With tears running down her face, Lindsay Lohan looked shocked Tuesday when Judge Marsha Revel sentenced the 24-year-old actress to 90 days in jail to be followed by 90 days in an inpatient rehab facility after hearing evidence that Lohan had missed weekly alcohol-education classes.
She wasn't the only one surprised by the harshness of the sentence for the parole violation from Lohan's pair of 2007 DUI arrests. Three prominent attorneys (who are not involved in the case) contacted by MTV News said Revel was clearly trying to send a message to Lohan with her ruling.
"What she's probably experiencing is a judge who, having given an opportunity that would have been given to anyone in this case and having it flaunted by not being responsive to the direction of the court, is taking action," said Stacey Richman, who defended rapper Lil Wayne in the gun case that landed him in prison for a year. "The fact that the court gave her three times what the people had asked for [prosecutors requested a 30-day sentence] is surprising, and in some cases you read that as a 'celebrity tax,' but if she's flaunted her probation not once, but three or four times, the judge has been very kind in giving her so many opportunities to stay with the program."
Richman speculated that the sentence was intended to promote respect for the law and teach Lohan that if she is court-ordered to attend a program, she can't pick and choose when and how she does it.
Another lawyer who has had plenty of experience defending celebrity clients, New York's Benjamin Brafman, said the sentence is clearly harsh but that there are only so many times you can test a judge's patience before they make you pay the price. "It seems to me that the court went out of its way to avoid a sentence of incarceration and it, unfortunately, did not make an impression," said Brafman, whose clients have included Diddy, Michael Jackson and New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress.
"What you see here is a bigger picture that is more troubling than whether this young woman goes to jail for a couple months or not," he added. "This is a celebrity spiraling out of control, and in general, when that happens, unless serious intervention takes place, it can lead to more severe consequences than going to jail or rehab. ... This is a person who needs to understand how easy it is for her life and her talent and celebrity status to be gone in a heartbeat."
After logging hundreds of hours in court working on behalf of everyone from 50 Cent, Tony Yayo and Young Buck to Busta Rhymes and Young Jeezy, attorney Scott Leemon knows that sometimes judges surprise you, but after all he's seen, even he was a bit taken aback by Revel's sentencing.
"I think it was really harsh, especially in light of the fact that she was basically compliant as of yesterday's court date to be done by [July] 15th," he said of Lohan's court-mandated schedule of alcohol-education courses. In testimony on Tuesday, the co-owner of the Right On program Lohan was enrolled in said she violated the program several times by failing to attend courses and missed classes on nine different occasions. "This judge just wanted to prove a point that no one messes with her in her court. I've had clients mess up on probation, but even when the prosecution asked for only 30 days, she gave her 90 plus 90 of inpatient? Without a doubt, this decision was made by the judge [after] she felt disrespected by Lindsay, who didn't seem like she got the point."