Two stories drive my thoughts for this week's column. The first: OJ Simpson being released from a Nevada prison on parole and planning to head to Florida to live. Attorney General Pam Bondi says we don't want him.
The second: Brevard School Board Member Andy Ziegler, having been cleared of sexual harassment allegations, faces calls by some for him to resign.
Simpson, found not guilty in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, was later convicted of a Las Vegas robbery of a collector who Simpson claimed had property belonging to Simpson. The former USC, NFL, TV and movie star, now 70, has been released on parole in accordance with law. He now wants to reside in Florida where he has family and where he was residing at the time of the Nevada crime.
Bondi says she doesn't want Simpson under supervision in Florida. Why? Does she believe he killed Brown Simpson and Goldman? Simpson was found not guilty. The system in which she works (and must believe in) did its job. Does she believe Simpson is a threat to the community where, as far as we know, he's never committed a crime? Even if Simpson is guilty of the murders, it was a crime of passion and it would appear he is not a danger to the public at large. The system has had its say. Bondi's opinions are irrelevant. And how many other parolees are under Florida's supervision that are more likely to reoffend than Simpson? The answer is probably several. Unless there are stronger grounds than opinion, Simpson should be treated no differently than any other parolee.
And then Ziegler, cleared of potentially salacious allegations by a Tallahassee law firm, now faces calls to resign. Florida Today, a former Ziegler endorser, is leading that charge in a weekend editorial.
In a politically sensitive time when even an allegation of sexual impropriety can ruin any career, especially a political one, the schools reacted appropriately in seeking an independent investigation. That investigation noted questionable judgment, but no conduct rising to the level of harassment.
The behavior Ziegler is alleged to have committed is not a crime, but social behavior. The call on whether or not he stays in office belongs to the voters.
The court of public opinion is a viscous and unregulated one that often has no common sense and, more often than that, no mercy. Public opinion is no way to run a justice system or to make political decisions. Facts and procedure are too often ignored and vengeance, not justice, is too often the result.
It's time to get back to a calmer, more contemplative America where reason and facts dominate the decision making instead of emotion.