Wednesday, January 26, 2022

‘Half the way to rehabilitation’

     There is a poem by Robert Lowell, “Epilogue,” where something has gone wrong with his writing.
     “Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme,” it begins, “why are they no help to me now”?
     The problem, he explains, is, “sometimes everything I write/with the threadbare art of my eye/seems a snapshot/lurid, rapid, garish, grouped.”
     Midway, the path out hits him, an epiphany, a knife cutting through the confusing clutter.
     “Yet why not say what happened?”
     Clarity. Just tell the truth. Why not? It really does set you free. The Jussie Smollett calliope wheezed to life Tuesday when his attorney confirmed the former “Empire” actor will be sentenced March 10 — moving the actor, found guilty by a jury and the court of common sense of staging a racist attack against himself, toward eventually receiving some kind of punishment. A sharp tap on the wrist, no doubt.
     But how sharp? I had this fantasy of the judge brandishing two sealed envelopes, saying: “Explain right now exactly what occurred, and I’ll give you sentence A. Keep up the charade, and you get B. Your choice.”
     Which made me wonder: Why do convicted criminals sometimes get a break if they admit their crime, even after refusing to do so at trial? Why reward tardy contrition? What’s the logic behind it? The crime is the same, whether you admit it or not.
     “So they won’t recommit the same kind of crime. Sentencing is not supposed to be for punishing, but mostly for rehabilitation,” said Howard J. Wise, noted Chicago criminal defense attorney. “If people admit they’re guilty, that’s half the way to rehabilitation. They give them credit for that, and a lighter sentence.”
     “The judge must take in several factors,” said Kevin P. Bolger, former Chicago police officer, former Cook County prosecutor, and defense attorney for over 40 years. “One factor is acceptance of responsibility. Contriteness. That goes a long way in the judge’s mind.”

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  1. Let me add that it is not honesty if the acknowledgment is followed by an excuse.
    If Smollett says something like, “I know what I did was wrong but I needed the publicity.” the judge should reward him with a lot of rehab.

  2. I too have wanted to see the judge do exactly that to Smollett. I really want to know just how he got to Kim Foxx & caused her to essentially drop all charges against an obvious liar.
    Just who paid her off.

  3. If Jussie gets a fine or community service or probation...or some combination of all three...he will smirk at Chicago authorities, and laugh about it all the way home.

    He faces up to three years in the slammer, right? Okay. Give him the max, and if he's a good boy, he'll get out in a year or two. Probably sooner, but that's still plenty of time to think about the stupid publicity stunt he pulled, and about how and why he ended up behind bars, and about the way he will live out his days. Other actors have done far worse, served their sentences, and resumed their careers. Some of them never did. Maybe he'll end up in a gas station or a car wash, doing life.

    No way of knowing what fate awaits Jussie. But making an example of him now might serve as a deterrent to a few other smirking idiots in the entertainment business (and ordinary Joes, as well) who want to take the same shortcut to wealth and "fame" in the future. We certainly don't need additional faked hate crimes. We already have far too many legitimate ones.

  4. A fine column, but it seems to me that it's wasted on this guy. The chances of him admitting perjury, on top of the original false claim, seem slim.

    But much of what I know about this case I've learned against my will, as people like to say about the Kardashians and other famous-for-being-famous folks. If this piece had been written by almost anybody else, I wouldn't have read it.

    The universally applicable aspects, however, are very worthwhile. The concept that "Sentencing is not supposed to be for punishing, but mostly for rehabilitation" is certainly not what most people care to focus on. Not that it works, regardless. Despite serving much of his stiff sentence, Blago doesn't seem to have been rehabilitated in the least, for example.

    The lesson adapted from your personal life, about the importance of acknowledging the truth, is powerful, indeed, whether one has the fortitude to act on it, or not.

  5. Admitting he's a liar will mean throwing under the bus people who fell for it. And maybe still do. I expect he will stick it out and try to sell himself as the victim of a racist criminal system.


  6. Meant to say "racist criminal justice system."


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