Incredible Athletes You Forgot Are Currently In Jail
It’s a hard fall from the glories of the sporting world to the terrifying and often demeaning world of prison. Athletes like the following were at the pinnacle of their respective sports, but after a few bad decisions, are now serving hard time. It’s going to be a long time before any of these people can walk the streets and sign autographs, and some never will again.
At one time, the story of Oscar Pistorius was among the most awe-inspiring in sports history. Born with a birth defect that left both of his legs without fibulas, Pistorius’s lower legs were amputated when he was an infant. He was fitted with prosthetic legs and took up running at age 16. Just two years later, the “Blade Runner” won a gold medal at the Athens Paralympics in 2004, later competing in the 400-meter run at the 2012 London games.
Just six months later, on February 14, 2013, Pistorius was arrested in connection with the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. As Steenkamp made preparations for Valentine’s Day, Pistorius claims he mistook her for a home invader and shot her at their home in South Africa. Prosecution argued that the murder was premeditated, as Pistorius and Steenkamp often fought (and Pistorius had a history of violence against women). After a seven-month trial, Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide (the South African legal system’s equivalent of manslaughter) and served a year in prison before being released to house arrest. Then an appeals court overturned the conviction and Pistorius was found guilty of murder in a second trial. He was sentenced to 13 years behind bars.
'Fast Eddie' Johnson
Known as “Fast Eddie,” Edward Lee Johnson Jr. was a full-fledged NBA star — averaging 15 points and 5 assists per game and shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor over 675 games. He represented the Atlanta Hawks in two consecutive NBA All-Star Games, and his explosive speed and slashing ability, in addition to an accurate outside shot, netted him a career total of 10,163 points. Life after basketball, however, would not go well for Fast Eddie. The former star completely lost control.
Described as a “habitual felon,” Johnson was convicted of sexual battery and sexual molestation of an 8-year-old girl. But Fast Eddie wasn’t new to crime, not by a long shot. He had been arrested roughly 100 times, with allegations of “burglary, battery, robbery, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.” Johnson’s sexual assault on an 8-year-old landed him a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Unfortunately, another Eddie Johnson, also a retired NBA player — who seems to be an all-around good guy — has sometimes been confused for the child rapist. So keep your Eddies straight. The scumbag Eddie Johnson is locked up in Santa Rosa Correctional Institution, and he will never again be a free man.
Craig Titus (and Kelly Ryan)
In the world of professional bodybuilding, Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan were stars, and their arrests and convictions rocked the sport. Titus started bodybuilding after high school, taking first place (for the first of many times) in the 1988 NPC Houston Bodybuilding Championships. Concurrent with his bodybuilding career, however, Titus lived a life of crime. In 1995 he was arrested in Louisiana for possession and intent to sell ecstasy; he later violated his parole by using steroids and had to serve a two-year sentence.
He got out in 1999, and his future was looking up in 2003 when he married fellow bodybuilder Kelly Ryan, who held a number of circuit wins and was a three-time Fitness Olympia runner-up. Then, in December 2005, the burned body of Melissa James, personal assistant to Titus and Ryan, was found in Ryan’s car on a road outside Las Vegas. After avoiding police for over a week, the pair were arrested at a nail salon in Boston. The duo initially claimed that James died of a drug overdose and, fearing they’d be arrested, burned the body and abandoned it in a car and left town. However, police say James had been shot with a stun gun, been given morphine, and had been strangled to death with a wire. In 2008, Titus was sentenced to between 21 and 55 years in prison, while Ryan was given two consecutive terms of 3 to 13 years. Ryan was released on parole in 2017.
