OJ Simpson Apology for Armed Robbery. (But not the other thing.)

After being convicted of kidnap and armed robbery for his role in a 2007 hotel room confrontation with a memorabilia dealer, O.J. Simpson made this apology and plea for leniency in sentencing:

The judge, alas for O.J., was unmoved, and sentenced him to up to 33 years behind bars. Said Judge Glass:

Earlier in this case, at a bail hearing, I asked — said — to Mr.
Simpson I didn’t know if he was arrogant or ignorant or both. And
during the trial and through this proceeding, I got this answer, and it
was both.

When you take a gun with you and you take men with you to show in a
show of force, that’s not just a hey, give me my stuff back. That’s
something else. And that’s what went on here. And that’s why we are all
here because this is not behavior that we can just say, oops, it’s OK,
no problem, don’t worry. No harm, no foul.

(Full transcript of the judge’s statement here)

I’m not going to waste much time commenting on Mr. Simpson or his apology. It speaks for itself.

Never mind the apology he really needs to make.

Time for O.J. to go away.

The Flip Side of Apology

Of interest, a couple of recent apology-related articles from the L.A. Times that deal with the other side of apologies–forgiveness.

First, we have “You’re not sorry? That’s OK.” The gist of it is, forgiveness is good for you:

A growing corps of researchers thinks they have it. Forgiveness — a
virtue embraced by almost every religious tradition as a balm for the
soul — may be medicine for the body, they suggest. In less than a
decade, those preaching and studying forgiveness have amassed an
impressive slate of findings on its possible health benefits.




They have shown that “forgiveness interventions” — often just a couple
of short sessions in which the wounded are guided toward positive
feelings for an offender — can improve cardiovascular function,
diminish chronic pain, relieve depression and boost quality of life
among the very ill.

Though, of course, it is not quite that simple if you read the whole article.

A companion article, Humans may be hard-wired to have a soft spot, discusses research into a possible evolutionary basis for the capacity and desire to forgive:


Forgiveness of others long predates organized religion as a desirable practice.




Michael McCullough, a psychologist at University of Miami and author of
a forthcoming book on the subject, surmises that higher primates and
early humans who were more forgiving were more likely to maintain the
family and social relations that would help them fend off predators,
secure food and go on to reproduce, thereby passing a tendency to
forgive on to future generations
.

Both interesting reads.

APOLOGY UPDATE: Michael Vick Pleads Guilty, Apologizes for His Dog-Killing Ways

Loathsome dog-killing thug and Atlanta Falcons ex-quarterback Michael Vick today entered his guilty plea in federal court to a conspiracy charge related to a federal dogfighting investigation, as expected. USA Today has audio and provides a rough transcript. Let’s break it down like … oh, I don’t know … Vick’s NFL career:

For most of my life, I’ve been a football player, not a public speaker,
so I really don’t know how to say what I really want to say. … I’ll
take this opportunity just to speak from the heart
.

Tell it, Michael!

First I want to apologize for all the things that I’ve done and that
I’ve allowed to happen.

Now that’s a good blanket apology. Cover all your bases up front.

I want to personally apologize to commissioner
Goodell, Arthur Blank, coach Bobby Petrino and my Atlanta Falcons
teammates for our previous discussions that we had. I was not honest
and forthright in our discussions. I was ashamed and totally
disappointed in myself to say the least.

Translation: I lied. I lied like a dead dog in a ditch. A dead dog I probably put there. Clearly he owes these particular people apologies. He has damaged the reputation of the NFL and the Falcons organization. He has cost team owner Arthur Blank a lot of money. He has let down his teammates. So, yes, they all deserve a contrite shout-out.

I want to apologize to all the young kids out there for my immature
acts.

Good. Kids do tend to look up to sports stars and Vick has not set the best example, has he.

What I did was very immature, so that means I need to grow up.

Well, his logic is flawless.

I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding as I move forward to
bettering Michael Vick the person, not the football player.

That’s nice. You should get plenty of time to reflect on your shortcoming while you are IN PRISON.

