Two defense lawyers say South Carolina authorities have been arresting people as they seek to make a case against superstar swimmer Michael Phelps, who was photographed smoking from a marijuana pipe at a house, reports The State in Columbia. Attorneys Joseph McCulloch and Dick Harpootlian told the Associated Press they each represent a client charged with possession of marijuana who were questioned about the party Phelps attended near the University of South Carolina campus in November.
On “Good Morning America” this morning, McCulloch characterized the arrests as “a fascination, if not an effort, to destroy a public hero.” Harpootlian told AP he believes police are being overzealous. “I find it amazing the justification is they don’t want to treat him any differently just because he is a celebrity, and he is being treated far differently than any other Joe Blow who might have smoked marijuana four or five months ago.” Under South Carolina law, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor that carries a fine up to $200 and 30 days in jail for the first offense. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a maximum $500 fine.