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Too pretty for prison? That's just beautiful

Published July 21, 2005

Peter Griffin, the loutish lead character in the animated TV series The Family Guy, gets liposuction in one episode and discovers that beautiful people enjoy a secret and privileged existence. He learns this waiting in line at the supermarket:

HANDSOME STRANGER: Come on up in front.

PETER : But people were in front of me.

HANDSOME STRANGER: You haven't been beautiful very long, have you? Gorgeous guys like us don't have to wait in line.

Peter is taken to a luxury mansion where all the beautiful people in town hang out. Naturally, even in The Family Guy's twisted application of TV sitcom rules, Peter eventually learns the error of his ways and goes back to being his old unattractive self.

In general, I do not mind if beautiful people believe they have a separate set of rules, as long as they do not expect me to admire them, and do not ask me to go out of my way for them. I would not recognize Paris Hilton, who I gather is a beautiful person of current notoriety, if she marched in the front door to cancel her subscription.

But occasionally even the lives of beautiful people intersect those of the less beautiful, and in such cases, the common rules of society must apply.

This brings us to Debra Lafave, the former (definitely former) instructor at Greco Middle School in Hillsborough County, who faces felony charges alleging, shall we say, improper conduct (definitely improper) with a teenage boy.

This week, talks over a plea deal between Lafave and prosecutors broke down, and her trial was rescheduled for December. Lafave's lawyer, the veteran and able John Fitzgibbons of Tampa, objected because the state wished her to serve what he considered an unacceptable amount of prison time.

Explained Fitzgibbons:

To place an attractive young woman in that kind of hell hole is like placing a piece of raw meat in with the lions. I don't think Debbie could survive it.

The comment is instructive. The lawyer might have tried to argue that Lafave's crimes were not worthy of prison (good luck with that). He might have argued that mitigating factors, whatever they are, should spare her from incarceration.

But whether deliberate or automatic, Fitzgibbons' argument was precisely that Lafave should not be subjected to prison because she is beautiful. She would be "raw meat in with the lions." Cue images of leering prison matrons from Chained Heat.

If I were on a jury and a lawyer argued his client should not go to prison because he or she was beautiful, I would be offended. Of course, I would stick by my oath to consider only the facts. But, like that crazy umpire in Monday night's Devil Rays game, I would not be inclined to give the tie to the runner, if you know what I mean.

If she is guilty, she should go to prison. She is accused of the same crime as many a male teacher who has abused his position of authority and trust. Either we change our laws to say it's not as bad when a woman does it, or we need to apply the law regardless of who the defendant is.

Notice I said, "if she is guilty." Fitzgibbons intends to raise an insanity defense. That is a tough job under Florida law, since the legal standard for insanity is being so wacked out that you didn't know what you were doing was wrong. But he's entitled to try.

If that doesn't work, Fitzgibbons still will be entitled to argue that whatever pressures Lafave felt should be considered as mitigating circumstances to keep her out of prison. Since I have not heard all the evidence, and since I am not employed by a cable television network, I am content to wait to hear his case.

As long as he doesn't try to argue that she's too pretty.

[Last modified July 21, 2005, 08:57:38]

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