I take full
responsibility for my actions. Not for one second will I sit right here
and point the finger and try to blame anybody else for my actions or
what I’ve done. I’m totally responsible, and those things just didn’t
have to happen.

Yes, considering that all your thug buddies rolled over on you and sang to the Feds like a choir of canaries, it is probably best to accept responsibility. Which is kind of what a guilty plea is all about.

I feel like we all make mistakes. I made a mistake in using bad
judgment and making bad decisions. Those things just can’t happen.

He’s right. We all make mistakes. I make mistakes. My mistakes don’t involve financing an illegal dog fighting operation and cruelly executing innocent canines that don’t fight well enough and thereby flushing a $150 million career down the toilet, but we all make mistakes.

Incidentally, while this isn’t quite the passive immaculate “mistakes were made” tense, it comes close … trying to wrap the apologizer’s misdeeds up in the truism that nobody is perfect. I’m not just busting on Vick here. It is VERY hard for anyone to just straight up apologize and take full responsibility. The vast majority of apologies contain at least some element of excuse, mitigating circumstances, evasion or “other people do bad things to.”

Dogfighting is a terrible thing and I do reject it. …

“Dogfighting is a terrible thing.” This is just priceless. This should be printed on T-shirts. Or Ron Mexico jerseys.

Through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness
and turned my life over to God. I think that’s the right thing to do as
of right now.

A lot of people do seem to find Jesus behind bars. (Including Paris Hilton!). It is easy to view these jail house conversions with skepticism. On the other hand, people behind bars are highly motivated to take a long hard look at their lives and how they got to be where they are … which is the right mindset for finding Jesus. If Vick is sincere and truly contrite, good for him.

Like I said, through this entire situation I never pointed the
finger at anybody else. I accepted responsibility for my actions and
what I did. And now I have to pay the consequences for it. But in a
sense, I think it will help me as a person. I got a lot to think about
over the next year or so.

In prison.

I offer my deepest apologies to everybody out there in the world who
was affected by this whole situation.

In case he missed anyone earlier.

If I’m more disappointed with
myself than anything, it’s because all the young people, young kids
that I’ve let down, who look at Michael Vick as a role model. So I have
to go through this, and put myself in this situation. I hope every
young kid out there in the world watching this interview who’s been
following this case will use me as an example for using better judgment
and making better decisions.

I can’t quarrel with this. Remember, kids, dogfighting is a terrible thing.

Once again, I offer my deepest apologies to everyone.

I will redeem myself. I have to. I’ve got a lot of downtime, a lot
of time to think about my actions and what I’ve done

In prison.

and how to make
Michael Vick a better person. Thank you.
(USA Today)

Hopefully young Mr. Vick has learned a valuable lesson. We shall see.

Nifong Apology for Attempting to Railroad Duke Lacrosse Players

Better late than never, I suppose.  I could also say third time is the charm. There are probably a few other apt clichés that fit here. So many digital trees have been sacrificed to discuss the false and malicious prosecution of the Duke lacrosse players last year by renegade district attorney Michael Nifong that I’m going to skip over the details. Here is a quick summary:

The case started with a woman’s allegations that she was raped at a
March 2006 lacrosse team party where she was hired as a stripper.
Nifong won indictments against three team members, but the charges were
later dropped, and state Attorney General Roy Cooper went a step
farther by declaring the three men innocent victims of Nifong’s “tragic
rush to accuse.” ( Chron.com)

Nifong is now the definition of disgraced. He has been disbarred and removed from office. He is now facing contempt of court charges for his suppression and misrepresentation of evidence in the (now dismissed) rape case. But he has now, through the redemptive power of apology, avoided additional sanctions previously sought by his erstwhile victims. But it wasn’t easy, even at this late hour, for him to admit he was wrong:

It took three tries for disgraced former prosecutor Mike Nifong to
utter the words that three Duke lacrosse players falsely accused of
rape were determined to hear him say.
On Thursday, more
than 16 months after beginning a disastrous prosecution of the former
players, Nifong offered a complete and unqualified apology.

