Athletes in Court

Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams–Possible Criminal Charges?

Posted in Football, NFL, Punishment

Assault is most often defined under the law as an offensive touching and in ordinary circumstances it is a crime binary option trading in india.  Not so, usually, in sport where participants consent to the conduct . Obviously, the rough plays and brutal tackles of NFL football would result in criminal charges if done off the field. However, football players knowingly accept the risk to this activity even given  the possibility of a career ending injury.  Even so a line can be drawn where consent ends and criminal activity begins. To me, that line is crossed when there is a criminal agreement, before the sports activity begins, to seek out an opportunity to injure–for the sake of injury–an opponent.

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinate Gregg Williams appears to have crossed that line. The idea that Williams is criminally culpable is gaining momentum in sports and legal circles.  Tapes have been released where Williams is heard urging Saint’s defenders to attack specific opponents and injure precise areas of their body.  To many, Williams’ directives are no different than if he had told players to take a bat to the leg of an opposing running back before a game.

“As a football fan, I’m incensed by what I saw and heard,” says Bart Daniels, a former United States attorney in South Carolina. “As a lawyer, the other legal shoe is getting ready to drop. There’s going to be action taken. The question becomes, what action can be taken, and what action is likely going to be taken.” Williams is potentially liable for incitement or conspiracy  to injure charges.

Williams has been indefinitely suspended while the Saints’ head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for next season. The GM was suspended for eight games and assistant coach Joe Vitt for six. Some believe the punishment leveled by the NFL is sufficient and that the legal system need not get involved. Others believe the behavior is so reprehensible that criminal punishment is in order.

Charging a crime is relatively easy; however, obtaining a conviction probably will be difficult. Why? Well, players knowingly risk harm by playing the game.  Professional athletes understand that the risk of injury comes with the territory. Prosecuting the acts that cross the line between that known risk and criminal behavior could be hard. How do you convince a jury that a coach can persuade a grown man, often already paid millions of dollars, to commit a crime in a public arena?

Even cases that seem obviously criminal are usually not tried. Julio Castillo, a minor league pitcher, was sentenced to 30 days in jail in 2009 after he threw a ball toward the opposing dugout during a brawl in 2008. The ball hit a fan and caused a concussion. But that case was different because it involved a fan.

There are many reasons why prosecutors hesitate to file charges in sports cases. Proving a case is hard because potential witnesses are reluctant to testify, and even if they do, their testimony may carry with it the defense.  Everyone knew the risk of injury and accepted it before they played the game. Winning a case is also hard because juries are reluctant to hold athletes to the same standards as people off the field. Yet, at some point, the conduct becomes so egregious that the government is forced into action. Depending on the amount and kind of information that is revealed about Williams the time for prosecution may have arrived.

Read:Experts say Gregg Williams could face criminal charges,” by Matt Crossman, published at AOL.SportingNews.com.

Earlier:

Student Athletes at Texas Christian University Arrested For Dealing Drugs

Jerry Sandusky trial postponed three weeks–a report from 1998 confirms likely pedophile

NCAA Trouble for Baylor University After Glorious 40-0 Season

Posted in Basketball, NCAA

According to a recent report by The Associated Press, coming down from a high of having its women’s basketball team win the NCAA Championship, Baylor announced that it was involved in a three-year investigation into what is believed to be hundreds of impermissible phone calls and text messages sent by coaches to possible recruits.

The school gave few details of the investigation and did not even reveal which sports were involved. However, the press release came hours after ESPN broke news that coaches from the men’s and women’s basketball teams had made some 1,200 calls and text messages to prospects over a 29-month period.

The NCAA hasn’t determined the punishment that will be meted out to coaches though a preliminary report includes numerous self-imposed penalties.

Nick Joos, Baylor’s executive associate athletic director for external affairs, said, “Regarding today’s premature public reports of the matter, the institution remains committed to protecting the integrity of the totality of the case in accordance with its obligations under NCAA legislation and, therefore, the university, and its officials, will make no comment.”

