The Theft is Fine, If the Stuff is Mine! OJ Simpson: Choices and Consequences

“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 is inconsistent and full of holes. This was reported on CNN.com 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…”On Tuesday, prosecutors charged Simpson with 11 criminal offenses in all, including the first-degree kidnapping charge.

Simpson was arrested Sunday 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 become a VP of Sales and Marketing in a public company. 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.

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