On the surface, it would seem like professional athletes have it all. Fame, fortune, and beautiful women (or men) are just a few of the benefits these individuals often enjoy. If you’re a high-level pro in virtually any sport, opportunities are seemingly endless. That being said, even the rich and famous can often find themselves in the darkest of places.
For various reasons, throughout the years, there has been no shortage of professional athletes who have had some minor legal issues. However, there have also been a number of high-profile professionals that have committed some very serious crimes. In some cases, they committed crimes of passion, got involved with illegal substances, or simply decided to participate in criminal activity in order to make a quick buck.
Whatever their crimes, the athletes that are featured in this article all have one thing in common… the destination. That destination is known as prison, jail, or even the slammer if you prefer. The names may vary, but there is one thing that everyone can agree on; it isn’t a place anyone wants to go.
We are about to take a look at 15 famous athletes from a number of different sports, and find out how they wound up behind bars.
17 Sam Hurd (NFL)
Sam Hurd was an NFL wide receiver who played for the both the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears. The 6-foot-4 Northern Illinois graduated was signed by the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2006. He played in 77 games and totaled 739 yards receiving over the course of his 5 years NFL career.
Hurd was arrested in Chicago back in December of 2011 for attempting to purchase large quantities of both marijuana and cocaine for the purpose of redistribution. Hurd initially pled not guilty to the charges, but would later change his plea to guilty. Moreover, he was also arrested for violating bond and failing two drug tests, prior to the trial. The former Cowboy was sentenced to 15 years in jail and is currently serving time in Bastrop, Texas.
16 Hardbody Harrison (Pro Wrestling)
Harrison Norris Jr. wrestled professionally under the ring name Hardbody Harrison in the late '90s, and is also a former Toughman Heavyweight Champion. He is best known for his run in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) where he was used primarily as an enhancement talent, a wrestler whose primary purpose is to make his opponents look good by losing to them.
In 2007 Norris was charged with sex trafficking and running a forced labor ring. Apparently, he was keeping eight women in his home and was forcing them to work as prostitutes while pimping them out at various nightclubs. Norris decided to act as his own attorney during the trial, but failed to get himself acquitted. When the dust settled, the former pro wrestler ended up being sentenced to life in prison.
15 War Machine (MMA)
War Machine is a mixed martial artist who was formerly known as Jon Koppenhaver before legally changing his name. He is best known for his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter reality television series and as a member of the Bellator MMA roster. In truth, War Machine was a journeyman fighter with a 13-5 record and few notable victories. That being said, he did receive some publicity for his romantic involvement with adult film star Christy Mack.
However, things went south for the couple in a major way. In August of 2014, War Machine arrived at Mack’s home, after they had apparently broken up, and assaulted his ex and her male associate. Mack ended up with 18 broken bones as result of the incident. War Machine, who had also had previous legal issues, would go on to receive an aggregate life sentence with the possibility of parole in 36 years.
14 Dave Meggett (NFL)
Running back Dave Meggett had a solid NFL career, playing for both the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. The return specialist made two Pro Bowl appearances in 1989 and 1996, respectively. He was also a member of Giants' Super Bowl XXV championship team and was selected to a part of the New England Patriots' honorary All-1990s Team.
Following his retirement, Meggett had numerous run-ins with the law. In 1998 he was arrested for allegedly assaulting an escort, though the trial would end with a hung jury. In 2007 he was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery. Lastly, in 2010, the former NFL star was sentenced 30 years in jail for criminal sexual conduct and burglary, in an incident that involved a college student. He is scheduled to be released in 2034.
13 Mookie Blaylock (NBA)
Defensive specialist Mookie Blaylock played for the New Jersey Nets, Atlanta Hawks, and the Golden State Warriors during his tenure in the NBA. The former point guard was named to the NBA All-Star team back in 1994. He is one of only five players who led the league in steals for two consecutive years in a row. Blaylock is also the Atlanta Hawks' all-time leader in steals (1,321) and three-point field goals made (3,023).
Blaylock’s life took a turn for the worse when he was involved in a head-on collision, which resulted in the former NBA star being placed on life support. While Blaylock would eventually recover, the person in the other vehicle died as result of the collision. The former Hawk was charged with vehicular homicide for failing to stay in his lane and driving with suspended license. He is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence.
12 Lee Murray (MMA)
Lee Murray is a former mixed martial artist who defeated Jorge Rivera at UFC 46 back in 2004. The British fighter also allegedly knocked out UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz at a London nightclub in 2002, though Ortiz denies the claim. His final MMA fight would take place in September of 2004, where he suffered a loss at the hands of the legendary Anderson Silva.
Murray is considered to be the mastermind behind the infamous Securitas depot robbery, which is the largest cash robbery in British history. $53,116,760 pounds were stolen, as a result of the famed robbery. Murray also had some drug-related charges to deal with in Morroco, where he was staying to avoid being captured by British law enforcement. He is currently serving his 25-year sentence.
11 Sally McNeil (Bodybuilding)
Sally McNeil has the unfortunate distinction of being the only female athlete on our list. Previously, McNeil was a member of the United States Marine Corps. She was even able to obtain the rank of sergeant while serving at Camp Pendleton. The bodybuilding pro was the two-time U.S. Armed Services Physique Champ back in the late 1980s. That being said, she is probably better known for the murder of her husband, than any of her accomplishments in the fitness world.
