It is no secret society places athletes on a pedestal. They are heroes in the respective cities they play, and are portrayed as role models for the younger generations whom adorn their rooms with their favorite player’s memorabilia. When athletes are involved in a scandal, all of their fans share in the crushing blow of disappointment seeing their hometown hero’s reputation destroyed.
Over the course of history we have seen countless figures across every sport get arrested for an array of crimes, some more serious than others. Some cases, the athletes were charged rather severely, presumably to be made an example of, but for the vast majority of cases, the charges are but a mere slap on the wrist. Whether it is their stardom, protection from the franchise they play for, or the ability to throw around large sums of money for a quality of legal representation the common criminal can’t afford, athletes often find a way to avoid the full punishment of the law.
It can be incredibly frustrating to see, as everybody should have to pay the consequences for their actions, but it seems one's status can affect whether or not they are held responsible.
Here is a look at some of the most well known cases of such injustice.
15 Donte' Stallworth
On March 15, 2009, Stallworth was leaving a hotel in Florida when his car struck and killed a man, Mario Reyes, who was on his way home from his work shift at 7:15 AM. Stallworth had a blood alcohol level of 0.12, which is over the legal limit of 0.08, in addition to be under the influence of marijuana. Stallworth and the victim’s family settled for an undisclosed amount. While Stallworth was charged with vehicular manslaughter in court, he served a mere 24-day jail sentence for a crime that, in Florida, carries up to a 15 year sentence.
14 Lawrence Taylor
A name that will strike fear into the hearts of any NFL quarterback in the 80s. L.T., widely regarded as the best defensive player to ever step foot on the gridiron, has had a long history with off-field issues. In May of 2010, Taylor was charged with raping a 16-year-old runaway, believed to be forced into prostitution. Taylor pleaded guilty to having sex with 16-year-old Christina Fierro. After the jury deliberated for an hour, they ruled out that Taylor forced himself on her. L.T. received the minimum punishment of six years probation, and no jail time.
13 Dany Heatley
On September 9, 2003, Heatley was behind the wheel of his Ferrari when he lost control and hit a wall. The vehicle split in two, ejecting him and his passenger, fellow Atlanta Thrashers teammate Dan Snyder, from the vehicle. Heatley suffered a bruised lung, bruised kidney, and tore three ligaments in his knee. Snyder suffered a critical skull fracture and died in the hospital six days later. Heatley pleaded guilty to second degree vehicular manslaughter and received six months probation, and cannot own a vehicle that exceeds six cylinders.
12 Ron Artest (Metta World Peace)
The Malace at the Palace, the most infamous brawl in NBA history, occurred on November 19, 2004. After a brief scuffle between Artest and Ben Wallace due to a hard foul, a fan threw a beverage on Artest and all hell broke loose. Artest and a fellow Pacers teammate jumped into the stands and punched an innocent fan whom they believed to be the beverage thrower. More players and fans jumped in the brawl and the Malace at the Palace was born. After the smoke cleared, Artest received just one year of probation, and 60 hours of community service.
11 Adam “Pacman” Jones
By the length of his rap sheet, this entire article could have been dedicated to Pacman. The charges he has been involved with include drug possession, resisting arrest, assault, vandalism, coercion, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct. Perhaps the most infamous incident occurred at the Minxx strip club in Las Vegas. Irritated that a dancer began picking up the dollar bills Pacman and his crew had thrown on stage, he punched the dancer, and proceeded to slam her head against the ground. Upon leaving the strip club, a suspected member of Pacman’s crew fired a gun into the establishment, hitting three people. While he was suspended from the NFL for one year, Pacman received no jail time for this incident.
10 Tonya Harding
In January of 1994 Harding hired a thug, later identified as her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, to injure Nancy Kerrigan, her main competitor for the ‘94 Figure Skating Championship. Gillooly tracked Kerrigan down and took a baton to her lower thigh. The attack didn’t break any of Kerrigan’s bones, but it did force her to withdraw from the National Championship. Both women went on to compete in the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, where Kerrigan took home the silver medal. Harding only received a 3-year probation, and 500 hours of community service.
