Tue Jun 16 05:26pm EDT
I can't decide what to think about Donte' Stallworth getting sentenced to 30 days in jail for killing a pedestrian while drunk driving in March. Compared to the jail sentences handed out to other athletes, it seems drastically light. But if the family of the victim is fine with it, who am I to complain?
I keep going back and forth, changing my mind based on the latest consideration I make in the case. Here are a few of the key points:
1) There's a good chance that Stallworth will serve less jail time than Michael Vick(notes), Plaxico Burress(notes), Marion Jones, Pete Rose and Jamal Lewis(notes). Not to minimize the crimes of the people on that list, but none of them killed a human being. Stallworth's crime was an accident, but an accident that was set in motion by an illegal action.
2) Stallworth may have blown a .13, but the victim was crossing the street illegally at night. Maybe a sober Stallworth would have still hit the victim, Mario Reyes. Or maybe his intoxication contributed to the accident. You can't prove it either way, except to say that .13 is above the legal limit. The saying "it could happen to anyone" doesn't apply here though because it presupposes that "anyone" would get behind the wheel while drunk.
3) There was a confidential financial settlement. I'm not going to whine here about legal advantages of the rich and famous, but if Stallworth would have received more time in jail had he not been able to pay a large sum to the family, that seems like an egregious miscarriage of criminal justice.
4) Stallworth's lawyer should have quit while he was ahead. Here's an excerpt from the AP article about the deal:
Stallworth's attorney, Christopher Lyons, said the financial settlement was only one factor in the plea agreement. He noted that Stallworth stopped immediately after the accident, called 911 and submitted to roadside alcohol testing despite spending most of the night drinking at a swanky Miami Beach hotel.
"He acted like a man," Lyons said. "He remained at the scene. He cooperated fully."
We should give Stallworth a merit badge for taking sobriety tests even though he was drunk? And he's a man because he didn't flee the scene? I'd say these facts make Stallworth not an idiot, but I don't think they make him a man.
5) A father died. Reyes had a 15-year-old daughter and left behind a family.
I'm still conflicted. While I think the Michael Vick sentence was preposterously harsh, I wouldn't be surprised if it made people think twice about dogfighting. Unfortunately, Donte' Stallworth's(notes) 30 days in jail isn't likely to make anybody call a cab instead of getting behind the wheel of their car after a few drinks. And that's why, ultimately, I think Stallworth got off too easy.
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