God gave us the great freedom of choice. But, He did not give us the freedom from the consequences of our choice. Author Unknown
The criminal justice system is primarily based on laws that punish betrayal and dishonesty. Sometimes, poor choices present the consequence of a prison term. Sometimes, people temporarily avoid any consequences.
However, based on my experience and observations, consequences always present themselves at some point.
There was a time when Stephen was a good, hard working, and pleasant man. He was respected by everyone in his hometown in Mississippi. His young children looked up to him as if he hung the moon.
But, Stephen had a character flaw that devastated his life and the lives of those he loved. Because Stephen was friendly and seemed to enjoy helping others, he had an abundance of friends. When he was about 35 years old, he saw a financial opportunity that he wanted to take advantage of. There was nothing unusual about this except one thing; he had four business partners who he did not want to know about this opportunity.
Stephen and his partners owned a small catfish farm that was successful from Day 1. But, Stephen was unhappy. He disliked two of his partners, cared little for how his actions affected others, and struggled with his intense need for more money and other material things.
After four financially successful years, a competitor approached him with a plan that could make Stephen a millionaire. The plan was for Stephen to take the company’s confidential files and new technological advances, that one of his partners created and patented, and pass them on to this competitor while continuing being a partner at his company.
The plan worked. The trade secrets and other sensitive information that he stole propelled the other company so far that it became an industry leader. Meanwhile, his own company, along with his partners, suffered losses year after year.
Yet, Stephen did not care at the time. He was a millionaire.
Stephen only began to care when an agent from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) entered his office on a Monday morning with three search warrants and 25 arrest warrants.
Stephen was charged with a number of serious offenses including invasion of privacy, theft by taking, and extortion. He ended up going to prison for seven years, losing the respect of everyone, including his own children, and lived the rest of his days alone. He was found dead at his apartment at the age of 42. The only items found in his apartment were multiple empty half-gallons of inexpensive scotch.
Even after suffering these consequences, he blamed others for his circumstances until he took his last breath.
Most criminal offenses are committed when someone is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, engage in dishonest acts, or betray the trust of someone coupled with a theft.
Addiction is a medical and genetic condition that oftentimes leads to crime. Dishonesty, which is really just a component of betrayal, is a defect in one’s character.
In the case of betrayal, one consciously and deliberately sets out to harm another person or another person’s project or idea, in order to profit in some manner from its destruction.
History has always judged betrayal, and the crimes associated with it, to be the most heinous of human offenses. From Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for money, to Brutus’ betrayal of Julius Caesar under the delusion of saving the Roman Republic, the act of betrayal has continually been considered the darkest aspect of human behavior. The human psyche has always cringed at the mere mention of an act of betrayal. That is why so many criminal laws are based on this character defect.
An act of dishonesty is a lie to one’s own soul. It’s a deception of self more than anything else, because one cannot help but actually know the truth in her or his own heart. Thus, an act of dishonesty is a conscious thing. The person knows what he or she is doing. Yet, the need to be dishonest is so overpowering that she or he cannot summon any inner goodness needed to do the right thing.
While Stephen’s life provides an example of how the justice system metes out consequences, many people walk out of a courtroom without any consequences. This is actually common.
But, in 18 years of practicing law, I have yet to see a person escape the consequences that eventually become due down the road.