O.J. Simpson Sentencing
O.J. Simpson gets sentenced today for the bone headed act of leading a group of men, at least one of whom had a gun, into a hotel room to steal some memorabilia that, at some point, had belonged to him. His sentencing exposure ranges from six years to life imprisonment. Here’s hoping the judge does not throw the book at him.
Simpson has been, for many African-Americans, a complicated symbol of the rule of law. Charged with a brutal crime of violence against a white woman and man, Simpson had a trial. Not so long ago in the United States of America, he might have been lynched, just on the accusation. Then, despite some evidence that he committed the crime, the jury acquitted him, largely because of an inept prosecution that relied too much on the testimony of a lying, racist police officer. Some of the jurors believed that Simpson was “probably” guilty, but correctly understood that “probably” does not reach the “beyond reasonable doubt” threshold required for a criminal conviction.
You know the rest. Black glee, white fury, racial divide yadda yadda yadda. There was a sense among many African Americans that we won something, not “won” in the euphoric-still-can-make-me-cry-when-I-think-about-it sense of the Obama “verdict” (which, for the record, most white voters also did not support), but won in an angrier, uglier, more visceral way. Not only didn’t O.J. get lynched for a notorious crime against a white woman, he actually got away with it, based on the law. “Rules are rules,” the expression goes. “All we want,” Martin Luther King said, “is what you put on paper.”
It was never about Simpson, thank God, because the one thing the races can agree on is that he is an idiot. He didn’t have the grace to retire to Florida and live the quiet life of a symbol-of-the- rule-of-law. He messed up, again. Still, in the realm of what criminals do, Simpson’s act was medium bad, not a minor offense, but far from a horrific one. If he is punished too much, it will feel to some African-Americans like the night riders, better late than never, came for him after all.