Nail Her

Send Lindsay to Jail!

As Lindsay Lohan blows off yet another judge, former prosecutor Rikki Klieman says the only thing more outrageous than the star’s behavior is the fact that L.A.’s flawed court system can’t nail her.

10.20.11 5:23 PM ET

Another day in a Los Angeles criminal court, another reprimand for Lindsay Lohan.

It is the same story, over and over again. She violates the law or she violates the conditions of her probation and she returns to court, dressed in her sexy clothes, listens to a judge reprimand her, and then casually sways out of the courtroom, even if in handcuffs, immediately posts bail, and goes about her usual activities. Her troubles have gone on since 2007. That might be a record amount of time for a defendant to keep returning to court and not wind up with any real time in jail.

As a former prosecutor and criminal-defense attorney in Massachusetts, I participated in a system that worked. I cannot remember any client, rich or poor, black, brown or white, including addicts, who were not fearful of going to court and facing a judge. Perhaps it was an era of respect, of civility, of shame. There actually was a true deterrent effect that defendants felt, which caused them to be on their best behavior when they were facing the might and power of the system. If they were fortunate enough to receive a probationary sentence, they understood the consequences if they were not in complete compliance. Yes, of course there were some who made mistakes, but then they did their time. People who are not celebrities have to obey the rules. That is how society functions.

Except in Los Angeles.

Yesterday, Superior Court Judge Stephanie Saunter, disgusted and helpless, noting that “there has been violation after violation,” revoked Lohan's probation because she did not comply with her community-service requirements. Her lawyer noted that Lohan did not find her work at the Downtown Women’s Center for the homeless “fulfilling.” Are you kidding me? “Fulfilling”? Is that the new criterion for acceptance of responsibility by a probationer?

Now she is being sent to do her service at the morgue—and TMZ reported she showed up 20 minutes late. I wonder how “fulfilling” that will be for the pampered actress. She returns to court on Nov. 2, when we can hear the story yet again: should she actually go to jail or is it a fool’s errand for the judge to send her there since she is always released early because of jail overcrowding in Los Angeles County?  

Oh, yes, I keep hearing that she is an addict and that she needs help.  However, she has had plenty of chances to get that help. The addiction specialists say that she needs to be “scared straight,” that something needs “to get her attention.” Frankly, then, she should go to jail and stay there for a while, as any other common criminal would have to do in any other city. Pampering her celebrity status in a dysfunctional criminal-justice system does her no favors either.

So what is wrong with Los Angeles? I lived there for seven years and often said, “It must be in the water.” I feel sorry for the judges who want to do the right thing but are stymied by a system that won’t even let them act like judges: sentence someone and watch while the jail sends them through a revolving door back to their life in front of a camera? I also have sympathy for the prosecutor, who is well intentioned but is clearly rendered impotent, as well as for the defense attorneys, who cannot get their clients to listen to their advice.

Celebrities like Lindsay Lohan just do what they do, over and over again, without consequence. They have no fear, nor do they respect the court, and they don’t think the rules apply to them. They just go about their lives, believing that they can do things their way and nothing bad will ever happen. They clearly don’t feel that anyone really looks down upon them or shuns them. They just get dressed up, show those pearly whites, and stroll in and out of the halls of justice, where justice simply does not apply to them at all.