Is Lindsay Lohan a victim of celebrity justice? Or criminal justice?
I think it's the latter.
For the last couple of years, stories of Lohan's escapades have provided ample fodder to gossip magazines, newspapers and blogs. They've been impossible to ignore.
So no one should have been too surprised to see a picture of the distraught Lohan on the front page of Wednesday's LATExtra section, with a caption saying she's headed for jail and then rehab for something she hadn't done — attend weekly alcohol education classes previously ordered by the judge.
The Times article quoted Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Marsha N. Revel saying she’d pretty much had enough from Lohan. "There were a number of instances of [Lohan] not taking things seriously," Revel said. "It's like someone who cheats but doesn't think it's cheating if they don't get caught."
Lohan's long list of transgressions includes missing court hearings, offering dubious explanations for her absences and failing to fulfill her duties outside the courtroom.
Celebrities have ample reasons to expect leniency in the entertainment capital of the world. Juries have proved unusually sympathetic to celebrity defendants, with O.J. Simpson being Exhibit A. Prosecutors have pulled their punches too -- for example, see the deal that Roman Polanski was offered before he fled the country.
But the pendulum swings both ways. Some judges and prosecutors have been accused of coming down especially hard on star defendants to demonstrate that they don't play favorites. Witness Paris Hilton being sent to jail for 45 days in 2007 for violating probation on a reckless driving conviction. Luckily for Hilton, Sheriff Lee Baca thought the jail term was excessive; he released her five days later. As a New York Times article put it, "Ms. Hilton, for all her money and celebrity, seems to have been caught between battling arms of the justice system here, with prosecutors and Judge [Michael T.] Sauer determined to make a point by incarcerating her, only to have the sheriff’s office let her go."Some believe Revel went over the top with Lohan. Opined the blog Opposing Views, "It is not the law’s or society’s business to interfere with Lohan’s alcohol or drug habits – leave the kid alone – her legal problems stem from impaired driving so simply suspending her right to drive eliminates the problem without making a big deal out of what is not our business."
I disagree. That presumes the only way a drug addict or alcoholic could cause problems is in a car. And it ignores the fact that Lohan had a blatant disregard for the law.
Ultimately, though, I believe that in Lohan's case, celebrity justice took a backseat to criminal justice. For the three years since her arrest in 2007, Lohan has broken the law repeatedly, ignored court orders and evinced no improvement in her addictions. Why is it unreasonable to sentence her to three months in jail and three months in rehab?
Those of you who think the justice system has done wrong by Lindsay, take heart. According to The Times piece, she’s not likely to serve her entire sentence because of "severe jail overcrowding." Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said most female offenders serve less than a quarter of their sentences with good behavior.
Now, if Lohan can just manage the good behavior.
-- Emilia Barrosse
Credit: David McNew / Getty Images