The general public often tend to place athletes - much like celebrities - on a pedestal. Some sports athletes feel as though they are above the law and are able to get away with anything because of their popularity and athletic ability. Even though they may have a lot more money than most people have and can afford the very best lawyers, athletes are still convicted of some of the most heinous crimes imaginable. On the flip side, athletes are often victims of crime just like any other person. In fact, they may even be specifically targeted by crime more frequently because of their wealth and public status.
In this article, we will be covering 8 athletes who committed some of the more heinous crimes. Although there were athletes who committed murder, other crimes are covered here as well. Assaults, fraud, robbery, and animal cruelty are some of the other crimes committed by these athletes. It is important to note that all of these athletes were eventually found guilty in a court of law for the crimes that are discussed below.
We will also look at 7 athletes who were victims of crime themselves. They generally live in the public eye and their salaries are known to most people. This might make them a target for extortion or robberies, but athletes are also unfortunately victims of other crimes that affect everybody (assault, murder, kidnapping).
15 COMMITTED: JAYSON WILLIAMS
Jayson Williams played in the NBA between 1990 and 1999 for the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets. He suddenly had to retire due to an injury from a collision with a teammate on the court. Jump ahead to 2002, and Williams was giving a tour of his estate to an NBA charity team. For some reason, Williams was playing with a shotgun and it suddenly went off and killed his limo driver, Costa Christofi. Puzzlingly, Williams actually actually attempted to cover up the crime - even though he literally had an entire team of witnesses! Those witnesses later testified that Williams tried to cover it up by placing the gun in Christofi's hand and told everyone in the room to lie about the events.
In 2010, nearly 8 years later, Williams was convicted on 4 counts of attempting to cover up the shooting. Williams was sentenced to five years in prison, with eligibility for parole after 18 months, and also issued an apology to Christofi's family.
14 VICTIM: LORENZEN WRIGHT
The case of Lorenzen Wright is an unfortunate mystery. Wright was a forward in the NBA and had most recently played for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2008-09 season. On July 18 2010, Wright apparently disappeared after he had left his his ex-wife's home. Four days later, a missing persons' report was filed by his family. Six days after that report was filed, on July 28, Wright's body was found in a wooded area in Tennessee. Reports later revealed Wright had called 911 where he managed to utter "Goddamn" before approximately nine gun shots could be heard by the dispatcher. The murderer never robbed Wright, as he was discovered still wearing a gold necklace and an expensive watch.
The case was investigated by the police as a homicide, but no arrests have been made in this case so far. Hopefully the police are able to make an arrest eventually so that the family of Lorenzen Wright is able to get closure.
13 COMMITTED: RAE CARRUTH
Rae Carruth was a former wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers in the NFL, having played for them between 1997 and 1999. In November 1999, Cherica Adams was shot four times and died a month later. At the time of her shooting, Adams was eight months pregnant with Carruth's child - who was delivered by emergency Caesarean section in hospital. Adams was able to call 911 and told the dispatcher that Carruth stopped his vehicle in front of hers, so she could not get away, and then another vehicle drove up and a passenger shot her. Carruth then fled the scene.
The shooter, Van Brett Watkins Sr., was sentenced to 40 years in prison. As for Carruth, he was convicted of conspiring to murder a pregnant woman carrying his child (Chancellor Lee Adams). Carruth is still in prison and Chancellor is nearly 18, but suffers from cerebral palsy and permanent brain damage associated with the shooting.
12 VICTIM: NANCY KERRIGAN
Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were rival American figure skaters. At the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January 1994, Kerrigan was attacked in the corridor following her practice. An assailant, later identified as Shane Stant, clubbed Kerrigan in her right knee with a police baton. The incident received worldwide publicity which saw Kerrigan grabbing her right knee crying, "Why? Why? Why?" Fortunately for Kerrigan, she recovered and was able to resume her intense training and was able to earn a spot on the USA roster for the 1994 Olympics.
As for the attackers, it was revealed that Harding and her ex-husband, Jeff Gilooly, were conspirators for the attack on Kerrigan. They hired Stant to break Kerrigan's leg so she could not compete. Harding pled guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution of Kerrigan's attacker and was sentenced to 3 years of probation, 500 hours of community service, and a $160,000 fine. She was also banned from skating competitions and stripped of several championships.