Mell Hall started playing pro ball for the Cubbies in 1981 and enjoyed a successful first full season in 1983, where he batted a respectable .283, smacked 17 homers, drove in 56 runs, and finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting. He then played for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees before heading to Japan to play ball on a two-year, $4 million deal. When it was all said and done, Hall had a very respectable baseball career as an above-average left-fielder.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t done making headlines. In 2009, Hall was convicted of three counts of aggravated sexual assault and two counts of indecency with a child after raping a 12-year-old girl who played on the youth basketball team he coached. A jury found him guilty, and Hall was sentenced to 40 years in prison, with the need to serve 22.5 years before becoming eligible for parole. Defense attorney Brady Wyatt didn’t agree with the call, stating “For all the good this man has done in his life, it seems like this was an excessive verdict.” That’s right! Playing professional games and mentoring other athletes is really more worthwhile than keeping a child rapist in prison a little longer. Multiple individuals testified against the former baseball player, claiming that — in addition to his rape charge — he often acted inappropriately and had even lived with a 15-year-old girlfriend for several years, according to SB Nation.
Hall is currently locked up in a Texas prison and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
One of the most high-profile professional athletes currently serving time is former broadcaster and five-time Pro Bowl NFL safety Darren Sharper. A member of the NFL’s 2000s All Decade Team, Sharper enjoyed a highly successful collegiate and professional career. After retiring from the game, Sharper took on new activities, including working as an analyst for NFL Network and, unfortunately, the serial drugging and raping of “as many as 16 women in four states.”
In August 2016, Sharper pleaded guilty or no contest in federal court and in four different state courts. A 15-page statement signed as part of the former Pro Bowler’s plea deal states he or a former cop, Brandon Licciardi, would drug women with sedatives or anti-anxiety medication so Sharper could rape them. Sharper received a light sentence of 20 years by a Louisiana state judge after being sentenced to more than 18 years by a federal judge. Unbelievably, the high-profile athlete’s multi-jurisdictional plea deal previously only called for nine years of incarceration — that was ultimately recognized as atrociously light.
Sharper is serving his time under federal custody, with some people, like Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King, arguing he should still be in the Hall of Fame — because football achievements trump being a serial rapist, apparently.
As a kickoff and punt returner in the NFL, David Meggett led the league in punt return yards in his rookie season (1989-90). Along with 531 receiving yards and 117 rushing yards, that earned him a berth in the Pro Bowl. In his second season (1990-91), he once more led the league in punt return yardage and won a Super Bowl as a member of the New York Giants. He continued to put up big rushing and return numbers with various teams, all the way until he retired in 1998.
After his playing days, he built up a troubling rap sheet: he was arrested in Toronto for assaulting an escort and resigned as a Parks Director in North Carolina after being accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend, for which he was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery and received two years of probation. Then, in January 2009, he was charged with burglary and criminal sexual conduct. Authorities say Meggett raped a college student at her home in South Carolina. (He claimed it was consensual, as she was paying back a debt with sexual favors.) The plaintiff argued that she indeed owed Meggett $200 at the time of the crime, but awoke in the middle of the night to find him standing in her bedroom saying he “wanted a down payment.” For this crime, Meggett was sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison.
An LA native, Henley was a star cornerback at UCLA, where he was a consensus All American in 1988. He turned pro in 1989, drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, for whom he was defensive Rookie of the Year. He was in the starting lineup for six years and in December 1994 took the field for the Rams’ last California home game before the team moved to St. Louis.
That would also turn out to be Henley’s last pro game. In 1995, Henley was one of four defendants convicted in a cocaine trafficking case — Henley claimed only to have financed the criminal doings of a childhood friend. While in jail awaiting sentencing, he convinced a guard to smuggle him a cell phone. (It wasn’t easy in 1995; cell phones were huge.) Henley used that phone to conduct business, like hiring a hit man to kill the judge who presided over his trial and a Rams cheerleader who had testified against him. This, for the record, is not how you show the world you’re merely an innocent money man.
Ultimately, neither hit came through: federal agents had secretly tape-recorded Henley in his cell talking about the $100,000 hit jobs. In summer 1996, Henley stood trial for 13 new charges — as part of a plea deal, he admitted guilt to two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of bribing a guard. The other ten charges were dropped, but Henley still got a long prison sentence: 41 years, with no chance of parole. That’s not much of a “plea,” considering he won’t get out until he’s 70, but it’s better than the alternative of getting out to be buried.
