I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be told that you are going to be spending the next several years of your life behind bars. I especially cannot imagine how that would feel if I was a former prominent athlete, who was now clearly at an incredible low point in my life. I don’t know what it’s like to sleep in a prison cell, but I bet it’s a heck of a lot less comfortable than the incredible expensive bed that you probably owned when you were at the top of your game. Not to mention the company is probably a lot less inviting.
That’s not to say that these athletes didn’t deserve it though. Some of the athletes on this list did things that are awful enough to make you re-think your lunch option and they are well deserving of the life sentence that they’ve been handed out. Other athletes are on the list and are a reminder of how their career may have been altered because of their off-field incidents. Some of the lightest punishments on the list were still strong enough to make a serious impact. That being said, a large majority of this list won’t be able to read this article, because they’re still in a jail cell (and trust me, you’ll agree with me that they deserve to be).
No matter what type of crime you are looking for (murder, robbery, sexual assault) there is a prominent athlete out there who has done both the crime and is currently doing the time.
These are 15 of the worst crimes that an athlete has ever committed.
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15 Adam Johnson - 6 Years
Adam Johnson is a respectable soccer player, but his actions off the pitch have led to some well-deserved scrutiny. Johnson was arrested on suspicion of having sex with a 15-year-old girl. The girl allegedly bragged about the relationship with Johnson on social media and with friends, leading to her father finding out and complaining to police. This would not be nearly as awkward of a situation if not for the fact that only a few weeks prior to his arrest, Johnson welcomed in a daughter with his long-term girlfriend, Stacey Flounders. Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of sexual activity with a child, and one charge of grooming.
Johnson also pleaded guilty to a sepearte charge of sexual activity and one count of child grooming, and was sentenced to six years in prison.
14 War Machine - Ongoing (May Be Life In Prison)
If you needed any hint that Jonathan Koppenhaver is an idiot, look no further then the fact that he legally changed his name to War Machine. Machine was a talented UFC fighter with a career record of 14-5, but he often found himself in trouble with the law. In 2010, he was charged and sentenced to a year following a felony assault conviction. It took him under a year from his release, to find himself back behind bars. His worst incident came in August 2014, when he went to arrive at his girlfriend’s house (adult actress Christy Mack) to propose to her, when he found another man there.
Machine beat up Mack’s friend and then forced Mack to take a shower in front of him before beating her, cutting off her hair with a dull knife, and pressing the edge of that knife into her naked body. He left her with 18 broken bones in her face, a fractured rib, a ruptured liver, and a few missing teeth.
War Machine is currently in jail awaiting trial for the incident and may end up being charged with life in prison without parole, as he is charged with two accounts of attempted murder.
13 Michael Vick - 23 Months
There isn’t a football fan out there that does not at least kind of know the story about Michael Vick. If you don’t, and you love dogs, I’m sorry. Michael Vick was arrested in 2007 after it was discovered that he was running a dog fighting ring on his property. More then 70 dogs were found on the property and many were showing signs of injury. Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for his involvement, followed by three years of probation. While he was able to return to the NFL and find success again, this is still one of the worst examples of criminal activity by a professional athlete.
Vick was suspended from the NFL and ordered to pay money back to the Atlanta Falcons, not to mention losing his sponsorships.
12 Mike Tyson - 3 Years
Mike Tyson is a great boxer, but there is little doubt that he was not also an awful person in the early '90s. The worst moment of his career may have come when he was found guilty of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old girl. The girl claimed that she met Tyson while competing in a beauty pagent and that Tyson had lured her to his hotel room for a date. When she arrived, Tyson allegedly overpowered her and sexually assaulted her. Tyson denied the allegations, but was ultimately sentenced to six years in jail. He was released after three years.
11 Jayson Williams - 5 Years
I totally understand that if you have a shotgun, it might be really fun to hold when you are walking around the house. Sometimes things that are fun, but not always the smartest. Jayson Williams was showing off his mansion to some members of his charity team, when the gun accidentally went off and killed his limo driver, Costas Christofi. Shockingly, saying that the gun went off by accident is not exactly a great excuse. Williams was charged $2.5 million dollars in family damages and was sentenced to five years in jail.
10 Mike Danton - 7.5 Years
If there is one thing that you don’t want to do, it’s hire someone to murder another person. Especially if you’re so bad at it, that instead of hiring a hitman, you hired a police dispatcher. Mike Danton was arrested in 2004 and charged with conspiracy to commit murder after it was revealed that he tried to kill his agent, David Frost. Frost denies that he was the target of the hit; instead claiming that Danton wanted to kill his estranged Father, Steve Jefferson. Either way, the judge sentenced Danton to seven and a half years in federal prison. It was revealed in 2008, that Danton’s lawyer had never actually graduated law school and thus, was unable to practice law.
Talk about making mistakes left, right, and center! Danton was eligible for, and granted, parole on September 11th, 2009.
9 Darren Sharper - 9 Years, Potential For 15-20 Years
Darren Sharper played in the NFL for 14 years and was one of the premier players of the game; being an All-Pro selection six times. Instead of looking at a football field, he is instead looking like he could spend the next 15-20 years behind bars. Sharper pleaded guilty or no-contest to charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted at least nine women in Arizona, California, and Louisiana. Because he committed these crimes in different sates, he will receive different sentences but has currently been sentenced to nine years in Arizona.
The women went to police stating that they would black out while drinking and wake up in a groggy state to find that they had been sexually abused by Sharper. While his final sentencing is still not out there, you can expect Sharper to not spend another day of his life outside of prison.
