Sometimes millions of dollars, the adoration of fans and a great deal of exercise is simply not enough to quell the urge to skew away from the line of morality. Other times, money and fame don’t help to resist the urge to consume illegal substances.
As fans have seen in the NFL offseason, being a professional athlete did not stop Ray Rice from getting domestic abuse charges, Aldon Smith from getting belligerent with airport security, and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ running backs from getting caught with illegal substances. While these three athletes were issued slaps on the wrist, others who committed more serious crimes have received some very lengthy prison sentences. Here is a list of the top twenty-five.
Note that there are a few honorable (or not so honorable) mentions for this list. Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end, is still in the trial process, but the evidence is overwhelmingly weighted against him. The late Ruben “Hurricane” Carter of the boxing world gets a very honorable mention because he was sentenced to life in prison for murder, but was later released after being determined to have not been the culprit in that case. Boxer Del Fontaine and cricket player Leslie Hylton both received death penalties via hanging for their murders, but because this is a list of prison sentences, they will not be on it.
25. Bernard Hopkins: Boxing – Robbery: 18 Years
Before he became one of the most renowned boxers of all time, Hopkins was sentenced to 18 years in prison for a variety of felonies. The most serious of these was armed robbery. He only served five years, but during his sentence he converted to Islam and took up boxing. Now age 49, Hopkins is still competing, and holds a record of 55 wins and only six losses.
24. Marc Cecillon: Rugby – Murder: 20 Years
A highly decorated French rugby player, Marc Cecillon was retired when he began to suffer from depression. At a party one night, he was visibly drunk, and was asked to leave. He returned sometime later with a revolver, and shot his wife five times. He stated in his defense in court that he was drunk and depressed and didn’t mean to kill her. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison back in 2006, but was released on parole in 2011.
23. Willie Mays Aikens: MLB – Possession and Distribution of Illegal Substances and Guns: 20 Years
After a nine year career playing with the California Angels, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays between 1977 and 1985, Willie Aikens was arrested and convicted for distrubuting illegal substances. He later spoke of using illegal substances before, during and after almost every baseball game he played. He was released back in 2008 and it has been noted that he has turned his life around after dealing with 14 years in prison.
22. Stanley Wilson: NFL – Burglary (3rd Strike): 22 Years
Wilson played only a few years in the 80’s for the Cincinnati Bengals. He was a frequent user of illegal substances during his NFL career, and prior to Super Bowl XXIII he was found using cocaine in the dressing room. He was cut from the team, did not play in the game and his career was over. He was later convicted of multiple robberies, many of which he committed to support his illegal substance habit.
21. Rae Carruth: NFL – Conspiracy to Murder: 24 Years
While it is hard to make such a call, Rae Carruth may have the worst story on this list. Back in 1999, Cherica Adams was pregnant with Carruth’s child. He and two accomplices ambushed Adams, shooting her multiple times in her car. She would later die, but their unborn child was saved. Chancellor Lee Adams is the young man’s name, and he has been raised by his grandmother. Carruth himself is still incarcerated, but will likely be released in 2018.
20. Michael Nunn: Boxing – Conspiracy to Distribute Illegal Substances: 24 Years
With 58 wins and just four losses, Michael “Second To” Nunn, was locked up back in 2004 for cocaine trafficking. The Iowa native was arrested after he had purchased cocaine, with intent to distribute from an undercover cop. He has taken responsibility for his actions and is said to be a model prisoner. He will spend another decade in prison before he is eligible for parole.
19. Art Schlichter: NFL – Mostly Gambling and Money Related: 26 Years Total
Schlichter was a gambler during his college years and his behavior did not change when he turned pro. The Ohio State alumni was a frequent gambler while at the school and such activities cost him his career. During and after his professional football career, Schlichter has committed dozens of felonies, from simple gambling offenses to major counts of fraud. He is expected to remain in prison until at least 2020.
18. Tom Payne: NBA – Many Violations: Over 25 Years
Don’t confuse him with Thomas Paine, the political philosopher partially attributed with the ideals of the American Revolution, as they are two very different guys. One was influential in inspiring the United States to split from Great Britain (look it up), while the latter is a basketball player has been convicted a few times for several statutory offences. In fact, last time he was convicted, the cops had actually caught him in the act. His professional career started in 1971, but did not last long as his first arrest occurred in 1972.
