There's a common complaint that most countries have two judicial systems. One judicial system allows the rich to commit rather heinous crimes and get off with a fine and maybe a stretch of probation or perhaps a length of house arrest, and another that incarcerates the poor for offenses that would be minor in comparison to those on the other side of the fence. Realistically, everyone enters into the same judicial system, but there definitely appears to be a huge disparity in the sentencing that judges give to the wealthy elite versus the sentencing that is typically handed down to the average citizen.
There have been a number of defenses used and a number of different reasons judges have provided when talking about the "slap on the wrist" sentencing that is often handed down to the rich. In a lot of cases, it is brought up that many of these people employ hundreds to thousands of people, and sending a rich employer off to jail would have a rippling effect that could essentially punish the innocent people in their employ. While this could be the case in some instances, this doesn't account for a celebrity, that may only hire a handful of people, such as a couple assistants or bodyguards. This also doesn't account for lighter crimes that wouldn't necessarily result in jail time, but a wealthy individual was let off much lighter than most.
Take a look at these twelve individuals that made out pretty well in their sentencing despite committing a range of crimes from the heinous to the petty. Some of the reasons they were let off light will both surprise and infuriate you.
12 Kate Meckler
We're going to start off light and let your anger slowly boil as the list progresses. Kate Meckler, a rather well-off New York real estate agent with the firm Warburg Realty, stole over $1,500 worth of items from Saks Fifth Avenue when she was more than able to afford her purchases. When Meckler was caught and brought in front of a judge, she was only given 5 days of community service in a soup kitchen. Most people would have gotten probation and fines in addition to community service for this kind of crime.
In these shoplifting situations, the wealthy only get in a lot of heat if they are chronic shoplifters. This is interesting because according to the book The Steal by Rachel Shteir, a study was done that showed individuals with an income greater than $70,000 a year are 30% more likely to steal than those with an income of less than $20,000 a year.
11 H. Ty Warner
H. Ty Warner is the founder of Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts and the Ty Toy Company. Nearly everyone is familiar with Ty Beanie Babies and the huge collecting craze that erupted around the toy in the 1990's. One could only imagine that the sale of Beanie Babies alone may have made Warner a very rich man. He is a rich man, but apparently whatever he had wasn't enough. Warner hid as much as $106 million in offshore Swiss accounts, effectively avoiding taxes for twelve years to the tune of at least $5.5 million.
What was Warner's punishment for this extreme case of tax evasion?
He only received two years of probation and community service.
10 Martin Joel Erzinger
Dr. Steven Milo was enjoying a bike ride until a Mercedes-Benz slammed into him and left him for dead on the side of the road. Martin Joel Erzinger was the man behind the wheel and he pulled over as soon as it was convenient...to report the damage to his new car. Erzinger was only slapped with two minor traffic violations despite his actions causing lifetime pain, severe spinal damage, and brain bleeding in Dr. Milo.
One of the reasons Erzinger was let off the hook was because he manages $1 billion in assets for Morgan Stanley, but the best reason has to be what he used as a defense - the new car made him ill. You did indeed read that correctly. Erzinger claimed the new car smell triggered his sleep apnea. This "new Mercedes defense" may explain the accident itself, but what about the fact that he left the doctor for dead and only made a call to the repair shop?
9 Shaun Goodman
This one is quite a shocker. The punishment was fair in the sense that Goodman did receive jail time, but he was essentially allowed to come and go whenever duty called.
The incident that sent Goodman to the slammer was a high speed chase with police due to a blood alcohol level of .16 - twice the legal limit. Goodman had a passenger in the vehicle he had just met, and refused to allow the passenger to leave. The passenger jumped from the vehicle when the car had slowed down at an intersection. The chase ended when Goodman crashed into a home and two other vehicles. On top of it all, this would be Goodman's 7th DUI.
Despite the fact that 3 DUI's would be enough to give someone incarceration with almost no question, Goodman was allowed to leave jail whenever he had to work since he had a number of people in the community in his employ. It's nice of the judge to think of these other individuals, but Goodman himself seems to need help for some personal demons, and he clearly has no regard for human life.
8 Oscar Pistorius
Pistorius was an inspiration to many after making it as an Olympic sprinter despite being a double amputee. After he made a splash at the Olympics and gained the nickname "The Blade Runner" due to the appearance of his prosthetic limbs, Pistorius made it in the news once again after he shot and killed his wife. Pistorius claims he thought his wife was an intruder, but many doubt this version of events since his wife was behind a closed bathroom door.
