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December 16, 2011

Hey sports fans, lots of federal sentencing stories to follow

As a big sports fan, I tend to get a kick out of being able to follow federal sentencing stories via the sports page.  And now, as detailed in these two recent posts from my main blog, there are two timely stories worth watching closely:

The second story, concerning the Chicago Bears receiver Sam Hurd and his alleged involvement in a big cocaine distribution scheme, provides a particularly good opportunity for students to think about plea bargaining practices and high-profile defendants.  Should Hurd's defense attorney and/or the federal prosecutors handing the case be talking about trying to put together a quick plea deal before all the details of Hurd's alleged  offense conduct become the topic of ESPN debate?  Or should both sides be already thinking about the "fight to the death" approach that Jerry Sandusky's lawyers have adopted?

Anyone eager to talk more about these issues at a sports bar over drinks can/should come get me from my office late on Friday night.  In addition to working late this Friday to follow the Bonds' sentencing from the West Coast, I am a free agent through the evening because my family has a "girls night out" without me at a holiday cookie party.

December 16, 2011 in Guideline sentencing systems, Interesting new cases | Permalink


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I laughed when I heard Mike Greenberg on ESPN this morning inform the audience the the "recommended sentences according to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines is 15-18 months . . . [but he'll likely get some form of house arrest]." I'm sure everyone that hasn't spent time with the guidelines (and probably isn't a fan of Bonds) enjoyed hearing that.

Posted by: JT | Dec 16, 2011 11:08:11 AM

Apparently Bonds is going to get 30 days house arrest and 2 years probation (pending his appeal). That seems about right to me. I think it was crazy that the government was even talking about 15 months in prison, especially when Victor Conte only spent a few months in prison and he was the one in charge of BALCO. I personally think it is dumb that the government is spending all of this time and resources on going after these athletes when there are much more pressing issues that they could be addressing, but I guess that is less about sentencing and more about prosecutorial discreation.

As for the Sam Hurd story, that is just crazy. If he is really dealing that much cocaine and marijuana, he is going to be facing a hefty sentence. Especially because the government loves to make examples out of athletes (see Michael Vick). If I were Hurd's attorney, I would be looking for a quick plea deal because the more the media plays up this story, the less likely the government will be to show any leniency.

Posted by: Sean B. | Dec 16, 2011 3:15:33 PM

Regarding the Sam Hurd story, what if as part of the plea Hurd gives up other NFL players or other athletes that he was selling to? Would prosecutors even ask for that? Would they rather the NFL and professional sports not be mired in a coke scheme, as an alternative to the PEDs schemes that the feds investigated so thoroughly? That might sound like a conspiracy, but you never know.

Also, it is particularly frustrating when a millionaire athlete feels the need to do this, but I think we could say that same phrase about different situations in sports almost every day.

Posted by: Maureen F | Dec 16, 2011 4:48:09 PM

The sentence for Barry Bonds reminded me of another high profile sentencing story involving an athlete. About a year ago, then-Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth was sentenced to jail for thirty days after being convicted of DUI manslaughter (with 2 years of house arrest and 8 years of probation). After a heavy night of drinking in Miami, Stallworth hit and killed a construction worker who was trying to catch a bus after working overnight. http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=4262751

Sean, I agree that prosecutors would like to make examples out of high profile defendants. It's interesting that despite this incentive, Stallworth still only received 30 days in jail.

As for the Sam Hurd story, every new detail with this story is pretty incredible. The only thing that really did not surprise me is that he used to play for the Dallas Cowboys. That piece of it makes sense.

Posted by: Rees Alexander | Dec 17, 2011 11:51:36 AM

Sam Hurd better start thinking of people he can flip on so he can get that 5K1.1 because that dude is in trouble.

Posted by: Colin P | Dec 17, 2011 3:15:26 PM

How late are you going to be around for Happy Hour tonight? I'm working on a certain take-home final but could always use a beer while watching a bad bowl game.

Posted by: Colin P | Dec 17, 2011 3:19:22 PM

Nevermind I just realized this post was from yesterday

Posted by: Colin P | Dec 17, 2011 3:38:40 PM

Even worse for the Bears, Caleb Hanie is still their quarterback.

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