We are operating here under the radical assumption that politicans, decision-makers, and their relatives are people, too. This allows us to easily accomodate the notion that from time to time these people may commit reckless deeds just like other people sometimes do, too.
Eva Varholíková-Rezešová, daughter of former Slovak minister of transport, Alexander Rezeš, has just been handed a jail sentence of nine years by a Hungarian appeals court for something of exactly this kind. On August 21, 2012, in a freak accident, she drove her BMW X5 into a Fiat Punto from the rear on a highway in Hungary, causing the other car to flip over, and go up in flames. Three of the passangers traveling in that car died instantly – a fourth victim died at the hospital.
Even though she was driving well in excess of the speed limit, and was under the influence of alcohol at the time, her defence experts did a good job, and did all that they could to present it as an extremely complex issue whether she was to blame for what happened – or if the Fiat Punto’s deceased driver may have failed to give way to her BMW, while attempting to take over a truck, leaving Varholíková-Rezešová with not enough time to decelerate and/or evade as she was speeding towards the spot in question, in the inside lane.
To deal with the crucial issue of driving under the influence, the defence at various points suggested that Varholíková-Rezešová may have taken medication containing alcohol and that she drank vodka only after the accident.
Notable as these, presumably well-paid, efforts by the defence team, seeking acquittal of the client, may be, the other side of the coin is interesting, too.
Vilifying, even demonizing, a millionaire foreign celebrity, such as Eva Varholíková-Rezešová, for putting to death by fire four citizens of one’s country, speaking from a position of authority, may seem a surefire way of gaining some popularity. When the primary court originally dealing with the case sentenced Varholíková-Rezešová to six years, at the same time ruling that she be placed from detention to under house arrest whilst waiting for the appeals court’s decision, Antal Rogán, parliamentary faction leader of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party publicly criticized the decision in the strongest terms. Interestingly enough, in the wake of his statement, the ruling on house arrest was reverted back to imprisonment, questioning, in the eyes of some, the independence of the Hungarian judiciary, even as no one really seemed to disagree with the decision to send Varholíková-Rezešová to jail.
It is also noteworthy that Varholíková-Rezešová was largely framed in Hungarian press coverage as “Slovak” or at least as a “Slovak citizen,” with her strong Hungarian roots rarely mentioned.
Press coverage in Slovakia was no less hostile towards her. This article dated August 23, 2012 already declared, immediately in the wake of the accident:
“The consequences in Hungary could be much greater than they may have been had the accident happened in Slovakia, where the highly affluent Rezes family are widely believed to have a lot of influence.”
The late Alexander Rezeš was “a right hand man” to former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar and oversaw the privatization of major state assets – making money along the way in the opinion of more than one critic. The story of that speeding BMW of destruction is now seamlessly woven into this narrative.
No wonder the Hungarian judge handing down the sentence is now very popular with many in both Hungary and Slovakia for her clearly worded closing remarks, addressed directly to Varholíková-Rezešová – full with a punchline befitting Horatio Caine of CSI: Miami. Quoting Judge Sarolta Stubeczky:
“You have stated that nothing is ever going to be the same as before. This you should not feel sorry for.”
CSI’s title song instantly plays in my head when I think of this: “and pray we don’t get fooled again.” Meaning… I forgot.