Before sports, Clifford Etienne was basically a dumb high school kid, who held up some customers at a shopping mall, mostly because. Though 17, Etienne was tried as an adult and received a 40-year sentence. While behind bars, Etienne took up boxing and notched a 30-0 record, en route to becoming the champion of the Louisiana state prison’s boxing circuit. (Yes, really.)
With good behavior, Etienne’s sentence was cut way down to 10 years, and he immediately went pro upon his 1998 parole. Etienne quickly rose through the boxing ranks, winning 19 of his first 20 fights and compiling a 24-1-1 record by 2003. His status as a rising star was tarnished somewhat in 2003, however, after Mike Tyson proved tougher than his video game counterpart, knocking out Etienne just 49 seconds into the first round of their heavily publicized bout.
Etienne continued boxing but was soon back to his old criminal ways. In August 2005, Etienne broke into a check-cashing place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and stole $1,900. To get away, he tried to steal a car with two kids inside. When that didn’t work, he stole another car … which also had two children inside. He didn’t get far before he wrecked this one, police caught up to him, and he fired a malfunctioning gun.
He didn’t give his lawyers much to work with: they argued that Etienne was so high on drugs he wasn’t aware of his actions and that he’d suffered brain damage from his boxing. The excuses didn’t work, and the whole endangering kids thing didn’t help. In 2006, Etienne was sentenced to more than 150 years in prison, although in 2013 it was reduced to a mere 105 years behind bars, the lucky duck. He reportedly spends most of his time these days painting. One of his pieces even hangs in a New Orleans police precinct.
A star running back at the University of Oklahoma, Wilson was selected in the ninth round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He wasn’t as solid a pro as his college career indicated he’d be, but that was mainly because he struggled greatly with an addiction to cocaine.
Being a famous guy didn’t help at all. For violating the NFL’s drug policy, he was suspended for the entirety of the 1985 season … and then the 1987 season, too. Fortunately, he made it back to the Bengals in 1988, rushing for 398 yards and helping his team reach the Super Bowl. They lost, 20-16, but perhaps it would have gone the Bengals’ way had Wilson actually played in the game.
But he didn’t, and it’s his own damn fault. The night before the Super Bowl, Wilson was caught by a Bengals coach high on cocaine (with powder all over his nose) in a hotel bathroom. That was Wilson’s third violation under the NFL’s “three strikes and you’re out” rule, so he was banned for life. Continuing to be haunted by drug and mental health issues throughout the ’90s, Wilson finished the decade by stealing an estimated $130,000 worth of jewelry, cameras, and other valuables from a house in Beverly Hills.
Wilson had already served time for breaking into two houses in Long Beach, so he was sentenced harshly under the state of California’s “three strikes and you’re out rule.” His 1999 sentence was for 23 years, so he’s scheduled for parole in 2022. That’s twice a third strike cost him dearly — we’re guessing he doesn’t watch a lot of baseball in the prison lounge.
Wide receiver Sam Hurd spent five years with the Dallas Cowboys (where he was special teams captain) and one season with the Chicago Bears, collecting a respectable 53 receptions and 739 receiving yards. He stayed busy off the field, too, hosting a Dallas Cowboys radio show (and then a TV show) called Inside the Huddle.
Another one of his pastimes: drug trafficking. In 2011, he was arrested outside a Chicago steakhouse, when he received a kilogram of cocaine from an undercover officer. That same night, he reportedly told the officer — whom he thought was a drug distributor — that he wanted to buy up to 10 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana on a weekly basis. It clearly wasn’t all for him. In 2013, he received a 15-year prison term for being part of a group that was trying to set up a three-state cocaine and marijuana distribution ring.
Defensive tackle Keith Wright was a sixth-round draft pick out of the University of Missouri who bounced around the NFL a lot, with stints in Houston, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Detroit. After some time with the Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europe, he returned home to northern California and finished flushing his career down the toilet with a slew of crimes — police linked him to three home invasions in 2011 alone.
In all, Wright rang up 19 felony charges over his spree, including kidnapping, armed robbery, false imprisonment, and sexual assault. A year later, he was given one of the longest sentences a former professional athlete (or anyone) ever faced: 234 years and eight months. (The eight months are so he really learns his lesson). The judge also required him to pay restitution and court costs if he had any of his NFL money left over.