9 Oscar Pistorious
South African, double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorious was arrested after he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorious woke up one morning and didn’t find Reeva in bed next to him. He heard a noise coming from the bathroom, and shot four rounds into the door, saying he thought she was an intruder. Upon convincing the judge that this homicide was the result of negligence, as opposed to being premeditated, Pistorious received only a five-year sentence. However, under South African law, he will be eligible for release after serving one-sixth of his sentence, and be placed under “correctional supervision".
8 Corie Blount
NBA player Corie Blount, living up to the pronunciation of his surname, was arrested when police intercepted 11 pounds of marijuana sent to a relative's house, and subsequently found another 18 pounds at Blount’s home. Somehow he was able to avoid drug trafficking charges despite having an absurd 29 pounds of marijuana. Blount hilariously attempted to deny distribution intent by claiming it was all for personal use. The judge didn’t buy his claim, and was quoted saying “Cheech and Chong would have a hard time smoking that much.”
7 Jim Leyritz
In 2007, former Yankee and two-time World Series champion Jim Leyritz was involved in a vehicular homicide when he collided with another vehicle, killing its driver, Freida Vietch. Police took a blood sample and Leyritz showed a BAC level of .14, which is over the .08 legal limit, at the time of the crash. Leyritz was acquitted of DUI manslaughter by the jury, and received one year probation, and a $500 fine. Leyritz also paid the victim's family $350,000.
6 Jayson Williams
New Jersey Nets power forward Jayson Williams was leaving a NBA charity event, where he hired Costas Christofi to drive his team back to his mansion for a tour. Williams was apparently giving this tour while wielding a shotgun, which he accidentally fired, hitting Christofi in the chest. Williams was acquitted of the serious charges and pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and attempting to cover up the shooting. Williams served a mere 18 months in jail, quite a light sentence for costing a man his life.
5 Lenny Dykstra
Former Met and Phillie slugger Lenny Dykstra has been a busy man since his retirement. His rap sheet includes a staggering 25 counts of grand theft auto, bankruptcy fraud, sexual assault, sexual harassment, money laundering, indecent exposure, identity theft, and drug possession. Dykstra received a three year sentence, but was released after six and a half months. To top it off, he also appeared on the Mitchell Report for alleged use of steroids during his MLB career.
4 Bruce Kimball
Olympic diver Bruce Kimball, nicknamed “Comeback Kid” was struck by a drunk driver in 1981, where he suffered a broken leg, lacerated liver, torn knee ligaments, spleen damage later resulting in its removal, skull fracture, and the breaking of every bone of his face. Kimball found himself on the other end of this scenario on August 1, 1988 where he drunkenly drove his car into a crowd of teenagers at 80 mph, killing two and injuring four. Kimball pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and received 17 years in prison, however, he was released after serving less than five years.
3 Don King
This is a bit of a reach, as Don King isn’t an athlete himself, but his name is so synonymous with professional boxing, he cannot be omitted. In 1954 two men tried robbing King’s gambling house in Cleveland. King shot and killed one of the men. The judge in the case ruled the killing a “justifiable homicide” and King served no time.
Twelve years later, King ran into a former employee, Sam Garrett, who owed King $600 from a past debt. In what was described as a brutal, demonic assault, King beat Garrett to death. King received a mere four year prison sentence.
2 Ray Lewis
After a Super Bowl party in Atlanta, a fight broke out between Lewis’ group and some other people, resulting in the stabbing and death of two men, Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Blood from the men were found inside Lewis’ limo, but he denied any involvement with their killing. Lewis entered a plea agreement with the defense, which subsequently dropped the murder charges against Lewis, if he gave a testimony against two other men who were in his group. Lewis received a 12 month probation sentence.
1 O.J. Simpson
Were you expecting someone else? Without question the most famous athlete-scandal in all history was the O.J. Simpson trial for the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. All signs pointed to O.J. The bloody glove, the white Bronco pursuit, the bodies found outside of his Brentwood condo, The Juice was toast. An estimated 100 million people nationwide stopped what they were doing to watch the final verdict. Simpson was acquitted of all crimes, and the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman remain unsolved to this day.