It’s amazing the number of professional athletes, who are loved and adored by millions, that have been accused of committing the ultimate crime. Some have been guilty, some have not. All, unfortunately, are known more for actions that resulted in the loss of life, than for anything they ever did with a ball.
10. Mike Danton
In 2004, Mike Danton had his best season as a pro in the National Hockey League. With 12 points and 140 penalty minutes, Danton’s breakout season was his ticket out of the minor leagues. Days after the end of the season though, he was arrested for attempting to hire a hitman to kill his agent, David Frost. And this is where the story starts to get complicated.
The Verdict: The hitman was actually a policeman and Mike Danton was tried and convicted of the charges of conspiracy to commit murder. Danton was sentenced to 90 months in a federal prison, in which he served 61, and was paroled back into his native Canada. During the trial, there were conflicting reports to whether Danton had hired the hitman to kill his agent, with whom the CBC claims Danton may have had a sexual relationship with, or his estranged father. Two years later, David Frost was in court on charges of sexual exploitation, of which he was acquitted. Also odd, Danton’s defense lawyer was convicted of practicing law without a license at the time of the trial, and David Frost was acquitted in a court of law for using Danton’s credit cards.
Danton has since resumed his pro career in Europe where, in yet another strange twist, he was credited by authorities with saving the life of a teammate who had hit his head on the ice and went into convulsions. Danton cited the life-saving skills that he had learned in prison for his quick actions.
9. Dany Heatley
Right before the start of the 2003 NHL season, teammates Dany Heatley and Dan Snyder of the Atlanta Thrashers were two young stars on the rise. After an evening out, Heatley was speeding with Snyder in the passenger seat, doing 20 to 50 miles per hour over the posted 35 mph limit. A crash ensued, which seriously injuring Heatley and killed Snyder. Heatley was charged with vehicular homicide, due to the circumstances of the car accident.
The Verdict: Heatley was convicted of second degree murder and speeding, among other charges. Sentenced to no jail time, but rather probation and a fine, he was also ordered to give 150 speeches on the dangers of speeding. Heatley went on to return to the NHL, where he plays to this day. The Atlanta Thrashers later moved and became the Winnepeg Jets, where they still give out the Dan Snyder Memorial Award to hard-working, selfless teammates.
8. Navjot Singh Sidhu
A professional cricketer for the Pubjab first-class cricket team between 1981 and 2000, Sidhu also represented his national team on multiple occasions. In 1988, Sidhu was involved in an incident where he assaulted another person by dragging him from his vehicle and beating him, all in the clutches of road rage. Later, the victim passed away.
The Verdict: In 2006, 18 years after the incident, Sidhu was found guilty and sentenced to 3 years in prison. India works slowly, apparently. Due to the verdict, Sidhu resigned his seat in the Lok Sabha. The case was appealed to the Indian Supreme Court, where the conviction was stayed.
7. Carlos Monzon
Monzon was the World Middleweight Boxing Champion between 1970 and 1977. Immensely popular in his native Argentina, Monzon was known almost as well for his tabloid exploits outside of the ring, as his skills inside of it. Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, charges of domestic violence and assault followed him into his retirement. Then in 1988, he was accused of taking his mistress and throwing her off of a second floor balcony to her death.
The Verdict: Guilty of homicide, in which he served part of his 11-year sentence. He actually died in a car accident on one of his weekend furloughs.
6. Jayson Williams
In 2002, NBA basketball player Jayson Williams was giving his limo driver a tour of his mansion, and was fooling around with a loaded shotgun. There are contradictory statements to what exactly happened next, but the limo driver was shot and killed. Jayson Williams was charged with reckless manslaughter.
The Verdict: In 2004, Williams was acquitted of the most serious charges filed against him, but the legal wrangling and appeals continued until 2010, where he finally pled guilty to the lesser charges. He served an 18-month prison sentence for assault.
5. Robert Rozier
In 1979, the St. Louis Cardinals drafted a young Robert Rozier from the University of California. Rozier played 6 games in the NFL before falling out of the league. Three years later, the former Cardinal joined up with the “Brotherhood,” a black supremacist group, whose membership was predicated on murdering a Caucasian. In 1986, Rozier was charged with murder for doing just that.
The Verdict: Rozier was convicted of murder, but was sentenced to only 22 years in jail, of which he served 10. The relatively light sentence was due to his cooperation when testifying against the Brotherhood. While in the witness protection program though, he was caught passing bad checks; under California’s 3 Strike Rule, he was then sentenced to 25 years to life.
4. Micheal Vick
The Number 1 draft pick of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons in 2001, Vick was an explosive playmaker from Virginia Tech, who was to change the way the game was played by a quarterback. Taking the Falcons to the playoffs in just his second year, brushes with the law were nearly as frequent as playoff appearances. Then, in 2007, Vick was charged with State and Federal felony-level animal fighting.
The Verdict: When the charges were filed, news leaked of the graphic ways in which Vick and his associates killed the dogs in question. Not exactly contesting his guilt, there were even questions from certain segments of the population to whether Vick was even committing a crime, seeing that he only killed dogs. But then there was the gambling ring associated with the dog killing. Vick was plunged into bankruptcy as he pled guilty to Federal felony conspiracy & State felony dogfighting, to which he spent 2 years in prison. In 2009, Vick returned to the NFL, this time to the Philadelphia Eagles.
3. Rae Carruth
The 27th pick of the first round by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in 1997, Carruth only played 22 games in the league before he was charged with 1st degree murder, and conspiracy to commit murder, for the shooting death of his soon-to-be baby’s momma, Cherica Adams.
The Verdict: Spared the death penalty because he was only found guilty of the conspiracy charge, Carruth was sentenced to 291 months in prison. The gunman in the case received 40 years. The baby inside of Cherica Adams, Chancellor, was delivered by emergency cesarean section, and lived. The story of Chancellor Lee Adams is a courageous tale of survival floating in a sea of darkness and tragedy.
2. Ray Lewis
A sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, Ray Lewis was the most dominant linebacker since Lawrence Taylor. But after Super Bowl XXXIV, a fracas occurred at an after-game party, in which Lewis and two of his associates were indicted on murder charges for the murders of two men.
The Verdict: In return for testimony against Lewis’ two companions, the murder charges were dropped against Lewis, and he pled guilty to the lesser charge of obstruction of justice. The two men he testified against were found not guilty. To this day, no one has served time for the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, and Lewis has paid undisclosed settlements to certain family members, to prevent a civil trial.
1. O.J. Simpson
Like anyone else could be #1. In case you haven’t heard about the Trial Of The Century: in 1994, NFL Hall of Famer, beloved Naked Gun actor, and overall cultural icon, OJ Simpson, was charged with the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her maybe-boyfriend Ronald Goldman.
The Verdict: In 1995, “The Juice” was acquitted of murder. Two years later, though, he was found liable for their deaths, and was ordered to pay $33.5 million dollars in damages. No, that doesn’t make any sense. And it made even less sense when it happened.
Even after the civil trial, Simpson kept finding himself in trouble with the law, with incidents almost yearly until 2007, when he was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping, among other charges, and sentenced to 33 years in jail. OJ is up for parole in 2017. OJ’s bust still resides at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, for now anyway.