June 1, 1998


Image of today's outrage

What’s the most important advantage of being rich? Big houses? The envy of your high-school classmates? Household servants?

Nope. The most important advantage is that society allows you to kill at least one of your lovers.

You’ve probably heard about the Susan Cummings murder trial. The daughter of billionaire arms dealer Sam Cummings, Susan Cummings lives on a 300 acre estate called Ashland Farm, not far from Outrage HQ.

Roberto Villegas had as different a background from Susan Cummings as can be imagined. Born to rural poverty in Argentina, he began playing polo at age 15. Five years later he came to the US, working as a horse groom in the hope of parlaying his skill as a polo player into better things. According to Bill Ylvisaker, founder of the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, Villegas “pulled himself up by the bootstraps. In every sense of the word he was a self-made man.” But despite his success as a polo player, Villegas never earned a lot of money.

Eventually, his polo playing skills brought Villegas to Virginia, where he was widely known for his warmth and outgoing personality. Susan Cummings, 35, also noticed the good looking 38 year old Argentinean. The two, both single, became lovers.

Cummings was no sugar-mommy to Villegas. When the polo player’s father died in Argentina, Cummings did not buy her boyfriend a ticket to go home. Instead, he sold his polo horses and truck to Cummings in order to raise the money to pay for the trip. Cummings and Villegas were living together at her estate, but she refused to allow him to install an answering machine, insisting that the machine would obligate them to return expensive long-distance phone calls. When the polo season ended, Villegas continued to support himself by working in an apple orchard.

Villegas did not seem to object to his rich girlfriend’s penny-pinching ways, but he did make the mistake of trying to use a small bit of her money to help one of the estate’s employees. Cummings employed an elderly woman to sweep the leaves from the estate’s long, winding driveway. Villegas purchased a leaf-blower for $108 to lighten the old lady’s burden. Cummings was reportedly furious over the expense, saying that the woman’s broom was a perfectly adequate tool.

Sometime in late summer and early fall of last year, the relationship started to sour, although the two still lived together. Cummings became more possessive of her lover. It’s possible that Villegas was growing tired of the relationship and wanted out.

On September 7, 1997 Cummings pumped four bullets into Villegas, killing him on the spot. Forensic evidence and expert testimony provided a huge amount of evidence that Cummings premeditated the killing, perhaps in an OJ style fit of jealousy. Prosecutors argued that Cummings loaded her semi-automatic weapon in her upstairs bedroom, walked down to the kitchen and shot her lover as he ate breakfast.

Cummings said the shooting was in self-defense, although overwhelming evidence suggests that Villegas was seated at the breakfast table when Cummings shot him to death. Cummings defense attorney, Blair Howard, urged the jury to disregard “cold photographs and scientific theory” and focus on “human emotion.” In other words, disregard the facts and forgive the killer for shooting her boyfriend to death in cold blood.

On May 13 the jury in tightly knit Faquier County listened to Blair’s plea, finding Cummings guilty of voluntary manslaughter, rather than first-degree murder. The sentence? Sixty days in the county jail and a fine of $2,500.

Not surprisingly, Cummings described herself as “deeply appreciative” to the jury that slapped her wrist after finding her guilty of killing Villegas. “I feel very happy” Cummings said. Sure, just the way OJ felt after the criminal jury let him walk. You might call the elation that Cummings and OJ felt “relief of the rich” – the realization that, yes, wealth really does provide a license to kill.

Even Cumming’s attorneys were stunned by the lightness of the jury verdict. “I have gotten manslaughter verdicts before, and I have never received a sentence comparable to this one” a broadly smiling Howard said. Howard went on to say “We’re stunned but we’re grateful.” He must have been laughing inside when he said “we want to emphasize there will be no appeal of the verdict.”

Even attorney Howard admitted his client’s guilt as he plead for leniency. “She’s made a mistake. That doesn’t make her a bad person. That doesn’t mean she should be removed from society.” Of course, if premeditated murder is not reason for removing a person from society, we don’t know what is. Some of the women on the jury wiped away tears as Howard made his closing plea.

But that’s not the end of the story. Not only was Cummings sentenced to only sixty days for killing Villegas, but the jail where she is currently serving her brief sentence was emptied out so she could have privacy during her stay. Six prisoners were moved to other jails so that Cummings could have a dormitory section to herself.

Apparently the local sheriff, Joe Higgs, was concerned that the other prisoners, who were serving longer sentences for lighter crimes, might take offense at the sort of “justice” meted out to the rich. Higgs was afraid that the other women serving time might try to inflict some jail-yard justice on Cummings. But not to worry; the sheriff has promised that the dorm will remain vacant as long as “Miss” Cummings is in residence.

In a few short weeks Cummings will be released from jail. She’ll be free to return to her estate, to live as she wants. Perhaps
she’ll want to have dinner with OJ. But regardless of what she does, Roberto Villegas will still be very dead. But what the Hell; he was just a working man.


For more about the Cummings case see the following links:

Washington Post Story 

© Copyright 1996-98, The Outrage is produced by Athens New Media. All rights reserved.

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