Q: The NYPD launched a huge investigation into who dealt heroin to Philip Seymour Hoffman, resulting in four speedy arrests. Is it normal for police go all out after every overdose? Or are they just doing it because Hoffman was a star?
Put it this way: Celebrity tends to bring out the extreme in our nightstick-wielding friends.
When Justin Bieber touched down at a Florida airport last month, local cops piled into their black-and-whites to provide a totally not authorized motor escort. A few years ago, when fewer than a half-dozen paparazzi were hanging outside of a restaurant hoping for a photo of Nicole Richie pretending to eat, five police officers arrived in three cop cars to clear up this death trap of a safety hazard.
And, yes, when a movie star dies — of a heroin overdose, a nasty prescription cocktail, whatever — scads of otherwise unhurried police suddenly come blasting out of the Bat Cave with their capes streaming.
The NYPD didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. But other experts say that police definitely step up their game for higher-profile cases, whether it's ethical or not.
"Absolutely," defense attorney Stanley L. Friedman tells Yahoo. "The reason why the NYPD would be giving so much attention to this case is that it involves the death of a celebrity."
Law-enforcement circles compare the phenomenon to that of picking "low-hanging fruit," Friedman says.
"If an average person dies of an overdose, and it's obvious who supplied the drugs, of course they will prosecute," Friedman explains. "But if that result requires a lot of legwork, my experience is that the police will not put as much effort into the case."
Before you take to the comments section with your badge-seeking verbal missiles, one note: The low-hanging fruit approach can provide a real benefit to the rest of us. Maybe.
"Such cases are more likely to get press, and thus prevent other people from dealing drugs," says Friedman, a former assistant U.S. attorney. "It's a legitimate and recognized concept. It's the same reason why more people are indicted for tax fraud in April. It sends a message that if people aren't honest, they'll get prosecuted.
"It's not fair," Friedman admits. "But life isn't fair."
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Leslie Gornstein is an entertainment writer and the host of the weekly Hollywood gossip podcast The Fame Fatale.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Philip Seymour Hoffman