NCAA president Mark Emmert said that the investigation is ongoing but that “each member agrees to abide by the rules established by the association and our membership expects those who do not follow the rules will be held accountable.”

The news ends euphoria on the campus after the women’s team beat Notre Dame and ended the first 40-0 season in NCAA history. The men’s team won an impressive 30 games and reached a NCAA regional final this year where it went on to lose to the eventual national champion, Kentucky.

According to ESPN, the coaches of both teams and their assistants were involved in sending 738 impermissible text messages and making 528 impermissible calls. The violations were deemed “major” because of their frequency.

The report also said there were 405 additional impermissible calls and text messages from nine different sports, ranging from football to the equestrian program, from January to July 2011.

The recent news comes nine years after Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was found shot to death after having gone missing for weeks. A teammate pleaded guilty to murder and the ensuing investigation uncovered NCAA violations, illegal payments, failed drug tests and ultimately led to the resignation of coach Dave Bliss.

Read:Report: Baylor exceeds limits on calls, texts,” by The Associated Press, published at AJC.com.

Earlier:

Boston University Hockey Team Rocked by Sexual Assaults

Jerry Sandusky trial postponed three weeks–a report from 1998 confirms likely pedophile

Update on NCAA Concussion Lawsuit

Posted in NCAA

former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington

As we discussed in an earlier post, concussions and the lasting damage they can cause have received enormous amounts of media attention recently. A series of lawsuits have rocked the NFL and a major class action case has been filed against the NCAA.

The lawsuit, Arrington v. National Collegiate Athletic Association et al, brought by former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington, accuses the NCAA of failing to protect student-athletes for decades despite being aware of the lasting effects of head injuries. The suit goes further, accusing the NCAA of refusing to implement needed changes for the sake of profits.

The suit specifically alleges that strategies employed by the coaching staff at various colleges and universities led to head injuries and that the NCAA did nothing to implement procedures to screen for such harm. The plaintiff’s attorneys go on to fault the NCAA for failing to treat head injuries once they occurred and for not developing a proper support system to care for players who had been injured and are no longer able to play. The suit points out that the organizations rakes in upwards of $740 million in revenue each year yet provides no salary, pension or medical benefits for the players that put themselves in harms way every game day.

The last time we discussed the suit the NCAA had yet to respond to the charges leveled by Arrington’s lawyers. Since then lawyers representing the organization filed a response to the claims in the class action.

The NCAA did not deny making money, saying that it had revenues of $749.8 million in the 2009-2010 season, nor did it dispute not providing financial compensation for players. The organization did disagree with the idea that it does not require member institutions to educate players about the seriousness of head injuries.

“Each member institution is responsible for protecting the health of its student-athletes,” the NCAA wrote in its response. The NCAA went on to say that “for decades it has provided appropriate information and guidance on concussions to its member institutions,” and that it encourages schools to educate athletes about “symptoms associated with concussions.”

The NCAA concluded by denying knowledge of the specific practices that Arrington alleges took place and which lead to the injury of so many players.

Source:NCAA denies claims in concussion lawsuits from former football players,” by Alex Vorro, published at InsideCounsel.com.

Former NFL Quarterback Arrested, Yet Again

Posted in Football, NFL

Ryan Leaf

Police are reporting that former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf has been arrested for the second time in three days on burglary and drug charges. On Monday, April 2, 2012, Leaf was arrested after being accused of breaking into someone’s home in his hometown of Great Falls, Montana. Three days before, on Friday, March 30, Leaf was arrested and taken to jail after oxycodone pills were discovered in his golf bag. A friend of Leaf’s said that Leaf had stolen those pills from his home on a previous occasion.

On Sunday, the owners of the Great Falls home called the police after they came home to find a stranger in their house. They described the man has being a “tall man with an athletic build.” When the homeowner’s confronted the man, he told them that he had mistakenly come to the wrong house and then he left. After doing an inventory of the house, the homeowners discovered that three bottles of prescription pills were missing and that was when they called the police. The homeowners picked Leaf out of a photo line-up.

