Two justice systems, one for the rich, one for the rest of us?

Another cliché I wish could be laid to rest (I’d say “killed,” but I am adamantly opposed to the death penalty).

I’m highly sensitive to the gross injustices of wrongful convictions and imprisonments thanks to the Innocence Project, on the periphery of which I worked from its inception in the early 1990’s. And there are two systems of justice but wealth is not the glaring feature. Skin color is. Racism.

So I don’t have a serene temperament when the up-there-entitled dual system is relentlessly invoked by hundreds and hundreds of New York Times readers’ comment, inevitably about Trump. Whenever I read “We’ve got two systems of justice,” etc etc etc, my first thought is Leona Helmsley.

That is, my first thought was Leona until Sam Bankman-Fried stepped in front of my Leona vision.

So I began pulling out of my memory bank other names which contradict the cliché. Even before doing the Google thing, I came up with quite a bunch. Let’s call my purpose here tikkun olam, i.e., healing those in the world who agonize over how only ordinary not rich people get tried, convicted and imprisoned for committing crimes.

Not in chronological order, here are some bad (rich) people who pay for their crimes, along with links to the stories, in case you forgot about them while focusing on Trump.

Sam Bankman-Fried.

Leona Helmsley. My brother played at an event Leona staged for her antique husband Harry’s birthday. Everyone had to wear pins reading, “I’m just wild about Harry.” Harry, who was demented, wore a pin saying, “I’m Harry.” Didn’t she leave a fortune to her dog? I think so.

Michael Milkin. Who has worked hard at reclaiming his stature and making himself sound warm and fuzzy and philanthropic: he has his own website, which is called Could be a model for self-reclamation for other absurdly rich men who do amoral and even criminal things in the pursuit of more wealth.

“One big lie” Bernie Madoff. If there is only one person once on this earth who could make you glad you’re not greedy, Bernie may be the one.

Martin Shkreli. Once a resident of Allenwood Federal Prison, his perpetual smirk gave off a nauseating odor that will last in my olfactory memory.

Elizabeth Holmes. How did she think making false claims about the wonders of her blood-testing medical device was going to turn out? The only kind of delicious note here is…one of the investors she defrauded was Rupert Murdoch. Bitter taste: Rupert got his money back. Smaller investors didn’t, I think. So here you could see this as two justice systems: rich fools may get their money back; poor fools probably don’t.

Kenneth Lay. Enron, remember? He was a friend of the Bush family and escaped justice: while waiting to be sentenced, he died of a heart attack.

Charles Ponzi. I don’t believe he created a website, given that he died before websites were fairy lights in what became Silicon Valley.

Allan Stanford. Ooh, Ponzi scheme, ooh, 110 year prison sentence.

Jack Abramoff. I love the introductory sentence of his Wikipedia entry: “…an American lobbyist, businessman, film producer, writer, and convicted felon.” A veritable Renaissance man.

Dennis Kozlowski. I recall my amusement at the description of a party this guy threw for his then-wife: “The extravagant party, held on the Italian island of Sardinia, featured an ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s David urinating Stolichnaya vodka…” (Also Jimmy Buffett, but we all loved him so never mind.) An excellent phrase from the New York Times describes Kozlowski as “an archetype of avarice.”

Harvey Weinstein.

There are many, many more. I’ll leave it you to find them. I hope this makes you feel better about (1) our justice system and (2) the likelihood that Trump will not get away with it.





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