Punishment for celebrities

Mar 082004
Authors: Stacey Schneider

From dining room diva to court room countess, Martha Stewart has

had a long reign in the media spotlight, and it is doubtful her

name will drop from the newspapers or Kmart tags in the coming

weeks. Last week, a jury put an end to her on-going trial; however,

the punishment has yet to be named. And so begins the next

never-ending, big dilemma turned political debate; does being

famous make one exempt from the full consequences of the law?

Back in 2002, Stewart was caught in insider stock trading

activities. Just one day before ImClone made an announcement that

would cause the stock to fall, Stewart had dumped the stock.

Coincidence? I think not. And the legal system agreed as charges

were brought against Stewart. After avid declarations of innocence,

a jury found Martha guilty on four counts, including conspiracy,

two counts of making false statements and obstruction of justice.

Each of these charges could bring up to five years in prison and

$250,000 fine. Twenty years of dull gray steel bars is enough to

frighten any home decorating fanatic.

Now, cue politics. The punishment set forth by the courts will

be under constant scrutiny, no matter the verdict. In one scenario,

Stewart could receive a jail sentence in addition to a heavy fine.

However, condemning Martha to a life of orange jump suits and

mashed potatoes would cause many to cry about the unfair witch-hunt

that occurred. Her fame, power and money make her a prime candidate

to set an example against illegal trading, hopefully deterring

other insider trading. By creating an example through a jail

sentence, some believe that the sentence will only be used to serve

as a warning to others, and does not genuinely reflect the

consequence necessary for the crime.

Scenario number two reflects a free Martha, with no jail

sentence to her name. This would anger all those who believe that

the legal system is already too lenient with celebrities, once

again riling up those still bitter from the OJ Simpson days.

Both decisions will cause chaos, so which one is the correct

solution? Pending appeals, Martha Stewart should quickly figure out

the best colors to compliment gray and prepare to spend some time

in prison. These are serious crimes that need to be served with a

serious punishment. Her star-status should not allow her to escape

consequences, as it has for so many of her predecessors. A fine

would just imply a simple slap on the hand and is not severe enough

for the situation. However, sending her to jail for 20 years is not

required either. The perfect combination of jail time and monetary

fines would prove that being a celebrity does not make one exempt

from the law, yet does not make her a martyr for the cause.

Sending Stewart to jail may set the precedent for other

celebrity treatment in the world of law and order. Both Kobe Bryant

and Michael Jackson have cases in the courts, and although the

situations are different, the principle of a celebrity in court

remains the same. Hopefully, all three will become celebrities in

their own state penitentiaries, and will prove that criminal

activities breed criminal consequences.

In the meantime, Martha better enjoy using her free time to glue

together pinecones into exotic hanging wreaths because I highly

doubt they will give her a glue gun in the slammer.

Stacey is a senior majoring in marketing. Her column runs every

other Tuesday.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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