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Lying to Get Out of Trouble = More Trouble

If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a million times.

I’ve blogged about it a million times. At least it feels that way.

I have definitely lectured clients about it about a million times: lying to get out of trouble just winds up getting you into more and more trouble. Think Martha Stewart. Or, now, Ryan Lochte.

Smooth move, Ryan. Way to drag your younger impressionable teammates into it while you’re at it. Too bad you hadn’t let sobriety seep into your brain before going on NBC to chat up your bud, Matt Lauer, the Gullible One. It’s all kinda sad. Why?

Because now Lochte is in for a world of hurt.

Why? Because he lied to get out of trouble for a very minor thing, and in the process made the host country, which has been battling bad publicity that rivals the deluge before Sochi, look bad. Really, really bad.

I admit it. I’m pretty immune to the intimate details of serious crimes. I deal with violent criminal accusations like armed robbery all day. They don’t make me freak out and want to leave Seattle or Whidbey Island where I spend most of my time. It’s too beautiful here to leave because of a little thing like a gas station robbery, even on Whidbey.

But Brazil? Home to Zika and raw sewage and muggings and favelas and corruption galore? Oh my! This was the final straw. The tipping point.

Suddenly, a place I’ve wanted to visit for years took a nosedive in my own mind when I first heard this story. And I’m a ‘World Traveler’. For less adventurous souls all over the world? Fuggedaboudit. This was bad news. Really bad.

Instantly Brazil looked as dangerous as all of the negative hype said it was before the games. Don’t worry about the fact that lots of other Olympian types had been robbed on the streets of Rio during the Olympics. This was the most famous swimming team in the history of the world! The Olympic Gods? Good grief. They are victims? Oh no, the rest of us are doomed!!

Except it turns out, they were the criminals, not the victims. They trashed a bathroom and peed on a wall. So they are petty-minor-not-worth-lying-about-it criminals. Except they did lie about it. And by thinking that they were smart enough to outsmart the local police (they weren’t… by any means), they made a fatal error.

The same thing happens when I try to fix my car. I’m useless at such things. When I told my dad the engineer that I was going to law school he said, “Great!  I was afraid you were going to try to do something practical.” He knew.

And so do I.  Which is why I take my car to a mechanic. Most people do. But for some reason, everyone thinks they can be their own mechanic when it comes to legal work. Which is really odd when you think about it. To be a mechanic you have to know your stuff, I’m the first to admit. But to be a lawyer? Well, excuse me if I tend to find it a bit more complex.

Which is why when people try to “do it themselves” they wind up in trouble. Or court. Or prison. Just ask Martha S.

Lying to get out of trouble almost always makes things worse.

It’s so much better to just shut up and hire a lawyer. Who will tell you to shut up and ask for your lawyer if anyone tries to make you talk. Lochte should have done that.

If the lawyer has a clue, they will probably also tell you to take a chill pill and wait and see what develops before jumping the gun. Don’t start ringing bells. “Don’t build windmills just so you can joust them Don Quixote style,” I like to tell my clients.

They usually look at me like I’m crazy when I do that, but I just can’t resist. I read a lot. It means: don’t stir things up just so you can fix problems that never existed in the first place. If you do, you might actually make something bad happen. Like Lochte did.

I see this in cases where clients are accused of crimes like assault or harassment. Often they feel that the other person harassed them. Or assaulted them first. Which might very well be true.

But they have been charged with ‘starting it’, simply put. They want to go on the offensive. File Petitions for Protection Orders. Notify the police that charges should be filed against the alleged “victim”.

Wrong. That almost always makes them look bad. Think about it: they are suspected of being controlling bullies. So how do they respond to that? They want to act like controlling bullies in court. At least that is how the system sees it.

Not to mention, with defenses like self-defense, your lawyer needs to carefully control the disclosure of evidence, which almost always means not showing your cards until you absolutely have to. Otherwise you give the other side an early preview of your case, a huge advantage in most litigation. Most people have zero clue how this all works, no matter how smart they are (or think they are, no offense).

Here? With Lochte and Company? They had not been charged or accused of one thing, as far as I know, when Ryan decided to make up his story. For Prime Time across the World. There was definitely no need for that. NO decent criminal defense attorney would have recommended that in a million years.

Instead of nipping a negative story that did not yet exist in the bud, he created a fully flowering garden of speculation and deceit, that bore its poison fruit when crowds of locals gathered to jeer his younger teammates when it became clear that the whole affair was a complete fabrication. Way to go Fearless Leader, Lochte, safely home in America at the time.

This is the real issue in this case: Lochte, and the way he behaved.

He totally screwed up. Remember, it was Lochte all over TV with this story the next morning. I have no idea where the other three were at the time; not on TV.

Is it possible that they were back at the Village, trying to sleep the whole thing off? Only to awaken to international coverage of a robbery that never occurred where they had been named as fictitious victims? Good grief.

I have no idea what I would have said if something like that had happened to me when I was their age, especially if my hero was all over TV setting the trap for me (granted the odds of my being an Olympic athlete in my 20’s would have been somewhere between zero and nil, but you get the point.) It’s an impossible situation for them.

That said, I did not see anything that said they claimed to have been robbed. Maybe they did. If they did they only did because they were playing along, not because it was all their idea. Eventually they coughed up the truth and were allowed to leave.

Lochte? I’m not so sure. I would not be at all surprised to see this blow up into an international extradition fire fight that would make the Amanda Knox case look like a littering citation. It might be coming.

I wouldn’t blame the Brazilians one bit for that. It is one thing to pee on a gas station wall. It is quite another to cast an entire country in an extremely bad light just to hide the fact that you were too stupid to find an alley to pee in.

Which, quite frankly, bothers me most of all. Have these guys ever traveled before or what? Are you serious? Needing to find an actual bathroom inside a gas station in a place like Rio? Fuggedaboudit. No need. Most of the population doesn’t bother to do that.

Go wherever you want. Outside. Just not on some poor guy’s bathroom wall where he has to clean it up. That level of stupidity might be the most criminal thing about all of this, crass as it sounds. After all, Lochte will now go down in history as the guy who led the “Peeing Caper”. Like I said in the last post, I bet he feels pretty stupid right about now.

And he should.

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