Former NFL wide receiver and current Twitter personality Chad Johnson will begin serving a 30 day jail sentence today for violating his court-mandated probation. But really the sentence is for slapping his male lawyer on the backside while in court.
When asked by Judge Kathleen McHugh in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., if he was satisfied with his lawyer’s work, the man formerly known as Ochocinco responded that his representation had been “awesome” and gave his lawyer a quick tap the way football players do to congratulate one another. That sent the courtroom into an uproar of laughter and it sent Johnson to jail to serve out a month-long sentence that the judge had previously agreed he would not have to serve.
Sure, Johnson apologized, but that wasn’t enough for McHugh, who felt the need to make an example out of him, because heaven forbid a future defendant bring levity and merriment to her courtroom. In truth, court is no place for such antics, but revoking a plea deal for a celebratory butt swat is hardly invoking justice in the good name of the court.
McHugh isn’t the first judge to take it upon herself to teach a haughty Black defendant a lesson. Judges like Layne Walker, in Texas’ 252nd District, who sentenced a teenage Black male to 99 years for robbery and another to 62 years for the same crime, are taking it upon themselves to teach defendants a lesson when it comes to sentencing. Regardless of the crime committed or demonstrated behavior outside of the courtroom, some judges love nothing more than to teach defendants a lesson in humility via extra jail time.
This is where folks like Lindsay Lohan and Chris Brown come into the picture. These are two defendants who have, often flagrantly, violated their probation on multiple occasions yet manage to retain their freedom. Brown, who was found guilty of much the same crime as Johnson, has been accused of fighting another singer over a parking spot and misrepresenting almost the entirety of his court-ordered community service so far. But in court all the singer said to the judge was “thank you,” so he’s free to be on his way.
We award judges the power to determine adequate and reasonable punishments for defendants found guilty and to maintain the sanctity and dignity of the court. But the actions of the judge in this case were anything but honorable and anything but fair. If these judges had spent any time in jail themselves or had even been to visit a loved one there, they would understand that 30 days inside is nothing to hand down lightly.
I’m sure when Johnson gets out of jail in 30 days and serves the additional three months of probation McHugh tacked onto his sentence he’ll be less funny and vivacious and much less likely to display his happiness and gratitude in a way that makes people laugh. Thank God we have the legal system for such things.