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12 Apr, 2019 13:00

Lady Justice blinked: America’s flunking legal system reveals a nation divided by money and power

Lady Justice blinked: America’s flunking legal system reveals a nation divided by money and power

Imagine sweating through 12 years of school, or investing heavily in the stock market, only to discover that the elite are gaming the system to their advantage. Worse, their power allows them to escape justice.

These days, an outsider attempting to understand the United States may come to the conclusion that the ‘American Dream’ is best obtained through bribery, backstabbing and cheating, so long as the actor doesn’t do something really stupid, you know, like get caught. Considering the college admissions scam now rocking the heartland, such a harsh indictment doesn’t appear too far from the mark.

This week, the Department of Justice released a statement saying that 13 parents and one university employee pleaded guilty to “using bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children’s admission to a number of colleges and universities.” One of the named is Felicity Huffman, 56, an American movie actress who is accused of paying a middleman to boost her daughter’s college entrance exam scores.

Huffman has some glitzy celebrity company in this modern walk of shame. Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 to a bogus charity to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though the women probably couldn’t tell the difference between an oar and a pitchfork.

This scandal speaks volumes about the ‘double-faced’ nature of the US cultural scene when a parent can fork over thousands of dollars in bribe money to guarantee their child gets into a top-notch university at a time when the majority of college students are buried under a tuition debt mountain. Meanwhile, the spoiled-rotten offspring of the ultra-wealthy class are flashing their undeserved elite-school status on Instagram and YouTube as if it were the latest-model Mercedes or a vacation along the French Riviera.

On a brief side note, the fact that altering the nationally recognized SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is even possible is an extremely worrying revelation and suggests that corruption is endemic throughout the educational system.

So, what sort of legal fate awaits these well-heeled parents and their children who cheated the educational system? CNN quoted a source close to one family who said, [Loughlin and Giannulli] are “hoping to just let this play out in the judicial system. They are innocent until proven guilty.

In other words, the possibility is high that many of these affluent parents – who under ‘normal’ circumstances would face up to 40 years in prison – will never spend a single day behind bars despite such egregious gaming of the system. If recent history is a reliable guide, the defendants will receive the obligatory slap on the wrist, pay some exorbitant lawyer fees, perform a few hours of community service and then continue their opulent lifestyles without missing a cocktail.

This is not simply misplaced cynicism. We’ve seen such examples of ‘justice’ US-style in the not-so-distant past. In February, Jussie Smollett, another Hollywood actor, was charged by a grand jury with a Class 4 felony for reporting a hate crime that in fact never happened. Several weeks later, Smollett, with no small help from celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos, was back on the street. Even the FBI is at a loss to explain why the serious charges against the actor were dropped without the benefit of a jury trial.

Also on rt.com America’s cult of ‘liberal privilege’ lets Jussie Smollett dodge felony bullet

It is not just wealthy celebrities, of course, who are escaping the jaws of justice. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the worst economic disaster to make landfall since the Great Depression of 1929, aside from Kareem Serageldin, not a single Wall Street banker, broker or white collar suit, got to sample prison food for their shenanigans, which included rigging the housing market with a ticking time bomb known as subprime mortgages.

Following the eventual implosion of the housing market, billions of dollars were lost and untold lives irreversibly affected. Today, the lawbreakers are free, continuing to pocket record bonuses and pay packages, while the ‘too big to fail’ banks and financial institutions – bailed out of foreclosure to the tune of trillions of dollars – are bigger and badder than ever.  

The financial crisis was a profound learning experience for many Americans, who were taught that crime really does pay, but only for those powerful elite with the financial clout and personal connections to avoid persecution. Many Americans were betting that former president Barack Obama, who assumed office right after the outbreak of the crisis, would take disciplinary measures against the lawbreakers. They were to be sorely disappointed.

Americans needed their president to tell them… that he would track down those responsible for their pain and suffering, and that he would restore order and safety,wrote Drew Westen, professor of psychology at Emory University, at a time when much of the nation was clamoring for justice. “Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, [then president Barack Obama] put them in charge of it.

Americans have become oddly immune to the regular news of ultra-powerful, ultra-wealthy elite brazenly avoiding punishment for their high crimes. We take it for granted that the wealthy class, who are able to afford the very best legal representation, are somehow privileged enough to remain above the law no matter how reckless their actions and deeds. This only serves to reinforce the notion that America is a house divided when it comes to not only finances, but on the legal front as well.

Also on rt.com Massive college admission scandal is all about widening US inequality gap – lawyer to Boom Bust

There are two Americas,” said Remington Gregg, a lawyer who serves at the Washington-based consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen, in an interview with RT’s Boom Bust. “There is one set of rules for the wealthy and there is another set of rules for everyone else.”

Gregg added that the “shocking” thing about the situation is that those who already enjoy [financial] advantages “still refuse to abide by rules.” How long average Americans can stay patient amid such a dual living arrangement with the elite remains to be seen.

Lady Justice, the famous symbol of the US legal system, is depicted by a blindfolded goddess who wields a sword in one hand and a set of scales in the other. The blindfold is meant to convey the idea that all people are equal before the law, and everyone will be judged without bias or preconceived notions. Today, however, the blindfold appears to have slipped, and Lady Justice is increasingly meting out justice according to status and financial well-being of the person appearing before her.

In order to avoid imminent disaster, it’s time to firmly affix the blindfold and ensure that all Americans – not just those who can afford it – are seen as truly equal before the law.


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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.