Claire Fox Hillard should give Bill Slugg a call.
Slugg knows what it’s like to be arrested. In June, the Albany businessman was charged with a felony gun crime, not a relatively rinky-dink misdemeanor like Hillard – the Albany Symphony Orchestra conductor and a Darton College professor — is facing after his prowling arrest Friday.
What did Slugg do about his humiliating situation, which also included a misdemeanor drug charge? He not only agreed to be interviewed by a newspaper, he wrote an intricately detailed, no-stone-unturned account of how and why he found himself in an untenable and embarrassingly public position.
In other words, he came clean. (Slugg ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.)
Hillard, conversely, told police one thing, then told them another thing, then told a reporter something else, and now won’t answer questions, including ours.
Truth be told, the truth hasn’t ever been told about what Hillard was doing late at night in Camilla when his clothes were cut up and police responded to Hillard’s distress call with the conductor wearing nothing but a towel.
Hillard goofed up. But what he’s accused of – and even what the imagination allows in this bizarre situation – is certainly forgivable and far from a career-ender. Indeed, from what we know, Hillard’s biggest transgression that night was his claim that he was assaulted by two black men. Not only was that a prejudicial and insensitive fabrication, it jeopardized guiltless people who could have been falsely accused of the crime. (Imagine if two black guys were walking down the alley when police responded to Hillard’s plea for help; innocent people could have been arrested because of a lie.)
Even if Hillard is fired from his jobs in Albany and as conductor of the Meredian (Miss.) Symphony, it doesn’t mean that Hillard’s career is over. One associative example is that of sports announcer Marv Albert, who was fired by NBC after being accused of forcible sodomy by a woman who says that Albert was wearing only a belt and women’s underwear during a violent sexual encounter. Albert not only was rehired by NBC two years later after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges, he remains at the top of his profession 14 years later.
So, what makes a mistake an unforgiveable sin? Can the damages be repaired? We don’t know. But we think that an earnest public apology is in order and the truth needs to be told.
It is said that if you put yourself in the public eye for the good, you have to be there for the bad. Claire, give Bill a call. He can assist as you rebound from your misstep.
By Kevin Hogencamp