Leaf was arrested on Monday, just after he posted bail for his Friday arrest. The police conducted a search of his home and found 89 hydrocodone pills in a bathrobe. When Leaf was arrested Friday, he tested positive for drugs and, when questioned by police, he admitted that he had taken seven oxycodone pills during the week.

As part of the police investigation, a warrant was issued for the GPS information from Leaf’s truck. They wanted to see if they could make a connection between Leaf and the burglaries. Central Montana Drug Task Force Commander Chris Hickman is leading the investigation and he revealed that the GPS information places Leaf in the drive way of the of the Great Falls home that was burglarized at the time the burglary was being committed. The GPS data also revealed to investigators that on the day of the Great Falls burglary, Leaf’s truck pulled into the driveway of several other houses in the neighborhood. Investigators are questioning those residents about whether anything was stolen from their homes.

Currently Leaf is charged with two count of burglary, both felonies, two counts of criminal possession of a dangerous drug, two counts of theft, both misdemeanors, and a violation of probation. In 2009 Leaf pleaded guilty to burglarizing a home while he was coaching at West Texas A&M. He was sentenced to 10 years’ probation. The District Attorney is expected to file a motion on court to have Leaf’s probation revoked.

The police investigation into Leaf’s activity is ongoing. Authorities believe that Leaf has been breaking into homes for the past year and a half to steal prescription drugs. Police are asking potential victims to step forward and pursue charges against Leaf.

A sad fall for Leaf–from the second quarterback  drafted to the NFL from Payton Manning’s class to the man now on probation and charged with prescription drugs violations and burglaries.

Read:Ryan Leaf arrested again in Montana,” by The Associated Press, published at ESPN.com

Earlier:

Boston University Hockey Team Rocked by Sexual Assaults

Jerry Sandusky trial postponed three weeks–a report from 1998 confirms likely pedophile

Boston University Hockey Team Rocked by Sexual Assaults

Posted in Hockey, NCAA

Boston University should have been celebrating a fantastic season by their hockey team—a 21 win season and the playoffs. However, the university is now engaging in some serious soul searching. In the past ten weeks, two star players have been charged with sexual assault.

The two players in question are senior center Corey Trivino and junior defenseman Max Nicastro. Trivino was charged with assault with intent to rape, breaking and entering, and indecent assault and battery. Nicastro was charged with two counts of rape. Each player pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, both of them were kicked off the hockey team and are no longer enrolled at Boston University.

Those closely connected to the team, such as coach Jack Parker and team captain Chris Connolly, complimented the team’s ability to stand strong in the face of adversity. Parker noted how tough the year was due to the off-ice incidents and the publicity they received. Coach parker discussed how the loss of three players (a third senior center, Charlie Coyle, left the team to turn professional), was a blow but one that his team absorbed.

The arrests have prompted a more serious discussion about the privileges afforded the idolized male athlete.  The university put together a task force to investigate how the “culture” surrounding the hockey team was somehow responsible for the actions of Trivino and Nicastro. Dan Lebowitz, the executive director of Northeastern University’s Center for Sport and Society, discussed how such a culture transcends sport. It’s about how are men going to be held responsible for the way they treat women.

Another area the task force is planning to investigate is how college hockey has morphed into almost a pre-professional league, where players are more fulfilling a “minor league” obligation, and leaving before completing college eligibility. The players also tend to be among the older students on campus, further separating them from other “college kids.” Both Nicastro and Trivino had been already been drafted by NHL teams.

Other students, such as junior Jeremy Hartman, believe that the task force is nothing more than “damage control” and that nothing will really change. Cynicism might be warranted, consider how head coach Parker appears to group one player going pro early with two being arrested for sexual assault and calls both–the loss of players.  A true change in thinking needs to start in the coaching ranks before it gets down to players on the ice.

