Sunday, September 23, 2007

OJ Simpson Again: The Theft is Fine, If the Stuff is Mine?

"If it doesn't fit, you must acquit," became Johnny Cochran's mantra as he tried to convince jurors that the case laid out by prosecutors against OJ Simpson was inconsistent and full of holes. This was reported on on September 28th, 1995. Now, some twelve years later, OJ is back in the news with a new set of legal problems. This time what will the mantra be: “The theft is fine if the stuff is mine?”

Every choice has a consequence. OJ is just another person who seems to be having a hard time figuring that out. Of course, his celebrity keeps him in the news and gives us all an opportunity to see universal laws at work. Perhaps, it would serve the greater good to look at OJ’s choices and the consequences that followed.

Whether OJ Simpson is guilty of killing Nichole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman is not a subject of debate. Clearly, a jury has found OJ innocent of capital murder. Yet, OJ made, before and throughout the trial, himself a target by his behavior. Leading police on a nationally televised police chase didn’t represent a choice that fostered a feeling of innocence. Does it make him guilty? No. But, the choice he made had a consequence – at a minimum the consequence was doubt as to his innocence. That doubt still exists today.

Now, twelve years later OJ is back in the media with a brush with the law. According to Fox news…”Prosecutors charged Simpson with 11 criminal offenses in all, including the first-degree kidnapping charge.

Simpson was arrested after a collector reported a group of armed men charged into his hotel room at the Palace Station casino and took several items that Simpson claimed belonged to him. He has been held since then in protective custody in a 7-foot-by-14-foot cell.
The Heisman Trophy winner was charged with kidnapping, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, coercion with use of a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime.”

Once again, every choice has a consequence. If, in fact, OJ believed that his personal effects were wrongly in someone else’s possession, would it not make sense to alert law enforcement and allow them to deal with the issue of stolen goods? Knowing that you are a celebrity in the media eye, would you think if you’re OJ that the choice of attempting to retrieve you own personal goods could be a legal problem? Regardless of ownership of the memorabilia, if the property should be returned there are choices and methods that would yield a better consequence.

OJ’s entry and attempt to retrieve “his memorabilia” demonstrates another poor choice with a disastrous outcome. Charged with 11 criminal offenses, OJ was released on $125,000 bail. Again according to Fox News, “The memorabilia taken from the hotel room included football game balls signed by Simpson, Joe Montana lithographs, baseballs autographed by Pete Rose and Duke Snider and framed awards and plaques, together valued at as much as $100,000.

Although Simpson was acquitted of murder charges in the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and friend Ron Goldman, a jury later held him liable for the killings in a wrongful death lawsuit and ordered him to pay a $33.5 million judgment. On Tuesday, a California judge gave a lawyer for Goldman's father a week to deliver a list of items Simpson was accused of taking from the hotel room, raising the possibility that they could be sold to pay off the judgment.”

Perhaps OJ will once again escape the clutches of the legal system. Although with the counts he is facing, one might assume that he will have an up hill battle. Either way, his choices are getting him a set of predictable consequences much like mine did 20+ years ago. Having served time in Federal Prison, I fully understand the Law of Reciprocity (You reap what you sow!). The difference is that I have had the opportunity to learn from the experience and use the experience for the greater good. It would appear that OJ has missed the point.

Every choice has a consequence. The dynamic thing is, we can choose the consequence. It can be incredibly negative (such as what OJ is experiencing right now), or it can be extremely positive. On a personal level I know the shame and loss that prison brings and the joy of rising from the ashes of my former self to being asked to speak to audiences nationwide – helping others see the direct relationship to choices and consequences. As humans we can make a mistake, we are not the MISTAKE.

Perhaps OJ will have, yet once again, the chance to make the right choices and use his fame and celebrity for the benefit of others. Through the Choices Foundation, a non-profit organization I established, I speak to audiences from coast to coast, with a dynamic ethics message. Especially well received by university students, I focus on making clear to them that every choice has a consequence – a message much needed in today’s environment.

