Chad Ochocinco Johnson will spend the next 30 days in jail for slapping the backside of his lawyer after a short probation hearing in Florida. Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen McHugh felt that the show of gratitude demonstrated that Chad was not taking the proceedings seriously. Is there a single trial lawyer in this country that believes Judge McHugh belongs on the bench? You bet! Former prosecutor Star Jones defended the sentence on the Today Show this morning. Sort of. Star does not take any hard positions (except where she can inject the race card into any news item) and sort of waffled. Yes, it was justified. No, it was too much. The judge was right. But, she crossed a line. Classic Star Jones. But, here is where she demonstrates a complete lack of legal acumen. Ocho was not showing disrespect. He was not mocking or making faces. He was not laughing or making gestures. He was not being disrespectful to the Court or the proceedings. He was thanking his lawyer for doing a “good job,” as he uttered simultaneously with the back-slap. And, why? Because seconds before, the Judge told him to thank his lawyer for doing a great job! If she even saw the slap, she did not find it disrespectful because she did not react for several moments. She only responded when several court officers found glee in the gesture and laughed. So, she is punishing Chad because her court officers (who she controls) showed disrespect by laughing out loud during a court proceeding. If he had shaken his lawyer’s hand, or tapped him on the back, there would be no story and no jail. But, he is a football player and a butt-slap is the legal equivalent of a hand shake. Everyone knows it.
Look at the Judge’s face when she imposes sentence. Her expression betrays hesitation. She feels like she should do something, but is obviously unsure whether Chad actually did anything wrong. And, she allows her emotions take control. She lashes out and does what every lawyer fears: she imposed an irrational, unfair, and arbitrary punishment. And then, pride kicks in and she won’t back down or admit her mistake.
Anyone who has spent anytime in a court room in the last 20 years (not you, Star) knows inherently that the judge was out of line and should be reversed and disciplined.
I am not defending Chad. He is accused of head-butting his wife and should have been in jail ab initio. He deserves no leniency or mercy. But, this Court made a determination that his crime did not warrant jail time. So, let’s review. Hitting your wife? No jail. Hitting your lawyer? 30 days! Great message.
Oh wait. This is Florida. The Iranian justice system makes more sense. I just realized this blog has had more inadvertent entries on Floridian jurisprudence than any other topic. (See, http://ariweisbrot.com/2011/07/01/i-think-youve-had-enough-2/ AND http://ariweisbrot.com/2011/07/05/evidence-we-dont-need-no-stinkin-evidence/
If I lived in Florida, I would not rest until Judge McHugh was reassigned to traffic court. Heck, give me a call Ocho, I will handle your appeal for free.
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