Boston University finished ranked 8th in the NCAA this year with a 23-14-1 record.  The NCAA finals are on April 7th.  Boston College is ranked first and favored in their semi final bracket April 5th against Minnesota in Tampa, Florida.


Read:Arrests Prompting Hard Look at Top Hockey Program,” by Peter May, published at NYTimes.com.

Earlier:

Jerry Sandusky trial postponed three weeks–a report from 1998 confirms likely pedophile

Golden Eagles need geography lesson after discipline in NCAA tourney

Jerry Sandusky trial postponed three weeks–a report from 1998 confirms likely pedophile

Posted in Football, NCAA, Sex Crimes

Judge John Cleland postponed the trial date against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky for three weeks citing logistical reasons.  Three factors support this decision:  1. this is the first trial date set, 2. Sandusky’s lawyer, Joe Amendola, filed pretrial motions, and 3. prosecutor, Frank Fina, does not object to the delay.  A three week delay is a minimal delay given the scope of the case.  It will still be an extremely quick trial date if the case begins in three weeks.

Probably the most significant of the pretrial motions is Sandusky’s objection to the wide time period alleged in the indictment.  It spans 15 years. Prosecutors responded that it is because of his own misconduct, hidden from view, that allowed the abuse to continue.  Therefore he bears the responsibility for the extraordinary length of time found in the indictment.

Outside of court there has been a revelation of sorts.  A report from State College psychologist Alycia Chambers has surfaced dating back to 1998 that supports the conclusion that Sandusky fits the profile of a likely pedophile.  NBC obtained a document that describes how Sandusky befriended a young boy, 11, created an environment of trust and then progressed to criminally sexually assault the child.   The report states that Sandusky showered with this boy at Penn State in the football locker room. All classic signs of a careful pedophile, someone who will cultivate a relationship of trust in order to gain greater access to his intended victim.

Troubling is why these documents have just found the light of day now and what harm could have been prevented had Penn State taken the allegations–now so obviously supported–more seriously over a decade ago.  Who failed to act in 1998?  And, to paraphrase Fred Thompson: “Who knew what? And, when did they know it?”  These questions need to be answered.

As to the trial, Sandusky, 68, faces 52 counts of sexual abuse spanning 15 years against 10 separate victims.  The proof offered by the victims will be bolstered by testimony of Mike McQueary, the former Penn State player and at the time graduate assistant coach who witnessed an act of child rape in progress by Sandusky.  Lacking physical evidence like DNA, corroboration from this eyewitness gives the case power and strength that a jury will find compelling.

Earlier:

Penn State scandal moves forward

Golden Eagles need geography lesson after discipline in NCAA tourney

Posted in Basketball, NCAA

ESPN reports that 5 members of Southern Mississippi’s pep-band have been disciplined after taunting Kansas State’s point guard Angel Rodriguez during a regional game last week. Members of Southern Mississippi band shouted “where’s your green card?” to K-State freshman Rodriguez.  The incident went viral on You Tube.

Rodriguez said he heard the chants, and Southern Miss’ athletic director and other personnel went to Kansas State’s team hotel to apologize.

“The students have been forthcoming, cooperative, contrite and sincerely remorseful. They acted rashly and inappropriately, and now see the gravity of their words and actions,” vice president for student affairs Dr. Joe Paul said in a statement. “This is a teachable moment, not only for these students but for our entire student body and those who work with them.”

Mississippi Higher Education commissioner Hank Bounds has said the College Board would leave any disciplinary decision to Southern Miss.

Rodriguez said last week that he accepted the apology because “there’s ignorant people and I know that’s not how they want to represent their university.”

Now that the pep-band members have been disciplined, perhaps the school can supervise some remedial political science and geography homework.  Angel Rodriguez, who hails from Miami, Florida, is Puerto Rican.