17. Steve Seligman: NASCAR – Illegal Substance Distribution: 27 Years
Seligman raced stock car during the 1980’s until the late 1990’s. He was successful on smaller racing circuits, but was never a prominent driver, and never placed very well in NASCAR events. In 1997, his racing shop was raided by police who found significant amounts of illegal substances and cash. It’s odd, he was using illegal substances to raise money to race cars, but I would have thought people used illegal substances to make car races watchable… bad joke, sorry.
16. James Butler: Boxing – Manslaughter and Arson: 29 Years
The “Harlem Hammer,” James Butler went 20-5 in his boxing career. He was known for his temper, and had served four months in jail after assaulting an opponent after a loss in the ring. In 2004, after a rough few fights and personal life problems, he killed his long time friend Sam Kellerman and burned his home to the ground in the aftermath. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and arson, and was given 29 years. Allegedly their altercation started over a dispute about Kellerman telling Butler to move out.
15. Dave Meggett: NFL – Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor, Burglary: 30 Years
Dave Meggett should be a well-known name for any New York Giants fan. He was instrumental in Super Bowl XXV and remains one of the NFL’s most prolific return specialists in history. Unfortunately, he has several incidents on his record for physical crimes and was convicted of statutory offenses back in 2010. He is expected to be in prison until at least the 2030’s. His victim owed him money and while he and his lawyer claimed the two had fooled around as payment, the jury did not buy the story.
14. Mark Rogowski: Skateboarding – Statutory Offenses and Murder: 31 Years
Mark “Gator” Rogowski was a successful skateboarder for much of the 80’s. As his popularity began to slip in the early 90’s, he hit a rough patch, began to drink constantly and eventually his long-term girlfriend left him. One night in his devastation, he murdered a former friend, Jessica Bergsten. He turned himself in to police a month later, and during his trial, pleaded guilty to first degree murder.
13. O.J. Simpson: NFL – Kidnapping, Armed Robbery: 33 Years
Juice’s situation is still somewhat up in the air (due to multiple requests for retrial) but as of now, he has been sentenced to 33 years and is in a Nevada prison. He and several other men stole many sports related items from a memorabilia dealer in Las Vegas. All of the men in his group were charged, but Simpson’s 33 years in Prison is the longest of any of them. Many believe, and we don’t claim to have any position, that he should have been sentenced to life in prison in relation to the murder of his wife.
12. Tony Ayala Jr.: Boxing – Multiple Rapes: 35 Years
His record inside the ring is 31 wins and two losses, but outside of the ring, his stat sheet looks more like several convictions and a lot of time behind bars. He was widely believed to be one of the best during his young career but after two minor assaults and then assault in 1983, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison. He was released in 1999 but violated parole in 2004 and was sent back to prison for possession of illegal substances, adult material and driving without a license, earning him another ten years. He was released back in April.
11. Darryl Henley: NFL – Illegal Substance Trafficking, Conspiracy to Murder: 41 Years
The former Los Angeles Rams’ cornerback had a decent five year career, but after the 1994 season, he was convicted of drug trafficking and received a 20 years sentence. On top of that was a 21 year sentence for hiring hitmen to kill the judge and witness prior to his trial. A valiant effort, but the real trick is not getting caught. Trying to weasel one’s way out of a 20 year sentence is smart, but getting caught was a whole different ball game. He will not be eligible for parole until around age 65.
10. Mel Hall: MLB – Intercourse With Minors: 45 Years
Mel Hall was an outfielder who played 13 years of MLB, and three years in Japan. During his playing career he was known for mentoring your athletes, and he used such ventures as opportunities to earn parents’ trust and find victims. He committed unforgivable acts with multiple girls, one just twelve years old. He was convicted by a jury in a little under an hour back in 2009. He must serve 22 years before he will be eligible for parole.
9. Robert Rozier/Rameses: NFL – Multiple Charges: Murder and Check-Kiting : 25 to Life
Robert Rozier was a defensive end who played very briefly for the St. Louis Cardinals after being drafted back in 1979. He was released from the team in the same year and joined the black-supremacist cult “The Brotherhood.” The group required new members to commit murders of white people in order to be accepted. Rozier later confessed to seven such killings, and after agreeing to testify against Yahweh Ben Yahweh, the cult leader, he was given just ten years in prison. After getting out he was later convicted of check-kiting, which earned him the 25 for life sentence.