Pistorius was only given a prison sentence of five years for the crime.
7 Samuel Curtis Johnson III
Generally the law can be rather harsh when it comes to the molestation of a child, so you think they would have come down hard on Samuel Curtis Johnson II. Nope. Despite pleading guilty to the accusation, the heir to the SC Johnson household product empire was only given 4 months in jail with 60 days Huber and a very affordable $6000 fine for the billionaire. Johnson also did not have to register as a sex offender which would normally be the case. Other individuals have had to register as an offender for much lesser crimes than the sexual assault of a 12-year-old. The judge's reasoning behind letting Johnson off lightly was that he had led an otherwise productive life.
6 HSBC Bank Senior Officials
It's rather upsetting that America went absolutely bananas during the "war on terror", yet when HSBC Bank officials oversaw the laundering of money from Saudi banks that was most definitely used to fund terrorist organizations, the bank officials never even saw the inside of a courtroom. A veritable plethora of evidence was gathered against the senior bank officials, but nothing was done because they were deemed "too important" and the banking industry was already in dire straits at the time.
In addition to laundering terrorist money, the bank was also connected to laundering a large amount of Mexican drug money. Meanwhile, about 7,500 people a year go to jail for simple possession charges - never mind helping fund an entire drug operation.
5 Robert H Richards IV
The heir to the Du Pont Chemical Company fortune committed a very heinous crime and was only given probation. What did he do? He raped his daughter who was only three years of age at the time. Richards was tried and convicted of the crime. There wasn't some deal made to plead guilty on a lesser crime. He was actually convicted of raping a three-year-old and he got off with eight years of probation and he had to register as a sex offender. The judge's reasoning behind allowing Richards to remain free is that he didn't think Richards would "fare well behind bars."
Of course he wouldn't fare well in prison. That's sort of the point to prison. It isn't supposed to be awesome.
4 Colin Read
Granted Read, a Cambridge graduated executive, didn't rape or nearly kill anyone, but he did brand his wife with a freaking iron after she failed to press his shirt to his liking! Shortly after, his wife forgot to make him a sandwich, so he slashed up her legs with a knife. God forbid someone forget to make a sandwich after they'd just been branded with an iron.
Read was only fined £2000 for torturing his wife because the judge felt he was unlikely to do it again. How can you be so sure that an obviously sadistic person won't commit a crime like this again when they weren't even sentenced to some kind of anger management program?
3 Nick Oliveri
Nick Oliveri is a popular musician, best known for his work with the Dwarves and Queens of the Stone Age. It would come as no surprise that Oliveri would have an issue with drugs since cocaine and meth seemed to have a running theme in a number of his own songs. Oliveri wasn't just caught with drugs, he was caught with a house said to be full of drugs, a house he held his wife hostage in while he held a shotgun and had a four hour stand-off with the SWAT team. One would think that causing enough trouble to have the SWAT team called would have some serious ramifications, but they'd be wrong. Oliveri was let off with anger management and probation.
2 Ethan Couch
The case of Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old that killed four while driving drunk, made national attention and justifiably angered a lot of people. Couch was found guilty of killing the four other motorists but he got off with simple probation. The judge actually stated that since Couch was so rich and was given everything he ever wanted, Couch didn't understand that he couldn't just do whatever he wanted. The defense even had a doctor come in and refer to the "condition" as "affluenza", a play on the words "affluent" and "influenza."
It's a bit frightening that there is now a defense that someone can use that literally means "I'm too wealthy to be held responsible for my actions."
1 Orachorn "Praewa" Thephasadin Na Ayudhya
Praewa here was busy texting on her mobile phone so she didn't even notice when she hit a van and knocked it over a guard rail on an elevated Bangkok highway, killing the nine passengers within. As the case went through the courts, Praewa was definitely found guilty, but her sentence kept getting less and less severe. The judges said it was because Praewa was "helpful during the investigation" but many believe it's because her family is very well known in Bangkok high society. She looks pretty helpful in the image above as she continues to play with her phone. How helpful could she have possibly been? She must have walked up to the van and said, "Yep. All nine of the people in the van I hit are definitely dead."
To date, Praewa has only received a two year suspended jail term and community service, but as she keeps appealing, she has yet to see any real kind of punishment. She did send flowers to the families of the victims though.