Sports Law

Law and Order

It’s been some time since I’ve last posted an article, but this couldn’t have been a better time for me to vent. In light of the recent happenings with athletes and their run ins with the law, I have come to the simple conclusion that the U.S legal system is an absolute joke.

leonard littleI know it’s going back in time, but with everything that’s going on, I couldn’t help but think back to my most hated athlete of all time: Leonard Little. After leaving a birthday party drunk in 1998, Little crashed into and killed Susan Gutweiler in St. Louis. When tested, his blood alcohol level measured 0.19, which exceeds the statutory level of intoxication of 0.08 in the state of Missouri. Little received a measly 90 days in jail, four years probation and 1000 hours of community service. Six years later, Little was again arrested for drunk driving and speeding. Police filed a statement saying Little had bloodshot and watery eyes, smelled of alcohol and failed three sobriety tests. Because of Little’s 1999 guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter in his drunken-driving crash case, prosecutors charged him as a persistent offender. This made it a felony case. Little was acquitted of driving while intoxicated, and was convicted only of the misdemeanor speeding charge. Little killed someone and served 90 days in jail; with only a slap on the wrist Little apparently didn’t learn his lesson, for good reason I guess. Severe crimes, with virtually no punishment. Talk about Law and Order.

Recently, we have had the privilege to read about athletes gone criminal with the likes of Michael Vick, Donte Stallworth and Plaxico Burress. Let’s just review. Vick just finished up close to a two year sentence for heading a dog fighting ring. He served his time and is now looking for a second chance in the NFL. In Vick’s case I believe the punishment fit the crime.

Stallworth is receiving 30 days in jail, probation, and community service. He killed a man while driving drunk. Talk about a blunder in the law, its Leonard Little all over again. I keep hearing legal experts defend such a lenient punishment, saying that he cooperated with the law, that he has a clean record, and that the family wanted this issue quickly resolved. I don’t care if this guy was a saint, how does he not only get a DUI, but also kills a man and only gets 30 days in jail? How can anyone justify this? There are people out there who are caught in such accidents and have a lawyer who is trying to help the family get through this because it can heavily impact a family. Vick gets 2 years for running a dog fighting ring, and Stallworth gets a month in jail for killing a human being.

Now to the last pending case: Plaxico Burress. Burress suffered an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound when his pistol began sliding down his leg; apparently in reaching for the gun he inadvertently pressed the trigger, causing the gun to fire. The following Monday, Burress eventually turned himself in to police to face charges of criminal possession of a handgun. Plaxico didn’t have a New York license to carry a concealed weapon. The minimum punishment for unlawfully carrying a handgun is 3½ years. Even Mayor Bloomberg has chimed into this ordeal saying that if Burress doesn’t face the fullest extent of the punishment that it would be making “a mockery of the law”. Bloomberg makes it sound like it’s a pretty straight forward penalty, carry an unlicensed handgun and go to jail for 3 ½ years. So how is it possible that Plaxico does not receive that same penalty? It seems like the only the person doing something about these athletes is Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner. While he doesn’t have a say in the legal system, in the NFL he’s the judge, jury and executioner and doing one heck of a job.

Oh, by the way, the man responsible for stealing Lance Armstrong’s bike is facing 3 years in prison. Going to jail for stealing a bicycle. At least someone is facing the wrath of the law. With the majority of today’s athletes receiving little to no punishment for such crimes, it’s no surprise that some of these guys make bonehead mistake after bonehead mistake. It’s time for the rich and famous to receive the same punishment as the average citizen.