8. “Fast” Eddie Johnson: NBA – A Few Things: Life
Two time NBA All-Star “Fast” Eddie Johnson had a serious cocaine problem throughout the later years of his career. In 1987 after an unsuccessful stint in rehab, he was expelled from the NBA, which started a dangerous downward spiral. He was arrested dozens of times in the coming decades for robbery, illegal substance possession and multiple assaults. His final crime was the assault of an eight year old girl. In Florida, such a conviction carries a mandatory life sentence.
7. Esteban De Jesus: Boxing – Murder: Life
The Puerto Rican champion boxer from the 1970’s and 80’s really had his demons. His 57-5 record was impressive, but ultimately, many remember him for murdering a young man in 1981, while extremely high on illegal substances. He was sentenced to life in prison, but after a couple of years, he came to suffer from AIDS. It is most likely that De Jesus contracted the disease from his brother, with whom he shared needles.
6. Randy Lanier: Racing – Conspiracy, Tax Fraud, Drug Distribution: Multiple Sentences – Life
Randy Lanier was a Champ Car racer in the mid 80’s. Lanier was convicted of conspiracy, tax fraud and was found to be in possession of over 1000 lbs of marijuana, and was determined to be a leader of an ongoing criminal organisation. Such a conviction holds a mandatory life without parole sentence. Selling pot and defrauding a government carry similar penalties to murder. Whoever came up with that had to have been high.
5. Hiroshi Ogawa: MLB – Murder, Theft: Life
Ogawa played for the Chiba Lotte Marines from 1985 until 1992. Years later, he was severely in debt and attempted to rob the home of his employer. During the theft, he knocked out his employer’s housekeeper, who he later put in the trunk of his car and drowned. The victim, Kazuko Nishiuchi, was 67 years old when the murder and burglary took place.
4. Evangelos Goussis: MMA – Drugs, Weapons, Attempted Murder, Murders: Multiple Sentences, Life
Born in the USSR back in 1967, Goussis and his family emigrated to Australia when he was eight years old. At age 22 he was convicted of attempted murder and drug trafficking. Years later he was convicted of carrying a prohibited firearm. These charges carried small sentences. During his time in and out of prison he competed in kickboxing and spent some time as the World Kickboxing Association’s Middleweight Champion. He was also involved in gang activities, and in 2004 he was convicted of his first murder, with his second murder conviction coming in 2009. His sentence is life in prison but he can request parole after 33 years.
3. Eric Naposki: NFL – Murder: Life Without Possibility of Parole
Eric Naposki was having an affair with Nanette Anne Packard back in the early 90’s. The two conspired and killed her wealthy boyfriend back in 1994 to gain his life insurance money. Naposki entered the man’s home and shot him several times. The two almost got away with it, but in 2009, a new witness came forward, and new technology had been created which accurately identified the weapon. Naposki and Packard both received life sentences with no chance of parole back in 2012.
2. Clifford Etienne: Boxing – A Few Things: 160 Years (Reduced to 105)
“The Black Rhino” was a professional boxer from 1998 to 2005 and achieved a record of 29-4-2. He rose to become one of the most renowned fighter in the early 2000’s but after his loss to Mike Tyson, he career and personal life went quickly downhill. In 2005 he went on a crime spree. His spree entailed kidnapping, carjacking, attempted murder of a police officer and robbery. He got 160 years in prison, which was lessened to 105 because of an administrative error. His adventure kind of sounds like a great level for a Grand Theft Auto game.
1. Keith Wright: NFL – A Bit of Everything: Over 234 Years
Wright played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004 and 2005, and played for the Hamburg Sea Devils in NFL Europe back in 2006. Football didn’t really turn into a great career for the defensive end, so he turned to violent crime. He carried out three 2011 home invasions, during which he committed assaults, armed robbery, false imprisonment, and a kidnapping. All added up, his convictions totaled 234 years. Again, he was either playing too much Grand Theft Auto, or not enough.
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