What if a prosecutor possessed evidence that Barry Bonds had used steroids, committed perjury and obstructed justice and decided not to prosecute him because he was a rich and famous athlete? Or suppose the reverse -- that he decided to prosecute solely because Barry Bonds was a rich and famous athlete?
We would be appalled if persons who were rich and famous avoided prosecution or received lenient treatment because of their status, but we seem content to accept selective prosecution for the same reasons. I suppose that there is a legitimate argument to be made, particularly in respect to something like the use of steroids, that pursuing a famous person has a greater deterrent effect. But Congressional hearings on steroid use and prosecutions aimed only at star athletes do not have the ring of equality about them -- but rather a quest for fame from pursuing the famous.
Law enforcement must know of hundreds or thousands of persons using steroids. Why Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Roger Clemens, etc.? The message that steroids are dangerous has been sent through a variety of sources. I am not certain that learning that their idols are fakes is the greatest teaching moment for children -- if that is the justification for this pursuit of clay feet. But even more important to me than the selective nature of these prosecutions, even assuming they are warranted and serve some purpose, is the extraordinary expenditure of time and money in their pursuit. I have heard numbers like 20 to 50 million dollars spent on the Barry Bonds case.
I look at the foreclosure crisis and the rampant fraud exposed every day and read only of a proposed financial settlement with the banks. If deterrence is the reason for pursuing famous athletes (and it may well be), then where is that same purpose in deterring the rampant fraud in the selling, bundling, marketing and foreclosing of mortgages! Where are those prosecutions of the rich and the famous who have brought about this crisis and trampled upon the lives of millions while they continue to prosper? Athletes and hopefully children have received the message regarding the dangers and consequences of using steroids. Isn't it time for the mortgage lenders, brokers and bankers to learn their lesson?
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