His first try was a non-apology apology. The day after the rape charges were dismissed:

Nifong issued a written statement apologizing “to the
extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect.”

Still hadn’t quite sunk in.

In
June, Nifong offered a tearful apology to the families but said, “I
think something happened in that bathroom” and “something happened to
make everyone leave that scene very quickly.”

The response enraged the players’ attorneys, and left the mother of one player in tears.

Hmm, still a bit too much in denial and indulging in self-justification.

This time, Nifong admitted he was dead wrong:

“I agree with the attorney general’s statement that there is no
credible evidence that Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty or Mr. Evans
committed any of the crimes for which they were indicted — or any other
crimes against (the accuser) — during the party,” Nifong said, adding
that state prosecutors uncovered evidence he didn’t have.

So close. He had it, but just had to throw in that bit about additional evidence. Evidence you didn’t bother to look for, Nifong. Let’s hear the apology:

“I have admitted on more than one occasion that I have made mistakes in
the course of my prosecution of these cases,” Nifong told the court.
“For that, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty, Mr.
Evans and their families.” ( Chron.com)

Still sounds a little whiny to me. Will this apology take?

Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire called the previous apologies “far
from sincere” and said the families would have to decide whether to
accept the latest one. None of the three players was in court.

“I
think it is a statement that has much more validity than any of the
other so-called apologies he has attempted to make,” Cheshire said
after the hearing. ( Chron.com)

But apparently it was enough:

After listening to Nifong’s first unqualified apology in the 16-month
case, lawyers for the players dropped their request for sanctions,
except for a criminal contempt charge brought by a judge. Those
sanctions could have forced Nifong to pay some defense legal costs.

So what have we learned? Sometimes it is very hard to admit you’re wrong. Even when the whole world knows it. Perhaps especially when the whole world knows it. If there was any single person in America who needed to be on his knees apologizing and begging for forgiveness for his misdeeds, it was Michael Nifong. The man tried to ruin the lives of three innocent young men for his own selfish gain. He brought trumped up rape charges against them and plowed right ahead even after it was obvious to the entire thinking world that the would-be victim was bonkers and her story had no credibility. He suppressed DNA evidence that pointed to the defendants’ innocence. He persisted in justifying his pigheaded wrongdoing even after being booted off the case, losing his license to practice law and kicked out of office. Yet he still couldn’t admit he was wrong, that he had wronged his victims and that he owed them a public apology, at the very least.

In light of the enormity of his misdeeds, the so-called full apology he finally uttered was weak tea indeed. But it was enough to satisfy his victims who, I am sure, are ready to put this whole sorry episode behind them. They just wanted a public admission from their tormentor that he was in the wrong and, having received that, were willing to drop the sanctions they had been pressing for. Fair enough.

What I have not heard from Nifong — and possibly because I haven’t looked for it, so maybe he has done this already — is an apology to the citizens of Durham and of North Carolina for betraying his oath of office. We endow district attorneys with awesome powers. They can take away the freedom and even the lives of their fellow citizens. We expect prosecutors to use the power entrusted to them for the protection of the public. We expect them to act with restraint, with probity, without fear or favor, to see that justice is done. Nifong abused those power and brought not only himself, but the entire justice system into disrepute. He’s got a lot more apologizing to do before his slate is clean … if it ever will be.

Apologies Around the World: Japan

This story from Stars and Stripes caught my eye: “Suspect refused to pay $50,000 as apology to throat-slashing victim” I just can’t resist a good throat-slashing apology.

The quick summary:

While under
examination by his defense attorney, Masayuki Akamine, Daniels, 29, a
former Marine married to a sailor, said he at first offered $2,000 in
cash, a wristwatch and a letter of apology to his friend, Bryant White,
23, whose throat was slit in an altercation with Daniels and Marine
Sgt. Michael Avinger, 30.

According to Daniels, White eventually asked for $50,000 and Daniels refused to pay it.

“I
said no,” Daniels said. “I could have paid him the money, but I didn’t
rob Mr. White or stab him. I’m sorry it happened to him. But I thought
it was ridiculous, you know, 50,000 in American dollars.”


