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Column: Once again, being rich pays off

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Here's a crime drama, tragedy, and farce -- all in one.

First comes the crime perpetrator, Martin Erzinger. A well-heeled wealth manager in Morgan Stanley Smith Barney's Denver office, Erzinger handles more than a billion dollars in private assets and describes himself as "dedicated to ultra high net worth individuals."

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Now, Dr. Steven Milo comes onstage. Here the drama quickly turns to tragedy. Milo, a surgeon and father of two, was bicycling in Colorado last July when -- wham! -- he was struck from behind by Erzinger. Instead of stopping to render aid, the money man sped away in his Mercedes Benz. But his car was damaged by the crash, so he finally had to pull over and call the Mercedes service center to have it towed. Even after that, he didn't call an ambulance to check on the poor guy he'd just run over.

As Dr. Milo later noted, "Erzinger struck me, fled, and left me for dead." The doctor did survive, but he suffered spinal cord injuries, bleeding from his brain, knee damage and disabling spinal headaches. He faces multiple surgeries, plastic surgery and "lifetime pain."

Next, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert enters from stage right, and high tragedy devolves into low farce. The DA announced he was dropping felony charges against Erzinger, instead only citing him for two misdemeanor traffic violations.

Why? Because Erzinger is rich! Noting that this money handler could lose his prestigious Morgan Stanley position, the compassionate DA said, "Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession, and that entered into [my decision]."

Wow, what a humanitarian! I'm guessing that a felony conviction would have the same pretty serious job implications for any low-wage working stiff who nearly killed someone -- though I doubt the DA would give a damn in that case.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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