Stallworth Deserves Harsh Punishment

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Somebody recently asked me what I thought about Donte Stallworth’s “punishment” for killing 59-year-old Mario Reyes with his Bentley while driving drunk on a March Miami morning.

Stallworth, the former Patriots wide receiver, will serve a 30-day
jail sentence and two years of probation as part of a plea bargain. If
found guilty, he was looking at a possible 15-year jail sentence.

My first thought: Donte bought himself one darn good attorney.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell agreed, suspending Stallworth indefinitely on Thursday. If Donte doesn’t agree with it, he can always call Adam “Pac Man” Jones
to commiserate.  For as Pac Man can attest, the commish simply doesn’t
mess around when it comes to the integrity of his league.

Before going any further, let me be clear about this: Donte
Stallworth is not a horrible person; he just chose to do a horrible
thing.

As almost anyone who covered Stallworth in 2007 with the Patriots
will tell you, he is personable and engaging. He’s not a troublemaker,
at least not like Pac Man Jones, whose next smart decision will be his
first.

But the rules shouldn’t bend just because you’re a good guy.

Good guys use poor judgment, too.

On the morning of the fatal accident, Stallworth finished up a night
of drinking at a Miami Fountainbleau hotel bar and chose to get into
his car. Witnesses said Reyes, who was crossing the street at 7:15 a.m.
to catch a bus after work, was not in a crosswalk when Stallworth hit
him.

Yes, it was Donte who flashed his lights to warn Reyes. And it was Donte who called for help and cooperated with police.

But it was Stallworth who was drunk when he got behind the wheel.
And now it is Donte who must accept that because of his actions, a man
is dead.

In handing down the suspension, Goodell made it clear that he wasn’t
going to let Stallworth off easy, as many believe the Miami legal
system did.

“The conduct reflected in your guilty plea resulted in the tragic
loss of life and was inexcusable,” Goodell wrote in a letter to
Stallworth. “While the criminal justice system has determined the legal
consequences of this incident, it is my responsibility as NFL
commissioner to determine the appropriate league discipline for your
actions, which have caused irreparable harm to the victim and his
family, your club, your fellow players and the NFL.”

For what it’s worth, Stallworth says he fully accepts the
punishment, adding that he’ll carry this burden for the rest of his
life. His current team, the Cleveland Browns, has yet to indicate plans
to cut ties with Stallworth, though they approached the NFL draft and
the offseason as if they intended to.

In 1998, St. Louis Rams defensive lineman Leonard Little pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the drunken driving accident that killed Susan Gutweiler. He served an eight-game suspension without pay, a penalty that was heavily criticized at the time for being too light.

When Goodell levied an indefinite suspension on the Cowboys’ Jones
(a second one) last season, he ultimately returned after sitting for
six games.

Expect the commissioner to use this incident as an example to
players in his league that drunken driving will not be tolerated. The
talk is that Stallworth could sit for at least a season, if not two.

Some of you — fans and players alike — might whisper that such a
suspension seems too long, that it might cost Stallworth his career.

Just remember that Donte’s actions cost a man his life.

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