The case of Oscar Pistorius and the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp has the entire planet intrigued. Pistorius, an Olympic hero and much loved public personality in South Africa, has been accused of murdering Steenkamp. Pistorius denies the allegation and says he believed Steenkamp was an intruder and shot her accidentally through a bathroom door. The facts of the case are now emerging and both sides are presenting their arguments. I’m not a legal expert, but the case is far from clear cut with evidence that appears to partially corroborate with both accounts of what happened.
I generally don’t weigh in on legal cases, particularly celebrity ones because 1. They’re usually a giant distraction from serious subjects 2. I have a hard time injecting my opinion when I’m not privy to all the evidence available.
True to form however, perennial celebrity agitator and gossip merchant Perez Hilton has weighed in with his brilliant legal mind and concluded the following in a post titled “Oscar Pistorius Is A Violent A$$hole! He Was Arrested For Assaulting A Woman In 2009!”:
Oscar Pistorius is officially a MONSTER!
The Olympian with no legs allegedly murdered his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp earlier today, and just when a source close to the aspiring model revealed that Oscar had NEVER been violent with Reeva… the Boschkop police is stating that the Paralympian did some time in jail back in 2009 for assaulting a woman!!!!!!
Pistorius is currently in custody at a prison in Pretoria, and he’s scheduled for a court hearing tomorrow.
We always had a hunch he was berserk! This man is just straight up evil!! UGH!
Without knowing anything about the background behind the case other than a story he googled on TMZ, Hilton is polluting public opinion on an issue where someone’s freedom is at stake. Hilton has been giving the Pistorius case wall to wall coverage, injecting his analysis in every update. “He better be put away for a very long time!!” writes Perez in one post, and, “It’s time to lock up Oscar Pistorius for good!” in another. While Hilton is of course entitled to his opinion, he is not entitled to his own facts. Asserting that Pistorius is guilty and ‘a monster’ before hearing any of the evidence is a very serious offense. In South Africa, as it is in the United States, anyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent in the eyes of the law.
Let’s look at some of Hilton’s claims. Firstly, the assault Hilton says Pistorius did ‘some time in jail’ for in 2009 is not true. Here are the details of the alleged assault (from CNN):
Pistorius was arrested and accused of common assault in 2009, but the case was thrown out because of a lack of evidence, police told CNN on Thursday.
That incident involved Pistorius allegedly slamming a door during a party, and a piece of the door fell off and hit someone, said Capt. Marissa Van der Merwe of South African police.
Slamming a door does not exactly make someone a violent monster, and regardless, the case was thrown out because there wasn’t enough evidence to substantiate the claim of assault. And while Pistorius was taken in to police custody, he didn’t serve ‘time in jail’ either. Contrary to reports flying around the internet, Pistorius has never been charged with any crime previous to the killing of Steenkamp.
In Perez Hilton’s world of celebrity gossip and snarky rumor peddling, this type of hyperbole isn’t particularly damaging. Reporting on Beyonce’s lost pregnancy weight and Justin Bieber’s clubbing antics, is one thing, while detailing the evidence in a prolific murder trial is something else. If found guilty, Pistorius faces a lifetime in prison, and that is no laughing matter.
I’ve have been keeping up to date with the Pistorius case as events unfold out of personal interest, and I’m not going to provide a lot of commentary on the case itself. Legal matters with real life consequences should be dealt with extremely seriously, and given we’re not in the business of celebrity murder trials here at the Banter, I don’t think it appropriate to weigh in with an opinion. I will however, be calling out idiots like Perez Hilton, who make a lot of money creating controversy out of other people’s misery. As it stands, Oscar Pistorius is innocent until it is proven otherwise, and no matter how much Hilton wants Pistorius to be guilty and use the tragic case to get page views, it doesn’t make it so. Creating nasty bogeymen that the public can hate is Hilton’s speciality, and while it is all fun and games when it comes to celebrity breakups and pregnancies, it isn’t when it comes to murder. Sadly, millions of people read Hilton’s ludicrous website, and what he says matters.
So please Perez, shut up about the Pistorius case and stick to things that you actually understand.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.