Prosecutions are like snowflakes, no two the same. Sometimes, you have a low-profile drunken-driving case where the defendant is a first-time offender, the district attorney doesn't have too much skin in the game and is willing to offer a plea deal, and no one except the parties involved will ever know about it.
And then there are those cases that catapult a prosecutor into the cable-news firmament, cementing his or her status as a legal and political superstar for years to come (assuming, that is, the prosecutor ends up winning).
It's not a good thing to become famous as the district attorney who screwed up a slam-dunk conviction, like Marcia Clark, who will forever be known as the woman who let O.J. Simpson try on a glove.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is aiming to be one of those prosecutors who don't end up as the laughingstock on a future Nancy Grace marathon.
He has taken on the prosecution of Monsignor William Lynn, who is forced to answer for a hierarchy's perfidy and absorb the vengeance of unleashed ex-Catholics and an ambitious prosecutor who is aiming either for a halo or higher office.
But Lynn is not the only man who stands in the blinding glare of the judicial klieg lights this week. Another Bill, a man who is infinitely more famous and - until recently - even more beloved than the good monsignor is today an arraigned defendant and the ticket to stardom for Montgomery County's new D.A., Kevin Steele.
Of course, I'm referring to Bill Cosby. We have come to think of the Cos through his alter ego, Dr. Cliff Huxtable, so the sight of his mug shot is as bizarre as it is tragic.
Of course, we're not allowed to say things that in any way, shape, or form exhibit sympathy for Bill Cosby, just as we're not allowed to point out that Bill Lynn is the sacrificial lamb for an angry mob of "victim's advocates."
We're supposed to pretend that due process doesn't apply to either man, one already convicted after a sham of a trial and the other already convicted in the court of public opinion.
Despite their similarities, including the glee with which the public has greeted the arrest and prosecution of both Bills, there are significant differences.
Monsignor Lynn has clearly been mischarged, deprived of a fair trial because of a judge's flawed evidentiary decisions, and subject to punitive detention when he should have been granted bond as his long appeals were pending.
The man has come close to serving the minimum range of his sentence for child endangerment when there is a very good chance that he will be vindicated and the prosecution shown to be a hollow act of vengeance.
On the other hand, it is unlikely that Cosby will ever spend a day in prison. He has already posted bond, and the likelihood that the district attorney will have the ability to prove the charges of aggravated indecent assault beyond a reasonable doubt is questionable.
The alleged crime occurred 12 years ago, which also raises questions about the soundness of the prosecution and a strong suspicion that it is political. After all, prosecutors in Pennsylvania are elected, and they listen very closely to the loudest voices in their constituencies.
Kevin Steele used the case of Bill Cosby to buy himself favor in the eyes of Montgomery County voters who believed Bruce Castor had dropped the ball in 2005. And you have to hand it to him: It worked.
So it's not far-fetched to believe that this prosecution is the fulfillment of an IOU to the people who pulled the lever for"The Guy Who Would Put Cosby in Jail."
None of this is to suggest that Cosby is innocent. He is, of course, until proven otherwise under this flawed yet precious system of justice we've been honing for the last two and a quarter centuries. But there is a troubling amount of evidence to at least support a finding that the man was an immoral serial adulterer.
And yet, one does not generally go to jail for adultery. And Steele is going to have to show that the woman who claimed to have been abused by Cosby didn't consent to sex. He also has to come up with more than just her word to substantiate the claim.
Perhaps he'll be successful, perhaps not. Until he is, though, let's remember the words that are printed beneath Cosby's mug shot on the Montgomery County district attorney's website:
"Criminal charges, and any discussion thereof, are merely allegations and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty."
But guess what? Even when someone is proven guilty, there is the possibility that an injustice has occurred, which brings us back to the case of Msgr. Lynn.
As I've noted many times before, the conviction of this good man is a function of many things, none of which constitutes due process, good judgment, or anything resembling a solid legal foundation.
Denied bail, forced to watch as a judge slandered his church from the bench, and prejudiced by the admission of evidence that, by all objective standards and the controlling rules, constitutes reversible error, Msgr. Lynn is saddled with two years in jail for a crime that he did not commit.
More important, his reputation has been destroyed by those who seize on any moving target in an attempt to destroy the Roman Catholic Church.
I'm not sure which is worse, having a decades-old allegation of sexual abuse revived because some two-bit stand-up comic calls you a rapist, or being convicted of shielding pedophiles because the God of Vengeance is calling for blood sacrifice. I suppose they're both horrible, in their own distinct ways.
One man is convicted and might be acquitted after years in prison. One man might never be convicted, but even if he's not his reputation is destroyed, by his own hand and mostly to the detriment of those who believed in him.
But the thing that ties these two prosecutions together most closely, beyond the superficial similarities and prosecutorial lust (disguised disingenuously as "a search for justice"), is the fact that nothing that will happen in either case can ever make the true victims (established in Lynn's case, as yet to be proven in Cosby's) whole again.
But who cares about them, when Nancy Grace is waiting?