In the U.S. legal system we might call offering an extrajudicial payoff to a crime victim bribery, witness tampering or somesuch. In Japan, it is apparently called “Jidan” and it’s part of their system:

Under the Japanese legal system, defendants in criminal cases traditionally offer jidan, or “I’m sorry” money, to the victims as a way of showing remorse.

Even
in cases where a defendant pleads not guilty, an apology is offered to
show sympathy for the pain the victim has gone through. The sincerity
of the jidan carries a lot of weight in the sentencing process.


I am not personally familiar with the Japanese criminal justice system, so I don’t know if defendants are innocent until proven guilty or get pressed under heavy stones until they confess or what. I find it interesting that even if you plead not guilty, you are expected to offer the victim of the alleged crime some of that “I’m sorry” money. That seems bizarre to me … but, then, so does eating sea urchins, which the Japanese apparently find delicious. And don’t get me started on Pokemon.

But rather than blather on in complete ignorance, I found this scholarly-seeming paper on “The role of apology in the Japanese criminal justice system” by Professor Yoko Hosoi and Professor Haruo Nishimura. I will comment further when I get around to reading it.

Detroit Zoo Apology

Resume fraud by public and semi-public figures crops up in the news fairly often. You have to wonder what they were thinking. Details about education, degrees and prior job experience are not that hard to check, so it is a cinch that someone in a high profile position who fudges the record will get found out eventually. For that matter, even people in not-so-high-profile positions run a huge risk of getting tripped up–by Google, if nothing else. So never pad your resume, Apology Index readers!

That said, I really was named Time magazine “Person of the Year” for 2006, just like it says in my little bio over there to the left. I am absolutely putting that on my resume. You should too.

But one person who might hesitate to claim that accolade is Dr. Ron Kagan, Director of the Detroit Zoo.

No, wait. Actually, he is non-Dr. Ron Kagan, Director of the Detroit Zoo. It seems that Mr. Kagan never quite finished up the requirements for his Ph.D in zoology from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, though he has claimed the doctorate on his resume for years. A case of low cunning and deception by a fiendish fraud exposed at last?

Not quite.

Kagan told the Free Press last week that he finished his coursework and
wrote a dissertation at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but that one of
his advisers never signed off on the dissertation. He said he returned
to Israel twice to try to clarify the matter, but couldn’t and
eventually quit trying.
(freep.com)

I had something like that happen once in college. A professor miscalculated my final grade in a course. It was holy heck trying to track him down, get him to recognize his error and submit a corrected grade. That would have been even more difficult had my professor been on the other side of the world. I can see how Kagan would be tempted to just throw up his hands. He did, after all, do all the work for his degree. He was just missing a signature.

Still, it was a misrepresentation to say he had the degree once he realized that he didn’t. (You know, my university actually give you a degree you can frame … so you pretty much know if you have it or not.)

So how did this come to light?

His academic qualifications became an issue June 21 after the board
received an anonymous fax stating there were misrepresentations on
Kagan’s resume.
(MyFoxDetroit.com)

Ok, that’s just low. Obviously someone had it in for Ron Kagan, but lacked the guts to come forward with what they knew. So they decided to do him in with an anonymous fax. Hey, real classy, Anonymous Loser!

Still, Kagan is the head zoo keeper. Maybe he has a history of feeding his enemies to the bears and the Anonymous Loser felt that preserving his or her identity was necessary. But I’m skeptical.

Anyway, the Zoo board was obligated to question Mr. Kagan about this allegation and launch an investigation of his background. Kagan admitted the lie and the investigation confirmed that he does hold a bachelor’s in zoology from the University of Massachusetts and a master’s from Hebrew University in 1980.

Now his fate rested with the 43 board of the Detroit Zoological Society. Naturally, they fired him, right?

Wrong.

Zoo board Chairman Gail Warden said Kagan will be ordered to forfeit
one month’s pay and issue a public apology on the zoo’s Web site. (MyFoxDetroit.com)

This is where the story veers into Frank Capra territory.

