Opinion

Celebrities receive legal preferential treatment

Oscar Pistorius is the latest high-profile athlete to face legal trouble. Pistorius allegedly murder his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Feb. 14. Image from telegraph.co.uk

Oscar Pistorius is the latest high-profile athlete to face legal trouble. Pistorius allegedly murder his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Feb. 14. Image from telegraph.co.uk

By Robin Gracia

Staff Writer

At 12:10 a.m. on June 13, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were found murdered outside of her ex-husband O.J. Simpson’s Los Angeles home. Simpson was arrested for the grizzly double homicide, creating a media circus. The football star hired a team of high-profile attorneys that included Johnnie Cochran and Robert Kardashian. The jury was swayed with the now infamous “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit” argument presented by Cochran. On Oct. 3, 1995, the American public was rocked with a “not guilty” verdict.

Since the O.J. Simpson murder trial and his near-admissions of guilt, an apparent floodgate has opened for celebrities to behave unlawfully and walk free. Crimes ranging from possession of controlled substances to driving under the influence, when committed by a celebrity, are quickly dismissed under the court of law. There are more disturbing crimes, however, which have gone largely unanswered for.

Michael Vick is the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. On July 17, 2007, Vick was indicted by the federal government in connection with a dog fighting operation. He initially pleaded not guilty until a search warrant executed on his Virginia home revealed a plethora of evidence of involvement in dog fighting.

Some of Vick’s actions included tying down female dogs to be attacked, electrocuting dogs who failed to perform and drowning animals that lost their fights. The sentence Vick received for such cruelty is laughable: 23 months in federal prison. He would never serve the sentence, though. His sentence was suspended with a condition of good behavior. He was then allowed to return to football, securing millions of dollars in endorsement deals. In 2012, he famously adopted a dog from a shelter, claiming he wanted to teach his children how to properly treat animals.

“It doesn’t matter what a celebrity does,” said Jared Smith, a 24-year-old Bakersfield College student. “A celebrity will never face the same charges as a normal person.” In the cases of Vick and Simpson, the preferential treatment of celebrities is displayed for the public to swallow. This treatment, Smith contends, is not going to stop any time soon. “The law doesn’t apply to you if you’re rich and famous.”

Application of the law should not depend on your social status. People are no longer surprised by a celebrity arrest or shocked when they walk free for their behavior. Who could forget R&B singer R. Kelly’s child pornography allegations, which included a sex tape with a 14-year-old girl? Kelly was arrested in 2003 and charged with 21 counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and possession of child pornography. Despite the mountain of evidence, the only lingering punishment R. Kelly endures for his trysts with young girls is the Dave Chappelle parody video, “Piss on you”, where he croons that he wants to “turn your face into a toilet seat.”

Celebrities should not be allowed to believe they can operate outside of the law. The American justice system appears to be a sanctuary for those in the limelight. While celebrities laugh off their arrests, television laughs right along with them. In 2009, the animated show “Family Guy” addressed the O.J. Simpson fiasco in its episode “The Juice is Loose,” in which the character Peter wins a round of golf with the disgraced football star. In the episode, Simpson plays a misunderstood man simply trying to live his life. In the end scene, O.J. stabs several people and runs away. While the viewer chuckles at a “he totally did it” joke, what they are forgetting is the punch line: Simpson more than likely murdered his ex-wife and her friend in cold blood.

Society should hold itself and its celebrities to a higher standard. A normal individual like you and I, if arrested for driving under the influence and resisting arrest, would face unquestionable jail time. A person found to be torturing an unknown number of animals at his or her house should never be allowed to own an animal again. The legal system has failed American society by allowing fame and money to trample on its institution. All the public can do is laugh and forget celebrity debacles, watch their next movie, listen to their music and watch them catch a football. Perhaps if they laugh hard enough, they won’t cry for the constant miscarriages of justice.

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