Today’s New York Times has this article (registration required) about possible reasons that Martha Stewart might have been prosecuted more vigorously than had she not been a celebrity. The article quotes a former prosecutor about something I’d heard before, namely that prosecutors especially like to go after high-profile people pour encourager les autres (see here for an explanation of this French phrase and its provenance):
Prosecuting someone famous can help to change behavior, though, and appeals to prosecutors seeking favorable media attention, said Roland Riopelle, a former federal prosecutor who practices at Secarz & Riopelle in New York.
“The government is in many cases quicker to pull the trigger on a public figure than a private citizen, and I think Martha Stewart was a victim of that,” Mr. Riopelle said. “The truth is, quite honestly, it’s all the more exciting and it creates all the more press.”
As a result, he concluded, “They’re more likely to charge a prominent person for a piddly crime than they are an ordinary Joe.”