Detroit Zoological Society Chairman Gail Warden, who said the board
was disappointed that Kagan had misrepresented his qualifications, but
impressed with the way he has run the zoo for almost 15 years.


“We do trust him. We feel he is the person who is best to provide leadership to the zoo going forward,” Warden said. (freep.com)

What? Really? Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, what do you think?


“Ron has done a great job … and I stand by him today just as I did when I reappointed him in 2002,” he said.

Wow. Is he that good?

“There have been many wonderful exhibits developed under
his leadership and the tough decisions he made on animal
welfare,” Warden said. “The board realizes the
important role he played to the zoo and the zoological
society and the work today toward permanent funding for the
zoo and the tax referendum.”



Kagan is credited with bringing innovative exhibits to the zoo
including a National Amphibian Conservation Center and a polar bear
exhibit. (freep.com)

Polar bears! I love polar bears!

So, yes, resume fraud is wrong. But if you do an outstanding job — and bring in polar bears — you might not get fired when someone sends in an anonymous fax questioning your credentials. (Take that, Anonymous Loser!)

Now for the apology:


I want to sincerely apologize to the Detroit Zoological Society staff,
volunteers, members, donors, guests, the community, and all who love
and support our Detroit Zoo for my mistake. While an apology won’t
correct it, I do want everyone to know that I’m truly sorry.


I’m grateful to our Board for accepting my apology — I offer no
excuses — and for inviting me to stay on as Executive Director. I
accept the Board’s sanctions with the seriousness with which they’re
given, and hope that my performance going forward will reinforce that
they made the right decision.

We have a truly great Zoo. Almost 80 years of community hard work and
significant public/private investment have brought us to this point.
Over those many years our wonderful staff and volunteers have pioneered
many innovations, including unique guest experiences, animal habitats,
humane education, conservation and animal welfare. We need to keep
moving forward and we have plenty of challenges ahead. I’m sorry to
have hurt our path, especially since I care so much about this
community and Zoo. I hope you’ll forgive me and that you’ll continue to
help the Detroit Zoo.


Sincerely,
Ron Kagan

(freep.com)

Properly contrite. He’s sorry. He makes no excuses. He knows he done wrong. He acknowledges that the Board had every right to fire him. He pledges to be more dedicated than ever to making the Detroit Zoo awesome.

He also knows several polar bears who would be very angry if the mean Board made their friend go away.

Happy ending! Parade! Hooray!

One last piece to this story. Who hates Ron Kagan so much that they would send that anonymous fax in the first place?  A possible clue:

[Kagan] is perhaps best known for his controversial decision to send the
zoo’s two aging elephants to a California sanctuary. Kagan argued that
the zoo didn’t have adequate space to properly care for the animals.


The decision irked many zoo visitors and officials at other zoos that
keep elephants, but it made him a hero to many in the animal welfare
community. (freep.com)

I suspect the Elephant Mafia.

DATE:  July 2, 2007
APOLOGIZER: Ron Kagan, Director of the Detroit Zoo
APOLOGIZEE: Detroit Zoological Society staff,
volunteers, members, donors, guests, the community, and all who love
and support the Detroit Zoo
FOR: Misrepresenting credentials.

What makes for a good apology?

As the Apology Index takes form — and once I have a measurable number of readers, who may be moved to offer comments or suggestions — I will add a scale for rating apologies. It won’t be scientifically accurate and may be somewhat tongue-in-cheek … and will most certainly not employ the metric system. But that does raise the question of what makes for a good apology.

The Wikipedia article on Remorse offers some thoughts:

The consensus emerging from these and other studies is quite clear —
effective apologies that express remorse typically include the
following components: a detailed account of the offense; acknowledgment
of the hurt or damage done; acceptance of the responsibility for, and
ownership of, the mistake; an explanation that recognizes ones role; a
statement or expression of regret, humility or remorse; a request for
forgiveness; and an expression of a credible commitment to change or a
promise that it won’t happen again; and some form of restitution,
compensation or token gesture in line with the damage that you caused.