Originally posted June 12, 2000; transferred to this site
This was by no means the first celebrated case of an obviously guilty defendant getting away with murder.
In August, 1892, there was Lizzie Borden.
In June, 1994, there was O.J. Simpson.
However, this would be the first known case in which the perp admitted killing the victim, was found guilty, and STILL got away with it. But, we’re jumping a little ahead of ourselves…
Susan Cummings is the daughter of the late former CIA agent and billionaire international arms dealer, Samuel Cummings. Cummings’ company, Interarms, is certainly an equal opportunity supplier. In one widely publicized example, he furnished weapons to rightist Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, and then to Fidel Castro, the Communist dictator who overthrew him.
Susan Cummings and her twin sister Diana grew up in Monaco and Switzerland, and in the early 1980’s moved to Fauquier County, Virginia, about one hour west of Washington, DC. Since they both loved horses, their father bought them Ashland Farm, a 350-acre estate, and stocked it with some of the finest equine specimens.
Fauquier County is big-time horse country, and polo is a major activity. The folks here can afford the best, and the world’s best polo players come from Argentina. One of those imported Argentines was Roberto Villegas.
Villegas and Cummings met at the Willow Run Polo School in 1995, and subsequently fell in love. At some point, Roberto moved in with her.
Fast forward to September 7, 1997. Susan shoots Roberto four times, killing him instantly. She makes a 911 call, about 30 minutes after the incident, and is soon arrested and charged with first degree murder.
Like the OJ case, there is overwhelming forensic evidence proving her guilt. She claims self-defense, pointing to slashes on her arm, but these are easily shown to be self-inflicted. Moreover, the crime scenario is quite clearly established whereby Villegas is seated, eating breakfast, when he is shot.
Far from being a sugar mommy, the heiress is revealed instead to be incredibly cheap. She refused to let Roberto install an answering machine, since that would only encourage expensive call-backs. When his father died, he had to sell a horse and his truck to finance the trip back to Argentina. By all accounts, he tolerates her miserly ways, but gets the full dose of her wrath when he purchases a leaf- blower (for $108) on the estate account, to ease the burden of an old lady hired to sweep the long driveway. Cummings earnestly believed that a broom was perfectly adequate.
Cummings retains a good old Virginia boy, Blair Howard, as her defense counsel. Howard can’t refute the evidence against her, so instead urges the jury to disregard “cold photographs and scientific theory,” and focus on “human emotion.” Sound a little like Johnnie Cochran?
Howard puts forth a very weak case of uncorroborated threats and abuse, contradicted by Susan and Roberto being seen in public happily together, a scant two days before the murder. There is also a series of suspiciously contrived abuse reports, filed by Susan with the local sheriff, to lay some sort of groundwork for a self-defense plea.
It seems like an open and shut case.
On May 13, 1998, the jury does return a guilty verdict–for voluntary manslaughter–recommending a sentence of 60 days in the county jail, and a fine of $2500. So that’s what a human life is worth!
With time off for good behavior, Cummings serves 51 days.
As if this weren’t bad enough, Sheriff Joe Higgs empties the jail while Susan does her time. After all, those in for longer sentences for less serious crimes (nearly all of the inmates) might take offense to Cummings’ special treatment. You think?
Here’s the reason why this case is far more egregious (to use a favorite lawyer word) than Simpson or Borden. At least, those perps were acquitted. The Cummings case, and its wrist slap guilty verdict, is nothing more than a giant middle finger cast toward the American system of jurisprudence, now undoubtedly damaged beyond repair.