In 1995 Sally McNeil shot and killed her husband, fellow bodybuilder, Ray McNeil. Her conviction was initially overturned on appeal but was later reinstated by a higher court. She is currently serving 19 years to life at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California.
10 Eric Naposki (NFL)
Eric Naposki was a 6-foot-2 linebacker for the The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts in the late '80s. He also played for the Barcelona Dragons in the now-defunct World League of American Football, where he had his best years as a professional.
Naposki allegedly conspired with a woman named Nanette Johnson (who also happened to be his lover) to murder her boyfriend and collect his life insurance. Her boyfriend, a man named William “Bill” McLaughlin was shot to death in his Newport Beach home in December of 1994. The former Patriot was convinced of McLaughlin’s murder and sentenced to life in prison. Nanette Johnson was also convicted of murder and would receive the same sentence. Despite his conviction, the former NFL player maintains his innocence and is appealing his conviction.
9 Tate George (NBA)
6-foot-5 point guard Tate George spent four years in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. Despite being the 22nd overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft, Tate never really caught on in the NBA. The Journeyman basketball player averaged just 4.2 points per game.
He would go to start a real estate investment group in New Jersey called The George Group. Apparently, the business wasn’t on the up and up, as George would be arrested for fraud, related to a Ponzi scheme he was involved in while serving as the company’s CEO. In 2013 he was found guilty on four counts of federal wire fraud. This resulted in the former basketball pro receiving a nine-year prison sentence in January of 2016.
7 James Butler (Boxing)
James Butler Jr. was a boxer who was known as “The Harlem Hammer.” Butler had a professional record of 20-5 and briefly held the USBA Super Middleweight Championship. He was the subject of major controversy in November of 2001, when he sucker-punched his opponent, Richard Grant, without any gloves, after the fight had ended. As a result of his post-fight antics, Butler was charged with aggravated assault and served four months in a detention facility.
On October 12, 2004, Butler hit his longtime friend and roommate Sam Kellerman (brother of boxing analyst Max Kellerman) in the head with a hammer and then proceeded to set his apartment on fire, in an attempt to cover up his actions. Kellerman’s body was found five days later. In 2006, Butler was convicted of murder and arson; he would be sentenced to 29 years and 4 months in jail.
6 Rae Carruth (NFL)
Rae Carruth was a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers from 1997 to 1999. During his NFL career, Carruth had 804 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns.His career would be cut short due to his criminal activity.
Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. According to the court's findings, Carruth hired a friend to shoot a woman who he was casually dating. The woman, Cherica Adams, also happens to be carrying Carruth’s unborn child, which the NFL star apparently didn’t want her to have. Adams was shot four times during the incident and later died in the hospital. The doctors were able to save the child, but he suffered permanent damage from being without oxygen for over an hour. For his crimes, Carruth is serving between 18 to 24 years in prison.
5 Clifford Etienne (Boxing)
In 2000, Ring magazine named Clifford Etienne the “Most Exciting Fighter to Watch” in the heavyweight division. However, the boxer’s career took a turn for the worse when he was knocked out in the first round by the legendary Mike Tyson in 2003. He would fight on following the Tyson loss, but never regained his status as a top attraction in the sport.
On a night in August of 2005, Etienne committed a series of crimes while supposedly under the influence of cocaine. The crime spree allegedly included; robbing a check cashing business, stealing a car containing a woman and her children, and pulling a gun on a police offer. He would go on to be sentenced to 160 years in the slammer, which was later reduced to 105 years without parole, for what that’s worth.
3 Chad Curtis (MLB)
Chad Curtis was Major League Baseball outfielder who played for six different teams over the course of a career that lasted nearly a decade (1992-2001). He was a .264 career hitter who is probably best remembered for being a part of the New York Yankees World Series champion teams in 1998 and 1999 respectively.
After his baseball career had ended, Curtis decided to go into teaching. In 2010 he began to substitute teach and also volunteered to work in the weight room at Lakewood High School in Lake Odessa, Michigan. In 2012 Curtis resigned from his position after being accused of “inappropriate touching” by several female students. He would later be called to stand trial for six counts of criminal sexual conduct against minors. He was found guilty on all six counts and sentenced to 7-15 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 2020.
2 O.J. Simpson (NFL)
O.J. Simpson had a Hall of Fame career as a running back, most of which was spent as a member of the Buffalo Bills. The former number one overall pick in 1969, led the NFL in rushing for four seasons, was the league MVP in 1973, and a five-time Pro Bowler.
Simpson is probably best known for his nationally televised trial for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in the late 1990s. Though the former NFL star would be found “not guilty” of the murders, he would go on to have further legal issues. In 2007, a group of men led by Simpson allegedly entered a Las Vegas casino and robbed a sports memorabilia dealer at gunpoint. He was later arrested and charged with a series felonies which included criminal conspiracy, assault, and robbery. Simpson was initially sentenced to 33 years, but was since granted parole and will be released on October 1, 2017.
1 Mel Hall (MLB)
Outfielder Mel Hall played for several different teams over the course of his career, which lasted from 1981 to 1996. He was rumored to have picked on Yankees legend Bernie Williams in 1991, even giving him the nickname “zero.” He also allegedly insulted elderly players during the Yankees Old Timers Game. He finished his career with .276 batting average and 134 home runs.
On June 21, 2007, Hall was arrested and charged with sexual assault. He was convicted on three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and other similar charges. He was sentenced to 45 years in the big house, though he will be eligible for parole after serving 22 years and 4 months. Mel Hall currently resides at Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony, Texas.
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