The Year-End Legal Landscape: Leaders, Losers, and Loopholes

Published January 02, 2008

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Wow. What a year we've had.

We saw the beginning of round two of the O.J. media circus, Anna Nicole's death turned into a kangaroo court, Britney and Paris slammed, Michael Vick went in the slammer, another Peterson missing wife mystery, the Duke lacrosse players were vindicated, their prosecutor went to jail and the Natalee Holloway story was deemed a cold case.

I needed the holidays just to catch my breath, and gear up for the brewing legal stories of 2008.

But before I sign off on 2007, I hope you'll indulge my musings. For example, what should I have told my 10-year-old daughter when she asked, "Mom, why is Anna Nicole Smith so famous … what did she do?"

Ana's case regarding her husband's estate made it all the way to the Supreme Court, but that's not how she'll be remembered. And what can I say (politely) about the judge who cried while presiding over the issue of where her body should be buried. (He reportedly has quit the bench and is being wooed by TV executives.)

Britney, Paris, Lindsay ... where have all our girls' heroines gone? Hasn't anyone ever told them about those nasty little drunk driving laws? Tip to that trio: you violate the law and that's not so "hot." What, again, do I tell my 10 year old about Britney's sis's upcoming "event."

And, it's deja vu all over again ... he's back: OJ. He's older (so are we all) ... but seemingly no wiser. I guess he really just wanted his stuff back. Maybe he should have just stayed on the golf course (or kept up the search for Nicole's killer).

To Michael Vick, I'd say killing defenseless dogs is not my idea of a macho man kind of thing to do. And, yes, you should apologize to all the kids who once looked up to you. Speaking of apologizes, I don't think we ever really heard one from prosecutor Mike Nifong who may have set rape cases back 100 years.

Enough bah humbuging from me ... let's do an abbreviated recap of the year:

O.J. Simpson

• September 13: The Goldman family, having been awarded the rights to the never distributed book, publishes it under the title, "If I did It: The Confessions of the Killer."

• September 14: "If I Did It" is published the same day news first breaks that Simpson had been questioned by police in connection with an alleged holdup in Las Vegas. Police name O.J. as a suspect in the case.

• September 16: O.J. is arrested.

• September 17: Audiotape is released of a sports memorabilia dispute involving O.J. in a Las Vegas hotel.

• September 19: A judge sets $125,000 bail for Simpson, who posts bond, is released from jail and returns home to Florida.

• October 15: Charles Cashmore and Walter Alexander, co-defendants in the armed robbery case against Simpson, take plea deals in Las Vegas. They agree to plead guilty to a felony and testify for the prosecution.

• November 2: According to FBI reports obtained by the Associated Press, federal agents learned three weeks in advance that Simpson and Thomas Riccio planned the operation to retrieve personal items Simpson said were stolen from him.

• November 14: A justice of the peace ruled O.J. must face trial on kidnapping, armed robbery and other charges stemming from the memorabilia heist.

• November 28: O.J. Simpson pleads not guilty to kidnapping and armed-robbery charges.

Michael Vick

• April 25-26: During a raid at a Surry County home, owned by Vick, officials discover evidence that the home is part of a dogfighting operation. With a second search warrant, officials confiscate 66 dogs, 55 of them pit bulls, and equipment that includes a rape stand, pry bar, treadmill and a bloodied piece of carpet.

April 27: Vick claims he's never at the house in Surry County, and blames family members for taking advantage of his generosity.

May 27: Informant tells ESPN that Vick is "one of the heavyweights" in dogfighting dating back to his college days.

• June 7: Officials with the Department of Agriculture execute a search warrant at Vick's Surry County property with the help of state police, finding remains of seven dogs and taking DNA samples. Vick cites a "scheduling conflict" in announcing that his youth camp at Christopher Newport University is cancelled.

August 17: Two of Vick's co-defendants enter guilty pleas, leaving the Atlanta Falcons quarterback on his own to cut a deal or face trial on federal charges. With his NFL career in jeopardy and a superseding indictment adding more charges in the works, Vick and his lawyers are talking with federal prosecutors about a possible plea agreement.

August 27: Michael Vick formally entered his guilty plea to a federal dog fighting charge before U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson.

• December 10: Vick is sentenced to 23 months in prison for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy that involved gambling and killing pit bulls.