11 COMMITTED: TODD BERTUZZI
The Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident is one of those rare cases when actions during the game end up legal repercussions. On March 8 2004, Bertuzzi charged up the ice, grabbed Moore's jersey from behind, and punched him in the side of the head. Moore fell face first into the ice with Bertuzzi on top of him, landing several more punches on Moore. The incident shook up the teams involved (Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche), the players and staff on both teams, the NHL and NHLPA, and fans everywhere who witnessed the incident as it happened and on replay. Moore suffered three broken vertebrae in his neck, a concussion, and never again played in the NHL.
Bertuzzi eventually pled guilty to assaulting Moore, and was given a conditional discharge, one year of Probation, and 80 hours of community service. Bertuzzi also apologized to Moore over the incident, but Moore's career ended on March 8 whereas Bertuzzi eventually was able to return to the NHL for a few more seasons.
10 VICTIM: C.C. SABATHIA
On May 17 2002, Cleveland Indians starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia was robbed by two men. According to reports at the time, Sabathia went to a nightclub with his cousin and met some people there. They all went back to his hotel room, where Sabathia was robbed at gunpoint by the two men they met at the nightclub. The two men escaped after stealing Sabathia's necklace, earrings, and his wallet - a combined loss estimated at $44,000. Thankfully there were no injuries during the incident. The two thieves were revealed to be Damon Stringer and Jamaal Harris, both former college basketball players. Both pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery with a gun - Harris also pleaded guilty to robbery - and each were sentenced to four years in prison.
9 COMMITTED: AARON HERNANDEZ
The Aaron Hernandez case was one of the most publicized cases involving athletes in the past decade. 27 year-old Odin Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee, when he was shot and killed about a mile from Hernandez's home on June 17 2013. Hernandez was considered the prime suspect because of suspicious behaviour, such as destroying his home security system and because Lloyd had keys to one of Hernandez's vehicles. Nine days later, Hernandez was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
With the conviction for the first degree murder of Odin Lloyd, Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison. On April 19 2017, Hernandez committed suicide in his prison cell. just five days after he was acquitted of charges stemming from a separate double murder. Due to a technicality in Massachusetts law, because Hernandez died while still not having exhausted all legal appeals, he died an innocent man, in the eyes of the law.
8 VICTIM: CHRIS ANDERSEN
This is arguably the most confusing and complex crime involved in this list. Shelly Chartier managed to ensare NBA star Chris Andersen in an online extortion, identity theft, and fraud case. Let's try to wrap our heads around this one.
In 2011, Chartier set up a fake Facebook profile pretending to be Anderson. A 17 year-old girl, pretending to be 18, tried to contact "Anderson". Chartier then forwarded all these messages to the real Andersen, posing as this "18 year-old girl", and orchestrated a chat between the two. Meanwhile, Chartier posed as the girl's mother wherein she tried to extort money from Anderson. Chartier then threatened the 18 year-old girl, while pretending to be Andersen. The police got involved and raided the real Andersens' home on suspicion of having committed a crime against a child.
Andersen was never charged because, a year later, they discovered he was actually the victim. Chartier pleaded guilty to several charges and sentenced to 18 months in jail, while Andersen eventually signed with the Miami Heat and helped them win the 2013 NBA Championship.
7 COMMITTED: LENNY DYKSTRA
Former MLB star Lenny Dykstra probably made a good amount of money during his playing days in the 1980s and 1990s. That did not prevent him, and two others, from committing fraud and other financial-related crimes. In January 2011, Dykstra was directly involved in trying to lease various high-end vehicles from several car dealerships. He did this by providing fraudulent information, claiming credit from a fake business, and using a co-signer who did not authorize for his name to be used. They were eventually able to drive away with 3 cars from a dealership on their third try after using this fraudulent information. Cocaine, esctasy, and various other illegal drugs were found in Dykstra's cars when police searched them.
Making matters worse, Dykstra was also indicted on federal charges for obstruction of justice when he took property that should have gone to bankruptcy creditors and then lied about it under oath. Dykstra pleaded no contest to grand theft auto and filing a false financial statement and was sentenced to three years in prison. The drug-related charges were withdrawn in exchange for the plea. Dykstra is an unfortunate example of how far from grace athletes can fall when they make some poor financial decisions.
6 VICTIM: WILSON RAMOS
The 2011 offseason was an unimaginably terrifying one for MLB catcher Wilson Ramos, his family, the Washington Nationals (his team at the time), and MLB in general. In November 2011, Ramos was seized and kidnapped at gunpoint outside his family home in Venezuela. After two days in which nations held their breath for the rescue of Ramos and his family, the police eventually apprehended the kidnappers. Ramos and all of his family members were found alive and well. Post-rescue, Ramos said the kidnappers told him they were going to demand a 'very large ransom' and that they laughed and joked about his pain.
