Veteran News Commentator and professed public watchdog Sam Donaldson has been charged with drunk driving following a traffic incident in Delaware on December 1. Donaldson, an outspoken and combative news reporter for ABC news for several decades was one who made many enemies within Washington D.C. political circles due to his willingness to hold public officials to account through relentless questioning of those in power, whether a congressional figure to a president of the United States.
As an OWI lawyer, when I learn of a reported story of this nature I tend to have two distinct thoughts; one, the possibility of an overbroad charge to allow a local Delaware prosecutor the ability to curry favor with those who would enjoy “payback” to Donaldson, or two, yet another example of hypocrisy on the part of those high minded individuals who cast judgement upon others for the same fallibilities present within all of us capable of making a mistake during the course of otherwise law abiding lives.
No matter the glee on the part of many who relish the prospect of such an outspoken public advocate getting his come uppance through the same media distribution Donaldson championed, one cannot discount the potential for such a public figure to be the target of a prosecution capable of enhancing the political aspirations of a local Delaware prosecutor.
It is not uncommon for such elected public officials to curry the favor of many corporate and or political supporters eager to see such a newsman be the subject of public ridicule and consternation far beyond a simple one time violation of law he may or may not have commited.
While it is true that many public figures do in fact seem to benefit greatly from celebrity in the form of lenient sentencing or charging decisions not typically extended toward the average citizen, I believe that the converse is true when a prosecution has been directed at one who has made a broad array of political enemies throughout the course of an extensive broadcasting career.
Donaldson’s public reputation is unfortunately now somewhat reliant upon the fair and balanced pre trial reporting of his prosecution; the kind of nuetral news gathering Donaldson was not always fond of. Despite Donaldson’s former style that contributed to his fame and fortune, let us allow a fair determination of the facts to be put forth before allowing a zeal to expose one reporter’s hypocrisy to tarnish the legacy of a man all of us must remember is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.