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February 2009
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The Phelps Bust Strategy

I’ve been trying to figure out the whole nonsense of Sheriff Lott trying to go after Michael Phelps for “breaking the law.”
I’m no lawyer, and I don’t know much about South Carolina laws.
Going into today, here’s what Sheriff Lott’s case looked like to me:

  1. Picture of Michael putting his lips on a long plastic tube. Implies a lot, but proves nothing.
  2. Statement by Michael admitting that was him in the picture and apologizing for inappropriate behavior, but never actually mentioning pot. Implies a lot, but proves nothing.

Based on that evidence, I assume that any competent attorney could get the case thrown out of court without even getting out of bed. (That is true, isn’t it?)
After today’s revelations, however, it seems to me that Lott has a different idea: Go after every college student in the area who might have been at the party, catch them with some pot, and then throw the book at them unless they turn against Phelps.
He probably figures he can scare them all into testifying that they were having an innocent monopoly party until Phelps showed up with his pound of dope and started filling bongs and selling it to people. (That’s the way the drug war works, don’t you know?)
Now, instead of a meaningless picture and statement, they’d have a parade of snitch testimony. Pretty sick, but it starts looking like a possible prosecution (assuming that the DA would want to touch a case like that). Everyone would know that it was a put-up job.
And getting a jury that didn’t already have an opinion on the case? Tricky. Of course, they may assume that Michael would plead to avoid the negative publicity. But a guilty plea might hurt him as much with sponsors as the publicity, so it’s hard to say which way it would go.
Anyway you look at it, this is just plain stupid.
Update: Norm Kent over at NORML does some of the same speculation that I do, except that he’s smarter than me and knows more.
Also, there is some question about how solid some of the information is on this case. The arrests and bong seizure reported by WIS-TV have not been confirmed by law enforcement.

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