British soccer player Gavin Grant played for seven clubs between 2005 and 2010. But before any of that, it turns out he was a stone-cold murderer. In 2004, Grant had killed 21-year-old Leon Labastide, execution-style. Apparently, as reported by the BBC, a major burglary had transpired, in which over £20,000 were stolen. Labastide was accused of being the robber, but rather than calling the cops to have him arrested and put on trial, a man named Damien Williams hired Grant and another man named Gareth Downie to murder Labastide in retaliation.
This wasn’t even the first time Grant had been charged with murder either. In 2007, he was on trial for the death of a man named Jahmall Moore, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Of course, since we now know he actually did kill someone, who knows what was missed in the Moore trial? Either way, Grant is paying the price, with a life sentence as of July 2010, and no shot at parole for 25 years. Plus, his entire soccer career is irrevocably tainted, since every ball he kicked, and every goal he scored, was the work of an experienced murderer.
Chad Curtis was a star for the New York Yankees, winning two World Series rings with them in 1998 and 1999. In retirement, he worked at various high schools, including Lakewood High in Lake Odessa, Michigan, starting in 2011. It was there that his life took a turn for the criminal. While working as a volunteer strength trainer, he began to offer massages to the girl athletes (but not the boys). Three girls, all between the ages of 13 and 16, later testified that his massages turned sexual, with him touching and fondling various private parts, both above and below the belt.
In October 2013, he was sentenced to seven to 14 years in prison, meaning at the earliest, he’s out in September 2020. That said, considering his statement at sentencing was an hour-long exercise in victim-blaming, in which he accused all three girls of lying, talked himself up as a man of God who just wants to help people, and that he hopes to someday write a book with one of his accusers (yes, seriously), it’s not hard to imagine that the judge will take one look at him and keep him in the slammer until 2027.
Hiroshi Ogawa never made it to the American majors, but he was a star in Japanese baseball, playing for the Chiba Lotte Marines between 1985 and 1992. He also worked for them as an assistant coach until 1999. Unfortunately, after he left, he apparently ran into severe money issues and had tons of debt. Even more unfortunately, Ogawa chose robbery and murder as his financial solution.
On November 18, 2004, Ogawa was working at a waste disposal company. He went to the company chairman’s house, and asked the housekeeper there, 67-year-old Kazuko Nishiuchi, to lend him money. She naturally refused, and this set Ogawa off. He shoved her down to the ground, which knocked her out. Then Ogawa robbed the place of ¥1.75 million, threw the still-unconscious Nishiuchi into his car, drove to a nearby pond, and threw her in, where she drowned.
The courts, as you might expect, were merciless. For the crimes of assault, grand theft, and murder, Ogawa received life in prison the following year.
After decades of futility and some hopeful playoff runs ended prematurely, the Seattle Seahawks finally became serious championship contenders in the 2010s. A lot of that was thanks to the Legion of Boom — the nickname given to the squad’s frighteningly effective defensive backfield, originally led by Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Brandon Browner.
Undrafted out of Oregon State, the cornerback played in the Canadian Football League for a while before returning to the U.S. in 2011, becoming an integral piece of the player puzzle that led the Seahawks to victory in the 2014 Super Bowl. The next year, he won another ring as a member of the New England Patriots, this time playing against the Seahawks. He played one more season, but Browner unfortunately would make headlines three years later for his involvement in a horrific incident.
Police say that on July 8, 2018, Browner broke into the La Verne, California, apartment of his ex-girlfriend and then chased the woman around before attempting to smother her to death in a carpet. And he did it front of her two children. He was soon arrested and faced life behind bars for an attempted murder charge. He avoided that fate with a no-contest plea, and in December 2018 was sentenced to eight years in prison.
