My Final Two Cents on Stallworth’s Legal Mess: Raw and Politically Incorrect

Now that Donte Stallworth is out of the clink, we thought that we would take this opportunity to express our sentiments about the whole ordeal with unbridled bluntness.  A final word, so to speak.

The Sentence

Anyone who says that Stallworth is just another professional athlete  who bought justice should talk to Vick.  Anyone who criticizes Stallworth for buying his 30-day jail sentence by paying the Reyes family off should consider what s/he would do if in the same predicament.  Anyone who thinks that the 30 days is insulting should research the matter before yapping.  Sentencing for DUI manslaughter is all over the map, ranging from straight probation to several years in jail.  There were mitigating factors here which we have commented on previously and will not repeat again.  There may have been triable issues whichg nobody is aware of except the parties directly involved (such as a problem with the BAC test).  A Miami prosecutor stands nothing to gain by selling out to a Cleveland Browns football player.  It did not happen.  Those who speculate otherwise should write for the Enquirer.

The fact that Stallworth was released from jail after serving just 24 of the 30 days is not a surprise;  that was known at the time of sentencing provided that Donte experienced no problems in jail.  Everyone in that situation gets consideration for early release on good behaviour.  There was no special treatment for Stallworth, period.

Give it a rest on the jail sentence.  Stop spouting off about whether it was fair or not.  Deference ought to be shown to the plea bargain unless you have solid evidence that someone was bribed or that the sentence was patently unreasonable based on other cases in Miami with similar facts.

The Suspension

Stallworth should challenge the indefinite NFL suspension.  It is susceptible to review because Goodell thinks that he is some kind of Appellate Court.  In his public statement when imposing the suspension, he specifically referred to the impact on Mr. Reyes’ family.  That is none of Goodell’s business.  That was taken into account when the civil settlement was reached and when the criminal sentence was imposed.  It is not the purview of the NFL Commissioner to make amends for private damages.  Goodell has cited an irrelevant factor in support of the suspension – it should be challenged on that basis.  Second, the indefinite length of the suspension is inconsistent with prior rulings.  We have written about this before:

The suspension ought to be challenged on that basis as well.

Some may say that a review of Goodell’s decision is moot because of the recent revelation about Stallworth having marijuana in his system at the time of the accident.  Hogwash.  Even if the Commish suspends Stallworth further for violating the League’s substance abuse policy, the original decision is still wrong and cannot stand.  Besides, any suspension for the pot would certainly not be for an indefinite period.

The Future:  Stallworth and Edwards

Braylon does not deserve any negative press about the evening before the tragic accident.  He spent a lot of coin on booze.  We could care less.  He did not hit and kill anyone.  He commtted no crime and no infraction of the NFL’s player code of conduct.  Get off the moral high horse.  If Braylon wants money management advice, he will ask.  Until then, he can spend his money how he wants provided his performance on the field does not suffer and provided he adheres to the law and the NFL’s and Team’s policies.  Setting a good example for the kids is a bonus.  

Stallworth deserved the public humiliation for what he did.  And he deserved his sentence.  But he has now paid that price with more penalty to come in the form of probation, house arrest, community service, a driving prohibition, an indefinite NFL suspension and the risk of having no future in the NFL.  He should have a future in the League.  He should play again if a Team wants him.

Donte committed a crime and killed a man.  He did not intend to do so.  Manslaughter is an unintentional killing.  He cannot turn the clock back.  What he can do is conduct himself the best way possible in the future.  He has done exactly that ever since the moment that he hit Mr. Reyes.  What else can we expect from him?



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  • Jeff

    I have read your commentary on Goodell’s alleged inconsistency several times, both when it was originally posted and when it was linked to here. I still can’t figure out what your point is or why the Stallworth suspension was inconsistent with Thurman’s suspension. Thurman engaged or allegedly engaged in several low-level offenses. Stallworth pleaded guilty to a second-degree felony.

  • Clayton

    Jeff: thanks for your comment.

    If you believe that someone who violates the player code of conduct once by driving with a BAC over the legal limit and accidentally hitting and killing someone deserves the same suspension as someone who violates the substance abuse policy and then, while under that suspension, violates the player code of conduct twice and the substance abuse policy a second time by driving with a BAC over the legal limit, assaulting someone and failing another drug test, then we must agree to disagree.

    It appears that you fall in line with Goodell in that the result of the conduct is the main factor, not the conduct itself or the number of infractions. I respectfully disagree. A player who flagrantly and repeatedly violates League policies ought to be treated more harsh than a player who commits one infraction. There are exceptions of course, like homicide which is an intentional killing. In that case, the conduct (intending to kill someone) is so serious that it calls for a significant penalty from the League.

    I am particularly disturbed at your reference to the fact that DUI manslaughter is a felony. True, although in many situations simple DUI is also a felony. Who cares? The reference implies that Goodell ought to suspend persons based on how the criminal law characterizes the offense. I disagree. It should be based on the conduct itself and the player’s history of violations, if any. A “felony” can be any offense which is punishable by one year or more in prison. Receiving stolen property across state lines can be a felony in many circumstances. Do you want someone suspended indefinitely for that?

    Anyways, enough rambling. There is plenty of room for debate here. Thanks for contributing. Enjoy the season!

  • drewster

    who cares the browns will always blow nothin more to say back to my life

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  • Elvis

    Clayton, I agree with you.

    Particulary about Edwards, how would the average fan or reporter feel if how much they spent on alcohol, dinner, hotels or anything else was printed in the paper and criticized by so many? Since when do people care how much money one can spend on any legal item or service. Who is to judge? I thinks it’s cool that he shares his libations with others.

  • Elvis

    Also, vehiclular manslaughter while under the influence could happen to about, I’m guessing, 50% of the fans leaving Cleveland Browns Stadium on any given Sunday. People shouldn’t be so quick to judge and criticize.