June 18, 2009, - 3:29 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
If your dad was killed by a drunk driver, would you ask a court to give the killer a lenient 30-day sentence in exchange for a huge cash pay-off?
I certainly wouldn’t.
But the family of 59-year-old construction worker Mario Reyes did just that. They were paid off by Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth, and because of that, justice wasn’t served. Stallworth–who should do years in prison for the killing–will serve only a 30-day sentence. And while he’ll serve two years of house arrest after that, he will be playing for the Browns when the NFL football season starts at the end of this summer. The ridiculously lenient plea agreement allows him to do so.
It’s really a disgusting display. But I don’t just blame the family. I blame the justice system and the prosecutors who recommended this, merely because he paid the family off. And I blame the judge who went along with this absurd sentence.
Stallworth’s “cooperation” in the matter–which they cite–is a euphemism for nothing. People get killed by drunk drivers all the time, and they do hard time. The fact that they admitted, hey, I agree with your tests that I had an alcohol level over the limit when I killed a man, doesn’t save them from that.
Unless they are a rich ball player with the capacity to pay someone off.
The 28-year-old National Football League star’s abbreviated jail term came because of his cooperation with investigators and the wishes of the victim’s family.
Stallworth pleaded guilty Tuesday to manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol in exchange for a lighter sentence. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail for the car crash that killed a pedestrian in Miami Beach.
The player had faced up to 15 years in jail for the death of 59-year-old construction worker Mario Reyes, who apparently was running across the street to catch a bus when the athlete hit him with his car March 14.
The average jail sentence for similar crimes in Florida is 10 years, but Stallworth reached a confidential financial settlement with Reyes’ family.
What does this say for poor people who commit crimes and are unable to pay off their victims?
It says that, contrary to the trite adage, justice isn’t blind in America. It’s not blind at all. If you have the right dollar amounts in your bank account, you get a separate kind of “justice” applied to you.
But don’t worry, Donte Stallworth will get away with murder, just like his NFL colleague, Ray Lewis, got away with taking part in the murder of three people.
Crime pays when you are a wealthy star athlete and your victims are humans and not dogs (a la Michael Vick).