There is a lesson to be learned from the Donte Stallworth saga, but it’s kind of hard to decipher what it is exactly.
Is it that killing a 59-year-old Cuban man is less egregious than strangling a dog or mutilating a cat? Or maybe it’s that with the right lawyer, anything can happen. You’d think the overriding theme would be don’t drink and drive, but that cliché is as lost upon today’s athletes as “play ‘til the last whistle” or “win one for the Gipper.”
It’s safe to say that Stallworth, a speedy NFL receiver, got off easy with a 30-day jail sentence for running over Mario Reyes with his expensive Bentley the day after the Cleveland Browns gave him a $4.5 million bonus. Sure, Stallworth will be forced to eat a bologna sandwich or two and might even be suspended by the NFL, but that’s a helluva lot better than serving 15 years on a DUI manslaughter conviction.
Stallworth’s football career will undoubtedly continue and he’ll make millions of dollars more, all the while starring in cute and cuddly “Don’t Drink and Drive” commercials, per his plea agreement.
If anything, comparing Stallworth’s legal troubles and those of other NFL, NBA and MLB stars to Joe the Plumber’s troubles proves that the scales of justice are about as equal and fair as an Obama vs. Fidel Castro debate on human rights in Little Havana.
It’s not a fair fight.
Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg and will probably see more time behind bars than Stallworth.
Michael Vick spent almost two years in a federal penitentiary for killing dogs. Good thing the pitbulls had the PETA folks, who vilified Vick at every turn and pushed for the most severe of penalties.
Where was the outcry for Reyes, a hard-working Miamian, who did nothing but try to cross the street after a long night of work on the graveyard shift. Sadly, it sent him to the graveyard. Correction, Stallworth sent him there.
The tears of the Reyes family will continue to flow well after the money runs out from the financial settlement Stallworth has already agreed to pay. But for the judge and prosecutors, Stallworth's ability to "man up" and pay the family he just crippled was enough to warrant a light sentence.
It took exactly three months for Stallworth’s plea deal to be negotiated and agreed to by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office when prosecutors had an airtight case. Some defendants have been sitting in Miami-Dade jail on misdemeanors for that long and still haven’t seen their public defender.
So is the conclusion of the Stallworth drama that the rich get off easy, while the regular citizens who run afoul of the law rarely get the benefit of the doubt? Or maybe, if you’re a star athlete, it’s better to run over a person than a dog.