By John Feehery
Perhaps the first big celebrity trial that I remember was O.J. Simpson’s.
Talk about a big deal. It combined the glamour of Hollywood and NFL, it had huge legal stars like Johnny Cochran and Robert Shapiro, and it had the always fun subcontext of America’s always-set-on-boil cauldron of race relations.
And of course, there was a real reason for the trial. O.J. killed his wife (or allegedly killed his wife, if you want to be technical about it).
These days, celebrity trials are dime a dozen. And while many of them still have many of the elements of the O.J. trial – big names, sex, sports or politics, scandal, etc – they lack the most important central element: A real crime.
The John Edwards trial is a case in point.
Edwards is a bad dude. He cheated on his wife while she was dying of cancer (although by most accounts, his wife verbally abused the poor guy publicly and quite often, when she wasn’t verbally abusing his staff – in other words, she was no picnic).
Edwards took a lot of money from a very wealthy benefactor and used that money to help house his girlfriend and their new baby (and a staffer and his wife, for cover-up purposes).
It all sounds so slimy and gross and shifty. And we are all lucky that John Edwards didn’t get elected President. But it is probably not illegal. As it turned out, the staffer who got the money actually had the foresight to pay taxes on it, which was probably the only legal trouble that could have arisen.
The only possible other legal problem Edwards might have was a violation of FEC law, but the FEC already ruled that is was probably legal. My bigger point here is: Who cares? Edwards has forever ruined his reputation, and he is done by most political standards.
Sure, he might get a talk show someday (he probably would be better than Eliot Spitzer), but beyond that, he is no threat to society. So, why can’t we stop dragging him through the mud and move on.
The same goes with Roger Clemens (and for that matter, Barry Bonds). Neither Clemens or Bonds wanted to fess up about using steroids.
We all think they did, but who cares?
Why does the Justice Department have to waste millions of dollars going after two big baseball stars for possibly using the kind of steroids that were common-place in Major Leagues at the time?
Like Edwards, Clemens and Bonds have had their credibility and their reputation destroyed. Isn’t that enough? Doesn’t our legal system have better things to do with our hard-earned tax dollars?
Everybody loves a good celebrity trial, because it is fun to watch.
But we don’t have the money to waste on trials that have no real point.
Clemens, Bond and Edwards didn’t steal anything. They didn’t deal drugs. They didn’t rape anybody or murder anybody. They are not existential threats to society.
I sure wish our Justice system would focus on the real criminals.