We're glad the Houston Chronicle stepped up to the plate to call for sensible punishment for Katherine Le, a socialite jewelry designer and member of the paper's "Best-Dressed List" accused of running three illegal game rooms. The Chron suggested in an October 10 editorial that, if found guilty, Le and other "nonviolent offenders" should be sentenced to "something that benefits society as a whole."
Obviously, Le has already benefited society by wearing garments that are not ugly, which is an achievement worthy of recognition by one of the country's biggest newspapers. Some people actually wear clothes that are drab, or even, if you can believe it, out of season. But we're not entirely sure if profiting off game rooms is entirely nonviolent, given that these predatory strip-mall-hideaways are hubs for robberies and shootings. In May 2014, a security guard was killed in a robbery at the Lucky Star Game Room in southwest Houston; same thing happened four months later at the Evergreen Game Room. An August 2013 shooting claimed the life of a customer.
Game rooms are also predatory; an HPD investigator told us in 2011 that most customers are senior citizens, and the games are usually rigged. As the investigator told us: "You're playing against a computer. You're playing against a person who's operating this computer illegally. How do you think that's going to come out in your favor?"
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We're all for sensible punishment for nonviolent offenders: A person caught with a joint doesn't belong behind bars. But that person isn't also taking advantage of others and holding out a neon sign for armed robbers. If Le and her co-defendants really were running illegal game rooms, it's likely they were actually harming other people, and the community as a whole. If she were sentenced to a few years of making jewelry in prison, we wouldn't lose any sleep, even if she'd have to swap haute couture for solid orange.