Phelps Farce Finale


Today Richland County, South Carolina, Sheriff Leon Lott announced that he does not plan to charge Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps for smoking pot at a November party in Columbia. After a photo of the gold medalist with a bong appeared in the British tabloid News of the World on February 1, Lott said he felt compelled to investigate whether Phelps had broken state law. The investigation led to the arrests of eight people connected to the party or the house where it was held, seven of whom were charged with simple possession based on small amounts of the drug found during raids on their homes. One was charged with distribution. But Lott said there was not enough evidence to charge Phelps or anyone else with marijuana possession at the party: He never explicitly confessed to smoking pot (instead apologizing for "regrettable behavior"), the photo does not conclusively prove that he did, and there are no credible eyewitnesses who saw him take a hit.

"Michael Phelps is truly an American hero," Lott said in a statement, "but even with his star status, he is still obligated to obey the laws of our state. By ignoring the November incident, I would have been sending a message of tolerance and condoning the use of illegal drugs. I could not do that, nor have I ever done that." In the end, though, this case worked out the way marijuana possession cases usually do: The big shot got off, and the little guys got screwed—precisely because Lott tried to make the point that everyone is obligated to obey the drug laws.

Previous Reason coverage of the Phelps case here, here, here, hereherehere, and here.

[via The Palmetto Scoop]