Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Gun thief spared prison because he's an athlete

What do you think would happen to you if you were 18 or 19 and got caught breaking into a house and stealing guns? Or even if you weren't 18 yet?

These days, if you're not a star athlete, you'd be pretty much finished. You'd do a few years in the state pen at least. But if you are a star athlete, laws go plumb out the window.

In Covington, Kentucky, a young man admitted that he and his cousin broke into a house and stole numerous rifles and shotguns. The home belonged to a former coach at Holmes High School, where the gun thief was a star football player. For this crime, the young man was facing 5 to 10 years in prison.

But it turned out that he had a full football scholarship at the University of Kentucky. So his high school intervened and asked the court to give him a hand slap. Naturally, the court let him off easy because he's an athlete. He got only 2 months in jail, plus some restitution, community service, and probation.

He would have been 18 or 19 when he stole the guns, so he was legally an adult. But he got a lighter punishment than a juvenile who is not an athlete would have received for the same crime. When his probation is over, most gun thieves would be only halfway through their prison term. Five to 10 years is stiffer than what I think is necessary, but is it fair to have this twin-tiered "justice" system that mollycoddles athletes and locks everyone else up to rot? Most 19-year-old men don't get a second chance after burglarizing a house to steal guns.

In fact, most people don't even get a second chance after anything. Some folks in Texas are facing up to 3 years just for buying over-the-counter allergy medicine, even though I haven't seen any proof they intended to use it for illicit purposes.

What's just as astonishing in the case of the gun thief is his school intervening on his behalf. Is this what my alma mater has stooped to? I guess this is just another aspect of the decline of what used to be one of the few decent schools I ever attended.

What message does this send? All it does is let athletes know they won't get punished too severely if they break the law. If someone commits a crime, they'll know their school has their back - as long as they were a star athlete.

Maybe the fact that he got a light sentence is partly society's fault for tolerating this double standard for years because school sports has attained such cult-like status.

(I also think athletic scholarships should be abolished, especially with tuition for everyone else skyrocketing, but that's another matter.)


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