As a business ethics speaker and sales motivational speaker, my business and personal experiences over 30 years provides a powerful framework for presentations, workshops and consulting. Understanding the business and ethical challenges facing individuals and organizations today, whether corporate, government or association, the message focuses on the pressing issues found so often in the media…just like the “new” OJ story.

For information on my programs or how they may benefit your organization, visit my web site: or contact me at

Nifong - Former Duke Prosecutor: Choices and Consequences

Sentenced to jail! That was the verdict read by the judge to Mike Nifong, the disbarred Durham County, NC former district attorney who gained national fame in his attempt to prosecute Duke University lacrosse players on rape charges. Nifong rather will spend a day behind bars for criminal contempt of court.

How often have I said in presentations around the country, "Every choice has a consequence! It is an inescapable truth...just like gravity." Yet, it seems daily we are bombarded with media rich coverage about bad choices and the consequences that follow. The Duke Lacrosse fiasco and Mike Nifong's prosecution continues to show vividly the application of the law of reciprocity (simply put you reap what you sow).

As an Ethics Keynote Speaker I often observe that there seems to be a common thread that runs through issues like this. I understand clearly how choices can be made that can have disastrous consequences. I know – I made them and lived through them. Perhaps if they are exposed, others may consider more carefully their choices before reaping the consequences that follow.

It has been said that Nifong's judgment was blurred by political ambition. It has been argued that Nifong's political career could be catapulted forward with a high profile conviction in this case. Suppose that the Duke Lacrosse students had, in fact, raped an African American stripper. Imagine, if you will, the headlines following a conviction. Nifong would have brought to justice those wealthy Caucasian boys who, assuming they were above the law with their wealth and privilege, harmed in a violent way those who were underprivileged and disenfranchised. Headlines like that would get one votes, and votes gets one power in the political machine.

The problem is - it wasn't true. Certainly the Duke Lacrosse students may be judged guilty of poor judgment. As we all know, college students often exercise poor judgment. Judgment aside, they did not break the law. Regardless of what was said, in this case the truth was exposed - Choices and consequences.

But what were the choices and consequences in this case? First, it didn’t start with Mike Nifong. He, along with the Duke lacrosse players and their families all experienced consequences from choices made. Mike Nifong today may very well have been the Durham County, NC prosecutor had the lacrosse stripper party not have taken place. Nifong’s actions are not excused here, rather, there is a reality check recognizing that every choice has a consequence and the Duke students created the environment for the drama to unfold.

What were the choices that created this whole series of unfortunate but universally destined consequences? (1) The Duke students, by most accounts, exercised poor judgment and suffered as a result. None of the students in question will become Duke University graduates – a consequence none would have expected moments before the party began. (2) The stripper must have thought, “Hum, here’s a chance to make some money. You know they’ll settle.” The fact is, the truth of a situation eventually will come out. Some may believe that the truth can be hidden. Perhaps that’s true for a while, but the truth and the consequences thereof will always be revealed – at least at some point in time. (3) Nifong, while knowing he didn’t have a case, continued to move forward hoping that he would gain the conviction he so desperately wanted – thereby moving his political career forward.

All choices have consequences - either positive or negative. That is an inescapable truth. Having experienced much of what Mike Nifong is going through, I understand the pain is very real. The effects or consequences of our choices can be seared into our beings for the rest of our lives. Likewise, this is not the end for Nifong as there are pending civil suits against him.

In a report from the Associated Press this comment was made: "Today felt like the end of a Greek tragedy," said Jim Cooney, on of the lacrosse player’s attorney. "It was a tragedy for the boys and their families, but it was also a tragedy for Mike Nifong who at one point seemed to be a decent, honest prosecutor and lost his way."

At times it may seem like the end, but some ends are nothing more than beginnings. As the founder of the Choices Foundation, a non-profit organization, I know that bad endings and the consequences of poor choices can be the catalyst for an incredible amount of good. Like Mike Nifong, my poor choices earned me time in prison, yet that time, today, affords me the opportunity to speak to college and university students about Choices and their Consequences. Perhaps, when the Nifong drama comes to an end, Mike can use his experience for good. After all, we may make mistakes (some very significant) but we are not the mistake. Every choice has a consequence – so good choices can bring about positive results.