The Green Card chant is not only repugnant and racist but it is also factually wrong.  Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. All offending pepband members should memorize the following: The relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States dates back to the Spanish-American War, in which Spain, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, ceded the island to the United States. Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens in 1917, and the United States Congress legislates many aspects of Puerto Rican life. Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth.  Despite being part of the United States, relationship on the status of the island–state vs. independence–is a difficult issue with many Puerto Ricans divided on the issue.  Extra Credit: name four other U.S. Commonwealths?

 

Cricket and Federal Court: Stanford convicted of 7 billion dollar Ponzi scheme: Game Over

Posted in Cricket

 

Richard Carson/Reuters

Allen Stanford’s trial is over and he stands convicted of 13 out of 14 offenses as reported in the NYT.   He is now headed to prison. In this enormous scheme Stanford swindled 30,000 investors from more than 100 countries of more than 7 billion dollars.  It is hard to wrap your mind around that level of greed. Stanford’s US operations were based  in Houston and involved fake high-interest certificates of deposit that were allegedly held at his International Bank in Antigua.  It was from Antigua that Stanford conducted his billionaire lifestyle of yachts, private jets and an All Star Cricket Team baring his eponymous title.

Prosecutors argued that Mr. Stanford had lied for more than two decades, promoting safe investments for money that he channeled into a luxurious lifestyle, a secret Swiss bank account and business deals that consistently lost money.

The prosecutors heavily relied on James M. Davis, Mr. Stanford’s former roommate from Baylor University, who served as his chief financial officer. Mr. Davis testified that the Stanford business empire was a fraud complete with bribes for Antiguan regulators and schemes to hide operations from federal investigators. He described how Mr. Stanford had sent him to London to send a fax to a prospective client from a bogus insurance company office to reassure him that his investment would be safe.

Now that the conviction is in, the next step is federal sentencing in June.  Given the size of the loss, 7 billion, and relevant conduct Stanford is looking at an effective life sentence.  As many know, the trial judge will have advisory guidelines to follow from the US Sentencing Commission and a Pre-Sentence Report completed by the probation office. This report will advise the judge of the anticipated guideline range. That range is expected to exceed 360 months–that is why it is considered a life sentence for 61 year old Stanford.

Stanford will be able to present mitigating evidence at the hearing, but given the nature of fraud and the size of  this Ponzi scheme, and the sheer number of victims, mitgation is unlikely to lower the sentence.

Once sentenced Stanford will probably be sent to the medium security federal prison in Beaumont, Texas. Because his sentence will exceed 10 years, he will not be eligible for a federal prison camp.  And, because his sentence will exceed 20 years, he will not be sentenced to a low security facility either.  So it may be of some small consolation to his numerous victims, that Stanford will be sent to a medium security prison, where he will serve a sentence under fairly severe circumstances.  A long fall from the island life of a fabricated billionaire, the life he lived just a few years ago.

Earlier:

Cricket Bats and Federal Court

Cricket Bats and Federal Court: Part II

Cricket Bats and Federal Court: Part III

War Eagle? FBI investigates the Auburn Men’s Basketball Program for Point-Shaving

Posted in Basketball, NCAA

By: Janie Parks

As an Auburn Alum (Class of 2008), I can attest to the fact that basketball at Auburn has been, in recent years, a let down.  Without a doubt, football is the focus of the athletics department. When I was a student, I went to almost every home football game (except for the dreadful 2008 season which we don’t speak of).  I went to a total of one home basketball game in the entire 3 ½ years I was a student there. Needless to say, Auburn basketball is rarely in the headlines. That has changed now, but the headlines are not very flattering.