Britney Spears

• January: Britney is carried by bodyguards out of the nightclub Pure in Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, after reportedly collapsing. Bodyguards shine lights in club goers' eyes as they leave, so nobody can take photos. Britney is photographed wearing a bikini belonging to a New York club dancer she's swapped clothing with.

• February 16: After 24 hours at a rehab center in Antigua, Britney flies back to L.A. and shaves her hair off. Afterward, she visits a tattoo parlor, where she has a pair of red and pink lips inked onto her wrist.

• July 19: Spears had a meltdown at an OK! Magazine shoot, let her dog soil a dress, wiped fried chicken smeared hands on a couture dress and left early, taking tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise with her.

• July 20: Spears went boating with her children, without putting them in life vests.

• July 30: Divorce is official. Spears' lawyer asked that details of the child custody arrangements remain sealed from public view, citing media attention and the possibility of "criminals who might target the minor children for financial gain."

• September 9: Spears allegedly was "inconsolable" after watching her widely criticized comeback performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.

• September 18: Spears' former bodyguard, Tony Barretto, was turned away from Family Court after offering to testify in Spears' custody battle. Barretto apparently became concerned for the children's safety and well-being under Spears' care.

September 21: Spears was charged with misdemeanor hit-and-run and driving a vehicle without a license.

• October 1: Spears lost custody of her two sons.

• October 19: Spears loses visitation rights of her sons.

• October 20: Spears apparently ran over a photographer's foot with her car.

• December 6: Child welfare investigators are looking into "multiple child abuse and neglect" allegations in the custody battle between Spears and her ex-husband, Kevin Federline.

• December 18: Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney's sister, says she's pregnant.

Paris Hilton

• January 15: Hilton (already charged with driving under the influence) is pulled over by the California patrol and informed her license is suspended. She signs a document acknowledging she is not allowed to drive.

• January 22: Hilton pleads no contest to a reduced charge of alcohol-related reckless driving. She is placed on three years probation.

• February 27: Hilton is ticketed for misdemeanor driving with a suspended license. A copy of the document signed January 15 is found in her glove department.

• May 4: Judge Michael Sauer sentences Hilton to 45 days in jail.

• June 3: Hilton reports to jail saying she's ready to serve her sentence.

• June 7: Hilton is released from jail because of an undisclosed medical problem and is ordered to serve the rest of her sentence in home confinement.

• July 27: Hilton puts her 1926 Spanish-style house on the market for $4.25 million.

• September: Hilton sues over the use of her picture and the catchphrase "That's Hot" on a greeting card.

• October: Paris Hilton's charity mission to Rwanda is cancelled.

Drew Peterson

• October 26: Stacy Peterson told her husband she wanted a divorce (according to her aunt).

• October 27: Stacy Peterson reportedly told her aunt she feared for her life.

• Ocober 28: Stacy Peterson, 23, was last seen dressed in a red jogging suit at about 10 a.m. by her husband. Stacy never arrived at a friend's house she was supposed to help paint

• October 31: Drew Peterson told reporters he believes his wife is alive, and said he is being treated unfairly.

• November 1: Illinois State police execute a search warrant at the Peterson home.

• November 3: Dozens of people comb a forest near Peterson's home looking for any traces of the 23 year old.

• November 7: Summoned before a grand jury, Drew Peterson answers virtually no questions put to him.

• November 9: Drew Peterson officially becomes a suspect in Stacy's disappearance. Hours earlier, a judge ordered the body of Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio, exhumed so investigators could re-examine her mysterious 2004 bathtub death — which prosecutors now see as a murder, not an accident.

• November 14: Drew Peterson appeared on NBC's "Today" show and said that Stacy had asked him for a divorce — but he thought that was due to hormones.

• December 1: Illinois police say a man believed to be Drew Peterson asked two truck drivers to take a package to an undisclosed location the day after Stacy disappeared.

• December 13: One of Drew Peterson's adult sons appeared before a grand jury investigating the Stacy's disappearance and the mysterious drowning of Kathleen Savio.

Well, there you have it ... a legal snapshot of 2007! Now, we're onto 2008. Happy New Year everyone, and please stay tuned to FNC.com, Lis on Law, and Lis and the Single Girl!

With all the best wishes for a fabulous year ahead!

— Lis


Click here for a complete list of sources used to research this article.


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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.

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