First Lohan, next Gaga: wonky professor gets a dose of online fame from Hollywood starlet

Chris Moody Contributor
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Erik Luna’s email box exploded late Wednesday night with a flood of messages from friends alerting him of the exciting news: Lindsay Lohan, the embattled starlet who was sentenced to jail this week for breaking her probation, had quoted the Washington and Lee University law professor on her Twitter feed.

“It’s somewhere between amusing and horrifying that I was cited in this context,” Luna said while emails continued to pour in the next day.

Not long after a judge sentenced Lohan to 90 days in jail Wednesday, the pop icon hit up Google for some legal guidance about her plight. (Her attorney, who announced she was quitting today, obviously wasn’t cutting it.) She stumbled upon an article Luna wrote in 2002 condemning federal sentencing guidelines and arguing for reform of the criminal justice system.

After a string of tweets bizarrely suggesting the judge’s sentence may be in violation of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights’ ban on cruel and unusual punishment (what, the Eight Amendment’s not good enough?), she quoted the law professor’s article.

Lohan wrote on her Twitter page, which has more than 750,000 followers, “this was taken from an article by Erik Luna.” She then pasted the first paragraph of Luna’s article, which called the federal sentencing guidelines a “constitutionally perverted system that saps moral judgment through its mechanical rules.”

Luna’s work is primarily intended to identify egregious cases of harsh sentencing, but don’t anyone dare tell Lohan she’s not eligible for the same sympathy. Only moments later, she pasted a link to a story about women who had been sentenced to death by stoning in Iran.

While Luna will be the first to admit that he is no close follower of popular culture, the former district attorney and Fulbright scholar has written about the federal criminal system for years and confirmed that Lohan may be taking a few liberties by comparing herself to suspects who are convicted to decades in prison for petty crimes. But despite the egregious gap between the Hollywood millionaire and a poor person caught in the snare of a cruel system, could Lindsay Lohan become the newest Hollywood spokeswoman for the battle against America’s flawed criminal system? According to Luna, if she can help make a difference, than sure, why not?

“I think her plight is a little bit different than the concerns I raised in that article,” he said. “But if she could use her considerable Internet following to begin a change in criminal justice, I would not object.”

Luna added jokingly that his little 15 minutes of fame had inspired him to set his sights on even higher levels of social media stardom.

“I’m only hoping that Lady Gaga tweets about my Fourth Amendment work,” he quipped.

After all, Lady Gaga has almost 5 million Twitter followers.

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Chris Moody