

What I agree totally with Joe on is this:

But jail time for Hilton, however “unfair,” strikes me as a public service–it is exemplary: It sends the message, as Gilmore suggests, that even rich twits can’t avoid the law.

But if Paris’s jailtime is a public service, why isn’t Scooter’s? Joe’s argument, that Scooter wouldn’t be facing jail time except for who he was, well, that’s exactly the point that Walton made in announcing the sentence. Scooter goes to jail because, as a public servant with incredible access and privileges, he should be held to a higher standard — and be punished accordingly when he fails to meet that standard, so that others in such positions think twice about obstructing justice when the FBI comes their way… especially when the FBI is investigating something having to do with national security, not blow jobs. (Another parallel to the Paris situation: The underlying crime is important insofar as the secondary violation, while in itself “harmless,” shows callousness and arrogance about the very real, possibly deadly, consequences of the primary charge.)

Joe seems to suggest that Scooter’s punishment should be introspective:

Sentence Libby to community service–at Walter Reed Hospital, where he can spend his days comtemplating the broken victims of his ideological arrogance.

And wonders,

But jail time? Do we really want to spend our tax dollars keeping Scooter Libby behind bars?

I do! I do! Hell, I’d pay extra, if it came to that.

UPDATE: Swamphusband suggests I flick back at Walton’s snarky footnote responding to the Libby amicus brief, in which he opines on the generosity of those law professors so moved by Libby’s plight.