Friday, April 20, 2007

Whose Ox Are We Goring?

The Cool Justice Report
April 20, 2007

The recent excoriation of shock jock Don Imus exemplifies the great social strides made in racial sensitivity. Imus' career has been-pock marked with irreverent and politically incorrect schtick in the name of satire and humor. The megamillionaire dared all comers to take him on for his biting sarcasm. He got that part of his wish.

The firestorm of criticism is not ill placed. Corporate and political America alike has joined the ground swell of critics. His comments targeted a group of young women who stood one game from college basketball's highest pinnacle.

Having had three youngsters play basketball in college I am well aware of the dedication needed to succeed today as a student athlete. In particular, women's athletics, even moreso than the men's game, truly exemplifies the student athlete. Until recent years there were no big bucks contracts luring women into the professional ranks. They did and still do, play for the love of the game.

At the same time as the saga of Imus' comeuppance unfolded, hundreds of miles south another injustice was being righted. The former Duke lacrosse players indicted on charges of rape and kidnapping in North Carolina were declared innocent by that state's Attorney General. Their former persecutor, disgraced District Attorney Mike Nifong was publicly battered for his unethical conduct in pursuing a case that had no merit.

Nifong's misfeasance will probably cost him his bar license. A disciplinary hearing is scheduled for this June. His despicable conduct will undoubtedly change the way prosecutions are commenced, at least in North Carolina, and possibly elsewhere. Advocates of sexually battered women have also lamented that his conduct in this case may very well dissuade true victims of sexual crimes from coming forward.

Even prostitutes have the right to say no and seek the aid of law enforcement when they have been victimized. It is the nature of that victimization that concerns me.
Something troubled me as I sat switching back and forth between news programs watching each of these developing stories. Something is lost in the praise being heaped upon the Duke men. True, they have been wronged; and true, the system has been harmed by Nifong. True also is the mean spirited nature exhibited by Imus.

But what about the issue of young men of privilege throwing a party with prostitutes and strippers? What about their failure to recognize their victimization and degradation of the women they paid to entertain them? Where are the voices condemning them for sexist and racial insensitivity? Their conduct was as much a besmirching of the integrity of college athletics as were the racial quips of Don Imus.

Their accuser was not raped, that much is now clear; but who is advocating for these women that are often compelled to prostitution because their lives were not privileged.

Imus will continue to be pilloried for his comments. Mike Nifong will be discredited and probably sued. College athletics has been assaulted in both instances.

Bridgeport attorney Richard Meehan Jr. was the lead defense counsel for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's corruption trial. Meehan is certified as a criminal trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and is a Charter Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America. Meehan has also obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex medical and dental malpractice and personal injury litigation. He is a past president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association and appears regularly on Court TV. Website,

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