Affluence Made Me Do It

Rarely there's so little to say that it's best to say nothing.

Rarely there’s so little to say
that it’s best to say nothing.

Justice for the super-rich is different from justice for the rest of us. Always has been. Always will be. They can afford to buy the best legal defense to insulate them.

That’s why Wall Street banks, hedge funds and financiers historically paid nominal fines and rarely admitted wrongdoing. Only since the economic crash of 2009 has there been significant push-back by prosecutors. Now fines are substantial, admissions of guilt are frequent and convictions are common, most recently former SAC Capital Advisors trader Matthew Martoma.

The bad behavior of celebrities — and their weak excuses and high rate of recidivism — are a never-ending source of fodder for late-night comedians and amusement for a voyeuristic public.

What is new is that preferential justice has made its way down the socio-economic scale to the well-to-do.

Consider the case of a drunken 16-year-old who fatally mowed down four pedestrians with his speeding pick-up truck, then crashed, ejecting and seriously injuring two of his passengers (one of whom suffered brain injuries and is unable to move or talk). The boy confessed to intoxication and manslaughter.

His defense: He suffered from “affluenza” — the argument that his cushy lifestyle in an affluent North Texas suburb prevented him from understanding that bad behavior has bad consequences.

Not unlike the “Twinkie defense” of some years ago — that the sugar made me do it.

The difference: The Twinkie defense failed. The affluenza defense succeeded, at least this time.

Instead of the 20 years in prison that prosecutors sought, the judge sentenced the youth to 10 years probation, during which he’s prohibited from driving or drinking and must spend some time in a California treatment facility that offers equine therapy, cooking lessons and martial-arts classes. The boy’s parents will foot the $450,000-a-year bill for the rehab.

What are the lessons? From a legal perspective, that money will buy you a top-notch and creative defense team. From a Crisis PR perspective, that in those rare instances when there’s absolutely nothing positive to say, say nothing.


“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”

Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Preparation & Training. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.

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For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”

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