It’s not stealing if you’re rich

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A case that began on Christmas Day in one of the world’s most famous restaurants came to a resolution of sorts last week when three detectives landed in Greensboro to recover $300,000 worth of stolen wine.

And as far as the authorities go, the story ends there. The Greensboro Police Department and the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office both denied any involvement in the seizure or even knowledge of the stolen wine’s whereabouts. The Napa County Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over the restaurant robbery, has decreed the person in possession of the stolen wine to be an innocent victim of unscrupulous black marketeers and, at this point in the investigation, refuses to release the person’s name.

But that’s completely unacceptable.

There are maybe a few hundred people, tops, around here who are even aware of the French Laundry restaurant, where the caper went down. Perhaps 1 percent of them have the means and the desire to purchase these pricey bottles that run into the four figures apiece, and have a place to store such precious cargo. The local culprit, innocent though he may be, can only be one of a small handful of people.

And let’s revisit that concept of innocence, shall we?

Whoever bought this wine, whether they knew it was stolen or not, was in possession of a felony amount of stolen property that was brought across state lines for illegal purposes. By buying and storing the wine — maybe even drinking a few bottles, as four of them are still unaccounted for — he has aided and abetted the criminals who burgled the restaurant. And surely this person knows where he got the wine from, information that in the normal world might be used as a bargaining chip to mitigate these other charges.

But there are no other charges. Instead of a perp walk, we get a wall of silence from our law enforcement institutions.

If anyone has any doubt that there are two Americas, look no further. Most of us suspect that if we had $300,000 worth of stolen merchandise in our possession, we would likely end the day in handcuffs, no matter the circumstances. We imagine most of our readers feel the same.

But the rules are different for people who spend more on wine than the rest of us do on the houses we live in. Not only was no one in Greensboro arrested for their part in this crime, we can’t even find out the person’s name.

They say in vino there is veritas, but the truth in this case is being hidden from the light.

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