Ramos was fortunate to still be alive and told reporters, "I'm very thankful, and I feel like I've been born again." Eight people were arrested and charged with kidnapping, illegally possessing firearms, using a stolen vehicle, and criminal association. Everyone is surely glad that Ramos and family survived this traumatizing situation.
5 COMMITTED: MICHAEL VICK
Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick was in the news extensively throughout 2007; it was hard not to hear about what was going on. Vick was involved in an elaborate dog fighting operation in his home that was known as "Bad Newz Kennels". It was discovered that Vick had hosted dog fights at his home for about 6 years. He was specifically accused of directly financing the fights, participating in the fights and executions, and handling thousands of dollars in gambling associated with the fights. Dogs who did not perform well enough would be shot, hanged, drowned and/or electrocuted. Upon pleading guilty to his involvement, Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison, 3 years Probation, and a $5,000 fine. While it is questionable if Vick was genuinely remorseful, he experienced a severe public backlash because of how inhumane the acts were.
After Vick's sentencing, John Goodwin of the Human Society of the United States said, "People that are involved in this blood sport are on notice. You can throw your life away by being involved in this." Even though Vick was more or less welcomed back into the NFL and continued to play several more seasons, it does not erase the fact that he committed one of the most heinous crimes possible against animals.
4 VICTIM: LEONYS MARTIN
Several years ago, outfielder Leonys Martin dreamed of leaving Cuba for MLB. Martin was eventually able to accomplish this when he signed with the Texas Rangers in 2011. However, Martin suffered through quite the ordeal in order for this dream to become reality. Martin and his family met a man who took them on a trip to Mexico under the guise of leading them to the USA, but instead took them into a house where they were surpervised by two armed men. They were then transferred to a place called "The Ranch" in Mexico where Martin was forced to train and play so he could be watched by scouts. Martin was forced to sign with an agent where he had to pay them 30% of any future salary or bonuses (most agents only get 5% in MLB). Eventually, in 2013, three men involved in the kidnapping and extortion of Martin were arrested and indicted in Miami.
3 COMMITTED: MIKE TYSON
Mike Tyson was a heavyweight boxing champion who was preparing for a fight against Evander Holyfield. Tyson had tremendous talent but his frequent aggressive sexual behaviour towards women threatened to undo any success he worked for. Arguably the most serious incident was when 18 year-old college student Desiree Washington accused Tyson of rape. Washington alleged that Tyson lured her into his hotel room, pinned her down and then forcefully had sex with her despite her repeated lack of consent. During and after the trial, there was much speculation about whether Tyson actually raped Washington. Tyson also filed an appeal, without success. He was convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison and 4 years of Probation following his release.
2 VICTIM: R.A. DICKEY
R.A. Dickey is one of only two knuckleball pitchers currently active in MLB. Dickey has had an interesting baseball career thus far, but he has had some good years recently. In 2012, Dickey released an autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball. It is certainly an enthralling read and his book talks about the ups and downs he went through in both his personal life and his baseball career. One of the stories that stood out was when Dickey revealed that he had been sexually abused not once - but twice - during his childhood years.
The first time occurred when he was 8 years-old, when his 13 year-old female babysitter took advantage of him. Even more shockingly, Dickey's mother and the babysitter's mother were in the house unaware of what was transpiring. These incidents occurred a few more times into the fall. On a second, and separate, incident he was sexually abused a by a 17-year-old male teenager. Dickey should be commended for speaking out about it in hopes of helping other people out there who are suffering or have suffered.
1 COMMITTED - O.J. SIMPSON
Former NFL running back O.J. Simpson was one of the most famous athletes during his playing days in the 1970s. Simpson is now perhaps best known for his heavily publicized 1995 trial where he was accused, but acquitted, of having murdered ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman on June 12 1994. Over a decade later, Simpson found himself once again facing some serious charges. In September 2007, Simpson was charged with kidnapping, assault, robbery, and using a deadly weapon, among other charges.
It was specifically alleged by prosecutors that Simpson and three other men broke into Bruce Fromong's hotel room and stole various sports memorabilia from him, while holding Fromong at gunpoint. Simpson was ultimately found guilty on the charges, and his repeated attempts at an appeal of the verdict or request for a re-trial were rejected. Simpson was sentenced to up to 33 years in prison, but recently was granted parole and is expected to be released this month.