by Kent Sterling
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.
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.
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.