Local and National Cases Prove the Law Prefers Shooters to Streakers

Black’s Law Dictionary, the Bible of law terminology, defines bail as the “monetary amount for or condition of release from custody, normally set by the judge at the initial appearance.” Three bail determinations occurring last week, two local and one of national prominence, prove to me that the law doesn’t care if you carry a gun, so long as you keep your clothes on.
Let’s begin with the latest chapter in the weird, pathetic parable of O. J. Simpson. Most Americans believe the former football icon got away with murder. Maybe so… but a successful civil suit strapped him with a multi-million dollar debt for the “wrongful deaths” of his wife and her friend. Although the plaintiffs — parents of one of O. J.’s victims — can’t execute their massive money judgment against the Juice’s Florida mansion (due to that state’s homestead-protection laws), they wait to pounce on any Simpson windfall. Consequently, when the NFL star-cum-killer attempted last year to publish his “how I might have done it” tome, he earmarked the royalties for a trust fund for his kids. Fortunately, the few threadbare ethical standards that remain in America to curb celebrity exploitations prevented the book’s release.
Apparently seeking a secondary source of lucre, O. J. and friends staged an attempted robbery of sports memorabilia, including some items of his own. The upshot was his being booked on two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit burglary and burglary with a firearm, coercion, and, last but not least, kidnapping. How much did it take to get him back on the street? The judge set bail at $125,000 and Juice was back in his Florida crib before you could say, “Snap the ball, baby.”
Meanwhile, home here in Havertown, the News of Delco’s police beat reported that a man arrested for firing his gun on the third floor of his residence, while drunk, was let go on $2,500 bail. Now get this. The guy wasn’t just taking a pot shot at some pesky squirrel. The cops confiscated some 50 shell casings, some of them 9mm and others .22 caliber, along with cans and boxes riddled with holes. Havertown’s finest also found bullet holes in the next door neighbor’s home. Now here’s the best part: the shooter was required to post only 10 percent of the bail amount. He was back on our streets for 250 bucks, folks. That sure makes me feel safe when I walk my dog. How about you?
Apparently, whether one is an internationally known villain wreaking havoc in Sin City, Nevada, or a drunken loony with a homemade shooting gallery in suburban Philly, the law’s attitude is “Aw, shucks.”
But, friends and neighbors, don’t try going naked… at least not around here. (I assume it’s a different story in Las Vegas.) The same issue of the News of Delco reported the arrest and arraignment of a fellow found naked in Naylor’s Run Park. The nudist was picked up while picking flowers near dusk one recent night. He told the fuzz he had been skinny dipping in the creek. He was said to exude the odor of an unspecified alcoholic beverage.
What in its infinite wisdom did the law demand as bail from this frolicking tippler? No less than $75,000… I kid you not.
Why, I am forced to wonder, has the American legal system always been more sensitive to so-called sexual ludeness than to the obscene violence that rages all around us? For my money — which I hope I’ll never have to post as a bail bond — this makes zero sense. Don’t get me wrong. The picture of some naked drunk pulling up daisies is not one I want inside my head. Much less would I have wanted to encounter this character while on a nature walk. Just the same, saddling this harmless dude with a $75,000 price tag for his freedom, while putting O.J. at large for a mere $125,000 and the Havertown target shooter on our streets for a measly $250 — little more than a big night at the Westgate Pub, where other shots were fired in anger not many months ago — makes no sense (nor cents) at all to this old barrister.
Jim Castagnera of Havertown is the Associate Provost/Associate Counsel at Rider University and a 2007-08 Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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