From 1978 to 1995, Bertil Fox was a professional bodybuilder, one who peaked with a Mr. Universe title in 1980. Sadly, his retirement didn’t provide his life, or anyone else’s, with anything good. Instead, on September 30, 1997, in the island nation St. Kitts and Nevis, Fox shot and killed his ex-fiance, 20-year-old Leyoca Brown, and also murdered her mom for good measure. He was quickly arrested and charged with the two murders.
The following year, Fox went on trial, which resulted in a hung jury and Fox initially going free. However, the authorities of Saint Kitts and Nevis knew he was guilty and would not let the non-verdict stand. Because the nation allows for double jeopardy, Fox was retried. This time he was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. Upon appeal by human rights lawyers, his hanging penalty was deemed unconstitutional, and he was instead sentenced to life in prison.
Between 1991 and 2000, Warrington Phillip played for the Leeward Islands, a top West Indies cricket team. He won two Red Stripe Cups and recorded over 650 runs in 50 matches. None of that meant a thing, though, after he did what he did to his wife.
On February 16, 2007, he slashed his wife to death, following what appeared to be a domestic incident. Two years later, in February 2009, he was found guilty and almost sentenced to death. The only reason he wasn’t was because the judge took into account his technically clean record (he almost certainly abused his wife in the past, though he was never arrested or charged with anything), and thus spared his life. She sentenced him to life in prison.
Henri Zogaib was a rising star in the auto-racing world, primarily driving sports cars and placing as high as seventh place in some races. He likely would’ve become even better, had he not thrown away his career while trying to make a Ponzi scheme work.
Zogaib invested over $5.4 million in other people’s money, most notably his fellow racers. Through scam organizations such as Executive Investment Group LLC and Diversified Equity Investment Group LLC, Zogaib promised ridiculous, implausible returns of up to 40 percent on people’s investments. This, obviously, never transpired, and most of the scammed parties never saw their money ever again.
Zogaib was arrested in 2010 for this crime, and in December 2013 pleaded guilty to the charges. As a result, in February 2014 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and was ordered to pay back all the money he bilked from investors.
As a teenager living in California in the 1980s, Rogowski was in the right place at the right time, and with the right skills: He was among the first wave of professional skateboarders who brought mainstream attention to the sport. By age 14, he was winning competitions around the state, and by 17 was earning more than $100,000 a year in winnings and endorsements, including the bestselling signature Gator board, designed for him by boardmaker Vision.
But while cohorts like Tony Hawk became legends, Rogowski self-destructed, drinking and partying hard. Then things got really dark. In 1991, shortly after his girlfriend broke up with him, he ran into a woman named Jessica Bergsten, a friend of his ex whom he hadn’t seen in a while. He later said that Bergsten reminded him too much of his ex. That’s why he severely beat her, then sexually assaulted and strangled her to death. Rogowski left her body in a surfboard bag and buried her in the California desert. Rogowski was later sentenced to 31 years to life but is eligible for parole. He was denied it in 2011, however, and isn’t expected to get the green light to freedom anytime soon.
Linebacker Eric Naposki signed with the New England Patriots in 1988, playing there before being traded to the Indianapolis Colts. He got a lot more playing time when he switched over to the World League of American Football (later renamed NFL Europe), helping lead the awesomely named Barcelona Dragons to a World Bowl title in 1997.
But since 2011, he’s spent his post-playing days behind bars for a crime committed way back in 1994. At that time, he was seeing a woman named Nanette Packard, who was also dating a man named William McLaughlin. She was the beneficiary of McLaughlin’s $1 million life insurance policy, which paid out when he was found dead in his home, shot six times. Packard was charged and imprisoned (she’d written herself hundreds of checks out of McLaughlin’s account, which is the reddest of red flags), but police lacked evidence to definitively tie Naposki to the murder. However, they later discovered new evidence linking Naposki to the killing. He was charged in 2009 with being the trigger man, was convicted, and in 2011 was sentenced to life without parole.
Anthony Wayne Smith
Anthony Wayne Smith was a top draft pick for the Oakland Raiders in 1990, lasting seven years in the NFL and making a minor splash in the league, at best. Sadly, he was far more “successful” at the criminal side of life. In 2003, he was accused of firebombing a furniture store, a charge that ultimately went nowhere after two juries couldn’t reach a verdict.
