We’re two days removed from Donte’ Stallworth’s apostrophe-deficient plea deal with the state of Florida that saw the Cleveland Browns wide receiver cop to manslaughter in exchange for serving a whopping 30 days in jail. Personally, I’ve spent more time in jail on tours, visiting friends, and shooting my new adult film, Cops And Cradle Robbers 7, available at finer adult video stores near you.
Some of you are comparing Stallworth’s sentence to that of Michael Vick, who was sentenced to 23 months in federal court for orchestrating an interstate dogfighting ring which, while grotesquely inhumane, makes a lot more sense than anything the UFL has ever done. But let’s get a grip and do the math. Thirty days is pretty fair, when you consider the surrounding factors involved, and compare those factors to Vick’s proceedings:
The case against Stallworth was not a slam-dunk. Stallworth blew a 0.126 at the scene, minutes after he ran over Mario Reyes with his Bentley on March 14th, but wasn’t charged with DUI manslaughter until April. Why?
The big issue centered around a wrinkle in Florida’s DUI laws referred to as “causation,” meaning that if the drunk driver is involved in a crash, that driver is not necessarily responsible if the other party contributed to that crash. Like if I have get drunk and have sex with your mom, but she pays for the hotel room; I can’t be held responsible, unless of course your dad is bigger than I am (fat chance).
This applies to the case since Mario Reyes was jaywalking when Stallworth hit him. Reyes’ illegal action–petty as it is–could have potentially absolved Stallworth. There also would have been difficulty provinig that Stallworth was impaired, since he was able to honk and flash his lights. The prosecution might have had a better case if Stallworth was texting behind the wheel while sober.
And there’s probably a going-over-the-middle joke here that, due to time constraints, I’ll leave to the fine commenters of this site.
Conversely, the case against Vick was damn near iron clad. Several of Vick’s friends flipped and testified against him. Significant physical evidence, including 70 dogs, were seized. Investigators were confident that they could prove that Michael Vick was the de facto CEO of an interstate dogfighting operation that involved gambling, drugs, and the violations of both state and federal laws. It’s also worth nothing here that Virgina has suspended all charges against Vick, because they’re just mighty swell folks.
Stallworth made good with the Reyes family. I don’t know what happened here, but this is my best guess: A contrite Stallworth met with the family, apologized from the bottom of his heart, and pulled out his checkbook. He then gave Mario Reyes’ surviving wife and daughter more money than either of them had ever seen in their entire lives, enough to put that 15-year-old daughter through college. Enough for the widow to live “comfortably,” if such a term could even be used here.
The Reyes’ family’s wishes to get the proceedings over with may have stemmed from the settlement. The prosecution admitted that this was a factor in hurrying the proceedings, a factor that certainly worked in the favor of Stallworth and his legal team. No word on whether Vick and the survivors of the 70 dogs seized are cool.
Stallworth’s illegal action was not premeditated, and happened in less time than it took you to read this sentence. I hate using the word “accident” in general, but the fault stemmed from ann instantaneous lapse in awareness. Is that worth sending a guy to jail for years of his life? Is that fair? Vick, on the other hand, delivered the Bad Newz for six years. Oh, but he didn’t kill nobody and didn’t rape nobody. Whatever.
Legal proceedings aren’t as cut and dried as our society would like to pretend they are, and that’s a good thing. Alleged criminals don’t just walk up to a judge with their offense written on an index card and receive a cookie-cutter punishment like some sort of Value Meal of Justice.
The state’s burden of proof is one of the cornerstones of liberty in a republic. It doesn’t make the death of Mario Reyes forgivable, or any less tragic. It doesn’t diminish the value of the 59-year-old man that woke up every day to provide for his family. Stallworth had his day in court. So did Vick. But it wasn’t just random chance or some obliviousness to humanity that Stallworth’s day turn out a lot better.