“If it bleeds, it leads.”  It’s an old newspaper adage, but it’s as true in the digital age as it was in the print room: the American public loves tragedy.  We eat up criminal dramas, stories of betrayal, violence, and scandal, so much so that shows like Law & Order have skyrocketed to success and spun off several series and inspired numerous copycats.

It’s only worse when the story is factual.   A good courtroom drama can captivate the country, especially if it involves a celebrity. Cases like Michael Jackson’s, Martha Stewart’s, or Tiger Woods’ can set fire to the press and get everyone talking.

So what do you do if you’re a celebrity in trouble?  Say you’re Kristen Stewart, and you just got “caught” cheating on your husband. Or you’re Michael Phelps and a friend just snapped a picture of you smoking a bong.  What’s the best plan of attack?

Kendall Coffey has some ideas.  Former US attorney for the Southern district of Florida and Miami lawyer, Kendall Coffey is also author of Spinning the Law: trying cases in the court of public opinion.  The book concentrates on how lawyers “spin” facts and stories in their cases in order to gain the support of the public, and how a good campaign outside of the courtroom can matter just as much as what happens inside.

So what should you do?  Coffey compared the cases of Tiger Woods and Roger Clemens as two celebrity athletes who became embroiled in scandal.  Woods for adultery, Clemens for possibly taking performance enhancing drugs.

Tiger Woods found success when he “tightened up, disappeared for awhile, and went to rehab,” Coffey explained to Miami Book Fair’s Marc Bernier.  “That seems to be the tried and true formula.”

However, Roger Clemens had a different plan of attack.  As Coffey laid out in Spinning the Law, “Clemens launched an astonishing publicity offensive.”  He went on the attack, denied everything, sued for defamation, and even recorded conversations with his trainer and insisted that those ambiguous phone calls were clear proof of his innocence.

And what happened to him?  He wound up indicted.

So what is the best tact for celebrities in trouble to take?  As Coffey puts it, “when high-profile legal problems are casting about for potential actors, the best role for a client may be the Invisible Man.”

Ryan Boucher is a business student and freelance writer.  You can find more of his work at marketsandwords.wordpress.com

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