Later, he was arrested and put on trial for killing three men: brothers Ricky and Kevin Nettles in 1999, and Dennis Henderson in 2001. Worse than simply killing them, he played with them too. With the Nettle brothers, especially, he disguised himself a police officer and approached them at their car wash. Then, he kidnapped them, tortured them, and finally shot them to death. With Henderson, he was more straightforward, simply kidnapping him and then stabbing him to death.
In January 2016, Smith was found guilty of the three murders (the jury deadlocked on a fourth death), and he earned himself three consecutive life sentences. Don’t expect appeal or paroles to change that anytime soon, or ever.
James Butler was a fine pro boxer, with a 20-5 record and twelve knockouts. Unfortunately for him, he’s more known now for being a murderer than anything else.
On October 17, 2004, the body of freelance sports writer Sam Kellerman was found in his apartment, which had been set ablaze. Quickly, Butler was pegged as a suspect and arrested. His trial was set to begin March 27, 2006, but before it could, he pleaded guilty to both arson and voluntary manslaughter. As a result, the judge sentenced him to 29 years and four months in jail, with 613 days already served. He also ordered Butler to pay over $17,000 in funeral expenses to Kellerman’s family, along with $10,000 to the state and almost $12,000 to reimburse the landlord of the apartment he torched.
As for why he did it, prosecutors believe that Butler, whose career and relationship with his girlfriend were both sputtering, was staying at Kellerman’s home, and the two may have had a disagreement over how long he could stay. Butler, angry over possibly getting kicked out, apparently responded by bludgeoning his friend to death with a hammer, then setting his home on fire.
Javaris Crittenton had the potential to be a major NBA star. He was a standout at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy and put up good numbers as the starting point guard for Georgia Tech. In 2007, he was drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Lakers. Nice! Then he moved to Los Angeles and celebrated his newfound fame by joining a street gang.
In 2011, Crittenton’s cousin drove him around some neighborhoods in Atlanta, looking for a rival gang member that had allegedly robbed them. Crittenton fired shots, but missed the man and instead shot and killed 22-year-old Julian Jones, an innocent bystander and mother of four. As part of a plea deal, Crittenton pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Sharp-hitting outfielder Raul Mondesi enjoyed a good (at times, even great) career in Major League Baseball. His .306 batting average and 56 RBIs in 1994 won the Los Angeles Dodger the National League’s Rookie of the Year award, and the following year he won both a Gold Glove and a spot on the All-Star team. When he retired in 2005 (after stops in Toronto, Arizona, and Atlanta, among others), Mondesi had amassed a respectable .273 lifetime batting average and 271 home runs.
After baseball, Mondesi got involved in politics in his home country of the Dominican Republic, earning a spot in the Chamber of Deputies (that nation’s equivalent of our House of Representatives). Then Mondesi got elected mayor of his hometown, San Cristobal. His 2010-2016 tenure is most notable for some deep-seated corruption, according to the Dominican Republic’s justice system. In 2017, Mondesi was convicted on charges of mishandling public funds, defrauding the government of the equivalent of more than $6 million. In addition to a 10-year ban on holding public office and a fine of what works out to more than $1.25 million, a three-judge panel sentenced Mondesi to eight years in prison.
Not to be confused with Clemson standout and 2012 Pro Bowler C.J. Spiller, defensive back C.J. Spillman played in the NFL for six seasons for the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys. Primarily a reserve, he only started one game in that time, but he amassed a decent 64 tackles along the way.
Just after he signed a contract with the Cowboys in September 2014, he bought a plane ticket for a woman he says he met on one other occasion so she could join him in Dallas. The woman, whose name was not reported by the media, met up with Spillman at the Gaylord Texan resort outside Dallas, where the team was staying before a game against the St. Louis Rams. While alone in his suite, Spillman testified that she initiated sexual contact, while the woman said he forced her to do things she didn’t want to do. Police arrested Spillman and charged him with sexual assault. During the trial, Spillman and his attorneys characterized the plaintiff as a “sports groupie” who aimed to get pregnant by pro athletes so as to “generate income.” The court didn’t buy it — in 2016, Spillman was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.