8 Rae Carruth - 18 Years and 11 Months
Rae Carruth was a member of the Carolina Panthers from 1997-1999 and had four career touchdowns. That’s the end of his accomplishments, perhaps in life, because he is currently sitting behind bars after being sentenced to 18 years and 11 months in prison. Carruth was having an argument with Cherica Adams, who was his pregnant girlfriend at the time. Adams was in her car, when Carruth cut her off and impeded her progress. Another man, Van Brett Watkins, was hired by Carruth and drove up and shot Cherica four times.
Cherica died from her injuries and Carruth was convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, shooting into an unoccupied vehicle, and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. The child was able to survive, but was born with brain damage after surviving 70+ minutes without oxygen.
7 Lee Murray - 25 Years
Don’t you love a good crime heist movie? Lee Murray must have when he and a group of others decided to break into the Securitas cash depot in Tonbridge, Kent, and escaped with roughly $92.5 million dollars in cash. Murray fled the country to Morocco but was arrested four months later. Murray was proven to be of Moroccan nationality, and was tried under their laws. During the testimony, it was revealed that 14 employees were bound during the robbery and that the men stated they would kill them if they did not cooperate.
He was originally sentenced to 10 years in jail, but after UK officials stepped in and made the argument that this punishment was too light, so it was extended to 25 years.
6 Mark Rogowski - 31 Years
In the 1980s, Mark Rogowski was one of the best skateboarders around. His career took a dramatic turn when he was sentenced to 31 years in jail for the sexual assault, assault, and murder of a girl he knew, Jessica Bergsten. Rogowski was allegedly upset at a former lover, Brandi McClain, and had reportedly broken into her house and threatened her. When Bergsten got in contact with him, Rogowski took her back to her house and knocked her unconscious with a club. Rogowski then handcuffed Bergsten to his bed and repeatedly assaulted her before eventually killed her. He claims that the murder was because of McClain, claiming that Bergstein was the “mold [McClain] was made of.” The horrible natures of the crime, that included handcuffing Bergsten, was solved easily enough when Rogowski admitted to police what he had done and then took them to the desert where he disposed of the body.
5 Lawrence Phillips - 7 Years, Added 25 Years
Lawrence Phillips might have been the first overall pick in the 1996 draft if not for concerns of his character off the field. Instead, he went sixth overall to the St.Louis Rams. Hard to argue with those teams who passed on him considering Phillips is currently what happened. In 2005, Phillips was arrested after he tried to drive his car over three teenagers following a dispute over a pick-up football game. He was sentenced to 10 years in 2008 for these charges. When he was arrested, it was also shown that he was wanted for two alleged domestic abuse incidents with a former lover. Phillips' former partner claimed that he used to choke her to the point of unconsciousness.
While in prison, he was also convicted of the assault he had on a former girlfriend Amaliya Weisler and was sentenced to 25 years in jail for that offense. Then, after a judge ruled there was enough evidence to tie Phillips to the murder of his cellmate in prison, Phillips sadly took his own life.
4 O.J. Simpson - 33 Years
Everyone knows the story behind O.J. Simpson's acquittal on the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, but O.J. is behind bars right now for an entirely different reason. In 2007, O.J. decided to break into a hotel room in Las Vegas and steal different sports memorabilia that was once owned by Simpson. I understand the theory of "hey this used to be mine!" but that doesn’t excuse robbery. Especially when you consider that O.J. (and his friends) allegedly did all of this at gun-point; a fact that Simpson originally denied to officers. Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in jail and is eligible for parole in 2017.
3 Eddie Johnson - Life
Eddie Johnson was never able to live up to his potential in the NBA. This may be largely due to the fact that Johnson was an active user of cocaine and it led to him being kicked out of the league in 1987. Johnson was then arrested countless times from 1987-2006 for various charges ranging from petty theft to drug possession. Johnson makes this list though because in 2008, he was convicted of sexual battery on a minor. This carries with it an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole. An inexcusable crime for a player that seemed to never be able to get his life together.
2 Aaron Hernandez - Life
Aaron Hernandez is the most recent, but far from the first NFL star to end his career locked up behind bars. Hernandez was conviced of the murder of Odin Llyod who was found shot dead less than a mile from Hernandez' house. Things got even worse when it came out that Hernandez' motivation for killing Lloyd was that he may have known too much information about a past drive-by shooting that Hernandez was involved in.
Evidence ranging from cell phone records, to home surveillance made it easy for prosecutors to indicate Hernandez in the death of Lloyd and he was sentenced to life in prison.
1 Jerry Sandusky - Life
Jerry Sandusky may not be the most accredited sports figure on this list for his on-field accomplishments, but he is by far the slimiest. Sandusky was the defensive coordinator for Penn State University for 30 years, and also founded The Second Mile charity that was focused on helping underprivledged and at-risk youth. Eventually the story broke that Sandusky was using his charity to find children, groom them, and then molest them. Sandusky was indicted on 52 counts of child molestation. The abuse that he was charged with ranged from 1994-2009, but there is no telling on the true number of victims. Sandusky was sentenced with 30 years minimum and a maximum of 60 years.
The Judge could have thrown out an incredibly huge number, but instead stated that “he intentionally avoided a sentence with a large number of years, saying it would be 'too abstract" and also said to Sandusky that the sentence he handed down had the "unmistakeable impact of saying 'the rest of your life."
Sandusky was 68 years old at the time of sentencing.
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