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Sheriff: No slack for Phelps because he is celebrity

February 3, 2009 |  4:24 pm

Here's an update on the potential for legal action being taken against Michael Phelps as a result of the infamous "bong picture" that appeared over the weekend in a British newspaper.

Richland County (S.C.) Sheriff Leon Lott said in a statement Tuesday that his department was investigating the incident and that he "would not turn a blind eye because someone is a celebrity."

The sheriff was referring to the Feb. 2 edition of the British tabloid News of the World, which had a picture of Phelps sucking on a glass pipe. Such a device generally is used to inhale cannabis, an illegal drug. The newspaper said the photo was taken at a party that reportedly took place Nov. 6 in Columbia, S.C.

"If someone breaks the law, we have an obligation to investigate and to bring charges," Lott said. "The Richland County Sheriff's Department is making an effort to determine if Mr. Phelps broke the law. If he did, he will be charged in the same manner as anyone else. The Sheriff has a responsibility to be fair, to enforce the law and to not turn a blind eye because someone is a celebrity."

Lott, whom the Associated Press described as "known for his tough stance on drugs," is a two-time winner of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers' Assn.'s "Toughest Cop" award (1999 and 2004).

-- Philip Hersh

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