A high first-round draft pick for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2004, Sebastian Telfair went straight from starring for Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School to the pros. After putting up decent numbers in his second season (9.5 points over 24 minutes per game), Telfair became an NBA journeyman, suiting up for a total of eight seasons before leaving the league in 2015 with a career 7.4 ppg average.
One night in June 2017, police in Brooklyn stopped Sebastian Telfair after witnessing him parking on a center median and then making a U-turn off of that median, all while driving without headlights. Once they stopped the car, police noticed the smell of marijuana — likely coming from the burning joint visible in the console — and a search revealed a .45-caliber handgun. As Telfair didn’t have a license to carry that particular firearm, he was arrested on a charge of criminal possession of a weapon. In August 2019, a judge sentenced Telfair to three-and-a-half years in prison, the mandatory sentence the law requires for such an offense.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Art Schlichter of Ohio State was one of the most exciting and promising quarterbacks in the country. Starting in every game of his four-year career, he threw for a total of 50 touchdowns and more than 7,500 yards. He finished high in Heisman Trophy voting three times: fourth place in 1979, sixth in 1980, and fifth in 1981. Selected #4 overall in the 1982 NFL draft, he fizzled out in the pros, playing in just 13 games and throwing for three touchdowns for the Baltimore (and then Indianapolis Colts) from 1982 to 1985. He didn’t play at all in 1983, owing to a gambling suspension by the NFL front office, an ominous sign of events to come for Schlichter.
In May 2012, a federal judge in Ohio sentenced Schlichter to a 127-month prison term. That was the final nail in the judiciary coffin for the former QB, who’d had legal and financial problems dating back 15 years. Using his stature as a former college football star and professional athlete, Schlichter promised people tickets to football games — school, pro, and even the Super Bowl. Those individuals paid Schlichter large sums of money, but he never delivered on the tickets. He didn’t have a ticket resale business at all, but instead used the money for personal expenses, like gambling and paying down outstanding debts.
From the mid-’90s to the late 2000s, Esteban Loaiza was a solid and dependable starting pitcher, albeit one who bounced around the big leagues. Over his 14-year career, he played for eight teams, amassing a respectable 126 wins and nearly 1,400 strikeouts. In 2003, he broke out big for the Chicago White Sox, rolling to 21 wins and a league-leading 207 strikeouts. That year marked his first of two All Star game selections and he came second in Cy Young Award voting.
Unfortunately, his life off the field would generate more headlines. In February 2018, San Diego County deputies found a secret compartment in Loaiza’s minivan. As that could be used to transport contraband, they obtained a search warrant for his home in Imperial Beach, California. They found a house with no furniture or possessions, but instead about 40 pounds of a white powder that proved to be cocaine. (It was a stash house, in other words.) Loaiza pleaded guilty to felony counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. In March 2019, a judge sentenced the former all-star to three years in prison, five years of probation, and, upon completion of his sentence, deportation back to his birth country of Mexico.
Malik McDowell amassed an impressive 88 tackles in just three seasons with the Spartans, which included selection to the All-Big Ten second team in 2016. After that achievement, he left school early and declared for the 2017 NFL Draft, where the Seattle Seahawks selected him with the #35 overall pick. However, weeks after the draft and before the start of training camp, McDowell sustained a head injury in an ATV accident. The team ultimately released him after two seasons; McDowell never once appeared in an NFL game. The franchise later sued him to get him to pay back his substantial signing bonus, after a court ruled his ATV accident constituted breach of contract.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t nearly the end of McDowell’s legal problems. During a February 2019 DUI stop, he fought with two police officers and was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, resisting arrest, and assault. Two months later, he was arrested for possession of a stolen pickup truck. In late 2019, an Oakland County Circuit Court judge in Michigan handed down a sentence for those offenses: 11 months in prison, plus another three years of probation. Curiously, the judge also ordered McDowell to write a series of short essays in which he would reflect on being a better person and how to avoid criminal activity.
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