Of course Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay received preferential treatment, but is that wrong?

by Kent Sterling

Jim Irsay's life has been inexorably altered because of his addiction. Jail wouldn't have served any purpose, regardless of his wealth and position.

Jim Irsay’s life has been inexorably altered because of his addiction. Jail wouldn’t have served any purpose, regardless of his wealth and position.

Indianapolis Colts owner and local billionaire Jim Irsay was arrested on March 16th for a bunch of stuff, including some serious drug related issues that could have brought felony charges.

After more than two months on the Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office decided to chafe Irsay with two misdemeanors that will almost certainly result in no jail time.

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As a result, people wonder whether the prosecutor treated Irsay just as he would a non-billionaire – let’s say a hundredaire living in a Lawrence apartment who works at a Jiffy Lube.  The answer is yes.

There is no doubt that a billionaire who can hire Jim Voyles as his attorney has a leg up over a guy whose legal help comes in the form of a public defender.  That’s life.  Don’t like it?  Too bad.  Some people are born into wealth and others aren’t.  Some people are lucky enough to earn a bunch of money, and some aren’t.

Money buys so many advantages, counting the areas where there is equivalence among the classes is much quicker.  That’s why people seek wealth.  If all of us got to hire Voyles, he would be very busy, and if everyone belonged to Crooked Stick Golf Club, no one would be able to get a tee-time.

Conversely, every misstep by Irsay is in the paper.  When he screws up, it leads the six o’clock news.  When Biff from Jiffy Lube goes to Carb Day, drinks a fifth of Jack, and gets popped for public intoxication, no one cares and he goes back to work Monday morning with no one knowing that he spent a day in Marion County lockup.

We tend to only see the advantages of fame and wealth and none of the penalties.

Was the timing of the release suspect?  Sure.  Has the silence of the prosecutor’s office been odd?  I don’t know the typical procedures of a suburban prosecutor’s office, but usually public employees (especially those elected to their office) respond to requests from the media for information.

But does that mean that the determination of the prosecutor was wrongheaded?

Irsay is a drug addict, and jail time does nothing to alter the path of addiction.  If anything, drugs are more plentiful and easier to acquire behind bars.  What would be gained by sending Irsay to Plainfield for six months or a year?  Nothing.  He would have been yet another perpetrator of a victimless crime costing taxpayers a lot of money through pointless incarceration.

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Irsay belonged in rehab, and that’s where he went.  He and his wife have been separated for years, and the relationships with his three daughters are strained, according to those close to the family.  His punishment for addiction extends far beyond wearing orange in the exercise yard for a few months.

The NFL hasn’t meted out its penalty yet, and that might be the harshest of all.  Irsay could be suspended for an extended period – some say as long as a year – from contact with the team.  For a guy who absolutely loves being the owner of the Colts, that would be grotesquely unpleasant.

Rehab was where Irsay’s life could be reclaimed, and that’s where he went.

It might not be fair, but it is justice.


6 thoughts on “Of course Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay received preferential treatment, but is that wrong?

  1. David Spellman

    The first instant of Cornell Law School 1977.
    Professor says, “This is law school. We teach you law here. If you wanted to learn about justice, you should have gone to Divinity School.”

    Ham County did the right thing.
    Rehab is always best. No victims here except Jim himself.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      That’s a beautiful quote. I’ve always heard that good days for a lawyer are when law and justice intersect, but that it doesn’t happen all that often.

      Thanks for raising the level of discourse here.

  2. CF98

    Yes it is actually because anyone can claim to be an addict to get out of charges.

    And while Irsay is an addict he still broke the law what if he killed someone still think he shouldn’t go to jail? If it he were just a regular joe nobody would be talking about being sympathetic he would just be labelled another druggie loser and people wouldn’t care.

    That being said he didn’t go to rehab he just lied low until this blew over fortunately for him Donald Sterling took most of the media coverage so this will fade into memory.

    It would’ve been a surprise if he actually was charged with a felony here.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      You are assuming quite a few facts not in evidence. If he didn’t go to rehab, that’s news to everyone close to him. Victimless drug possession charges should never result in prison sentences.

      Addiction is not – nor should it be – a defense for injury or death as a result of the addict’s actions.

      And I would absolutely be saying the same thing if he was a bouncer at the Winner’s Circle.

      1. CF98

        Some of us remember how the he almost lost the team back in 2002 due to his addiction. So yeah while addiction is a daily struggle he also thinks he has done nothing wrong and why would he? He’s a billionaire who has surrounded himself with yesmen. And it will end in the same tragic way unless he’s actually serious about getting help.

        My point is which you conveniently ignore is that the color of justice is green and Irsay has a lot of it. A kid from Pike has 29K of cash and a laundry bag full of drugs would be in jail.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          It’s not being ignored, but justice is being served here. If a kid from Pike has a lot of cash and is thrown in the can unjustly, I’ll write about that. I’m not going to whine about injustice as I stare at an intense where the system works.


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