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Column: Consequences always present themselves

There was a time when Stephen was a good, hard working, and pleasant man. He was respected by everyone in his hometown in Mississippi. His young children looked up to him as if he hung the moon. 

But, Stephen had a character flaw that devastated his life and the lives of those he loved.  Because Stephen was friendly and seemed to enjoy helping others, he had an abundance of friends. When he was about 35 years old, he saw a financial opportunity that he wanted to take advantage of. There was nothing unusual about this except one thing; he had four business partners who he did not want to know about this opportunity. 

Stephen and his partners owned a small catfish farm that was successful from Day 1. But, Stephen was unhappy. He disliked two of his partners, cared little for how his actions affected others, and struggled with his intense need for more money and other material things.

After four financially successful years, a competitor approached him with a plan that could make Stephen a millionaire. The plan was for Stephen to take the company’s confidential files and new technological advances, that one of his partners created and patented, and pass them on to this competitor while continuing being a partner at his company. 

The plan worked. The trade secrets and other sensitive information that he stole propelled the other company so far that it became an industry leader. Meanwhile, his own company, along with his partners, suffered losses year after year. 

Yet, Stephen did not care at the time. He was a millionaire. 

Stephen only began to care when an agent from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) entered his office on a Monday morning with three search warrants and 25 arrest warrants.   Stephen was charged with a number of serious offenses including invasion of privacy, theft by taking, and extortion. He ended up going to prison for seven years, losing the respect of everyone, including his own children, and lived the rest of his days alone. He was found dead at his apartment at the age of 42.  Even after suffering these consequences, he blamed others for his circumstances until he took his last breath. 

While Stephen’s life provides an example of how the justice system metes out consequences, many people walk out of a courtroom without any consequences. This is actually common.   But, in 18 years of practicing law, I have yet to see a person escape the consequences that eventually become due down the road.