Thursday, June 13, 2019

Time for Another Criminal Edition

The first sentencing of a guilty defendant in the college admissions scandal escaped incarceration in prison. Instead John Vandemoer, the former sailing coach of Stanford University who directed $770,000 in bribe money to the sailing program in exchange for finagling entry to the prestigious school, received a punishment that included just one day in jail (already served), six months of home confinement and two years of supervised release. 

So, he will be locked up at home for 180 days. I dunno. Sounds kinda soft to me. Prosecutors had wanted prison time of 13 months to demonstrate the seriousness of the crime. Home detention seems no more daunting than when one grounds a teenager to his or her room for staying out past curfew. 

Yes, being confined to quarters can be depressing but given the amusements and distractions available today the punishment seems light. Perhaps it needs some tweaking, such as a concurrent loss of Internet and cable television privileges. And maybe throw in restricting conjugal rights to four times a month. 

I am joking, of course. Still, as the some 50 cases of college admissions fraud proceed through the court, observers will be monitoring how the privileged fare compared to less powerful and wealthy defendants in all non-violent crimes.

Contrition is an essential component of regret, an admission of wrongdoing. One reason I find it hard to embrace Al Sharpton as a qualified human rights leader is his failure to accept responsibility for his actions in the Tawana Brawley affair. As noted last year in a profile published in The New York Times, “He is known best for the worst thing he’s done: His loud support of Tawana Brawley, an African-American teenager whose claims of abuse and rape by a gang of white men turned out to be a hoax” ( 

The failure to adjust one’s position after new, often exculpatory, evidence comes to light, is an egregious sin. With the airing of the Netflix series on the Central Park Five wrongly arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for between six to 13 years, for the rape and beating of a woman jogger in 1989, the fallout has been long-coming but steep. Though the convictions were overturned in 2002, it has taken more than 16 years for the for prosecutors to be held accountable. The lead prosecutors, Elizabeth Lederer and Linda Fairstein have resigned from faculty position at prestigious universities (

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has yet to recant his belief that the five accused Black and Hispanic youths should have been executed. In full page newspaper ads at the time he advocated for the return of the death penalty. 

Trump’s failure to apologize is symptomatic of all his actions. His current claim of presidential executive privilege for almost everything and everyone Congress has subpeonaed reflects his belief that, as in his private company, he has the final word as president. He does not countenance anyone questioning his authority or decisions.  

He also has a very discriminate view of the rule of law. To him, everything he says or does is legal, as in his admission to ABC News that he would listen to dirt on any political opponent offered by a foreign entity without committing to informing the FBI. Naturally, legal scholars question his interpretation of the law (