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Is "Dieting Made Me Do It" the New Twinkie Defense?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 25, 2015 10:17 AM

Jared's diet helped turn him into a child molester. That's the novel theory his lawyers developed last week on the eve of his sentencing. Jared Fogle, the former Subway sandwich chain spokesman and famous weight loss champion, was sentenced last week to over 15 years in prison for having sex with minors. But his lawyers argued that he should be shown leniency because he developed a sex addiction only after overcoming his food addiction.

It sounds suspiciously like the Twinkie defense to us.

From Food Addiction to Sex Addiction?

A bit of background. You probably remember Jared Fogle, then known as just "Jared" or "the Subway Guy" from a series of endless Subway ads in the early 2000's. Fogle claimed to have lost almost 300 pounds by eating Subway (and exercising). His story helped spur the rapid growth of the Subway chain and gave birth to the $5 footlong. But, it turns out, Jared was also a pedophile. In April, he pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography and traveling to pay for sex with minors.

It might have been his weight loss that caused him to become a sex offender, according to his lawyers. At his sentencing hearing, they presented that unique dieting theory as they asked for leniency. "He traded a horrible food addiction for a horrible sex addiction," his defense attorney Jeremy Margolis claimed. To support that theory, they called Dr. John Bradford, a forensic psychiatrist, to the stand. Dr. Bradford asserted that Fogle's compulsive eating disorder morphed into "hypersexuality" after his diet.

It didn't work. (Que surprise.) The court not only didn't show Fogle any leniency, but Judge Tanya Walton Pratt sentenced him to over 15 years -- more than what even the prosecution had sought. When Fogle cried over the effects his incarceration would have on his wife and children, Judge Pratt responded, "You gave your wife $7 million, she'll be okay."

The Third Man: Twinkies and Sandwiches

The defenses' theory seems like it was taken straight from Dan White. In 1978, White assassinated San Francisco mayor George Moscone and city supervisor and gay rights activist Harvey Milk. His trial gave rise to the famous "Twinkie defense," now a catchall phrase for any improbable legal defense. According to the defense's psychiatrist, White had been a fitness nut who had begun consuming junk food and sodas, among other behavioral changes -- all signs that White had diminished capacity. (Twinkies were never actually mentioned.)

Both defenses blame food, stress, and depression for terrible crimes. But if there's one major difference, it's not that Fogle went from fat to fit and White from fit to fat. It's that White's worked. Jurors found him incapable of premeditation and he was convicted only of voluntary manslaughter, leading to San Francisco's famous White Night Riots.

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