Auburn point guard Varez Ward has been suspended indefinitely since February 25th of this year. Around that same time, the FBI began an investigation into the basketball program, focusing on specific instances of alleged point-shaving by Ward. Point-shaving exists when players attempt to curb point production during a game, impacting the score of the game in order to adhere to a published betting line. There are two Auburn losses that are being investigated: the 56-53 loss to Arkansas and the 68-50 loss to Alabama.  In the loss to Arkansas, Ward only played less than a minute, but during that time he turned the ball over once. Shortly after he turned the ball over, he remained on the bench for injury purposes. In the (heartbreaking) loss to Alabama, Ward played for 17 minutes. During those 17 minutes he missed 4 of 5 shots, scored only 3 points, and turned the ball over 6 times. Auburn was trailing by 10 points with around 15 minutes left to play, when 2 of those turnovers were committed. He returned to the game 4 minutes later and committed another 2 turnovers during a span of 2 ½ minutes. In both games, the losses by Auburn easily covered their respective spreads.

Most investigations of point-shaving occur months or even years after the basketball season ends, as signs of point-shaving appear in reviewing game footage. However in this case, an Auburn basketball player supposedly voiced concerns to an assistant coach. Auburn University then notified the NCAA and the FBI. The NCAA recently released a statement, indicating their intention to defer any action until the FBI has concluded their investigation.  If the allegations of point-shaving are proven, Ward will likely be charged with federal crimes.

This is the second investigation by the FBI of Auburn athletics in two years. The first, of course, was the investigation into the recruitment of Auburn quarterback, Cam Newton. Allegations of a pay-for-play system arose at the height of Auburn’s National Championship season. The investigation moved well into the next year, but Auburn was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. With any luck, the same will happen with the basketball program.

 

(Janie Parks is a third year law student, Davis & Hoss blogger/employee and die hard War Eagle, which is mostly a good thing.)

US Soccer Federation elite development: a bad idea takes hold

Posted in Olympics, Soccer

Sometimes a rule or organizational change in sport captures my attention.  Such is the case with the United States Soccer Federation’s new direction in elite development. The Federation has adopted a new policy of year-round development that requires boys to drop high school participation in many areas across the country. As reported in the NYT, “the shift by the federation applies to its top boys teams around the country, requiring players on those teams — known as Development Academy teams — to participate in a nearly year-round season and, by extension, forcing them and their soccer moms and dads to decide whether they should play for their club or play for their school.”

Consider this, promising middle school soccer players–kids 11 and 12 years old–will have to decide with their families whether to chase the Olympic dream or to play for their local school.  If they choose to play with Development Academy, they forgo their local school program and community.  If they choose to play high school soccer, they lose any chance to be recruited to the highest echelons of the sport.  This policy change is a bad idea.

The decision points out what is fundamentally wrong with current trends in high school sports.  There are about 75 national level development teams with nearly 3,000 kids making up the talent pool that the national team draws from.  With the change, these 3000 kids are giving up an experience in local high school sports for a shot at the national team.  A team that is comprised of how many kids?  Not 3,000–and not 300 for that matter.  So these kids sacrifice their youth for the hope–realistic or not–that they may be one of the few chosen.  Perhaps 50 out of 3000 will get to the top level for a try-out, and from that pool a handful will actually play for the US National team.  The rest are on a path of controlled failure as they reach dead-ends that will leave them without a team, a high school, or a connection to a community. The Federation’s rationale is that the few that do make the team will be able to compete at the highest level of the sport.  But at a heavy price.

As most high school coaches recognize, sport has its most positive impact on the local level.  In his article, Sam Borden interviewed Dan Woog, the boys soccer coach at Staples High School in Westport, Conn.  Coach Woog recalled the night his team won a league championship several years ago, and a group of players showed up at a diner afterward with their championship medals around their necks.

Suddenly, the other customers in the diner — a majority of them Westport residents — stood up and spontaneously gave the players a standing ovation. The players beamed.

“They’re going to remember that the rest of their lives,” Woog said. “They felt like kings. That’s not going to happen in the academy.”

Anyone who follows top level soccer knows that Division I college coaches and Olympic Development talent scouts have long ago stopped looking first at high school teams as the source for future players and have focused instead on Development Academy teams.  Perhaps the Federation’s policy change merely reflects that reality.  But the Federation’s sin lies in the notion that an 11-year-old boy will have to make such a choice:  school or country.