In recent years there have been a few notable NFL players who have dealt with legal trouble. Ben Roethlisberger allegedly locked himself and a young lady in a bar washroom while members of his entourage ran interference at the door. Plaxico Burress was released from prison in 2011 after an incident in which he shot himself in the leg in a nightclub while carrying a concealed weapon. Even Ray Lewis, despite all of his tirades about the grace of God, was involved in a murder trial after an altercation in which two men were killed. I guess God really is amazing when you have piles of money and a platoon of lawyers to defend you after giving a misleading statement to the police.
Other players who have been found to be using drugs are usually just dealt a fine or suspension. Also, when players encounter other types of legal trouble, many are able to hire legal teams that can work magic. The greatest example of this is O.J. Simpson whose legal team helped him out of a double homicide. He gets an honorable mention on this list, however, because although he dodged the legal system’s bullet in the early to mid-90s, he was not so successfully defended following his robbery in Vegas in 2007. Another honorable mention is Aaron Hernandez. He hasn’t been tried yet, but if he is convicted for the murder with which he has been charged, he could definitely be on a later edition of this list. Here is a list of the longest prison sentences dealt to NFL players.
10. Art Schlichter: 16+ Years – Forgery, Fraud and Theft
A 4-year starter at Ohio State, Art Schlichter was drafted 4th in the 1982 draft by the Baltimore Colts (who went to Indianapolis 2 years later). He ended up as a backup in his first year and was considered by many to be the Colts’ future at quarterback. His career was ultimately unsuccessful both because he ended up not being the fantastic quarterback he was with the Buckeyes, but also because of a lifelong gambling addiction. It started when he was at Ohio State and only became intensified once he entered the professional leagues. He played 3 years in the NFL, half a season in the CFL and found most of his success in the Arena Football League. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 1997, but was released in 2007. Unfortunately, four years later he encountered further trouble with the law after participating in a fraudulent sports ticket operation. This time he was given 10 years.
9. Eugene Morris: 20 Years (Only Served 3) – Drug Trafficking
“Mercury” Morris had a very respectable career with the Miami Dolphins. He played for the Fish for seven years and during that time he was known for his explosive and quick running style, playing as both a running back and return specialist. He was selected to three Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls. His career ended after one unsuccessful season with the Chargers. In 1982, he was found guilty of cocaine trafficking, which came with a 20 year sentence, with 15 years mandatory. Lawyers to the rescue though, not to worry! I won’t bore you with all the details, but his original trial was declared a mistrial due to the fact that, as his defense argued, he was a victim of entrapment. He was granted another trial and upon entering a plea bargain with the prosecution, he was released from prison having served 3 years of his sentence.
8. Stanley Wilson Sr.: 22 Years – Burglary, 3rd Strike
Wilson was primarily used as a fullback by the Bengals in the mid to late 80’s, but his career was consistently in a state of flux due to alleged frequent cocaine use. He did not participate in the 1985 or 1987 seasons due to suspension. In 1989, Wilson was going to be in the Super Bowl, but unfortunately he was found before the game, in the locker room bathroom high as a kite. He was subsequently banned from the league, having committed his 3rd drug offense. After the end of his football career, the drugs and convictions kept coming, culminating in 1999 when he was found to have stolen over $100,000 worth of property. In that year he was sentenced to 22 years by the State of California for burglary.
7. Rae Carruth: 24 Years – Conspiracy to Commit Murder
This one is just plain awful. Rae Carruth was casually dating Cherica Adams in 1999, about two years into his professional career, where he was playing wide receiver for the Panthers. Adams was pregnant with his child, which he did not wish to father. According to CNNSI.com, she refused to have an abortion, and was subsequently ambushed and shot in her car in what prosecutors were able to prove was a conspiracy thought up by Carruth and two co-conspirators. Both of the men who carried out the shooting were also convicted. Although Cherica Adams did die of her injuries, the unborn child was delivered via caesarian section and lived. Carruth is still in prison, scheduled for potential release in 2018.
6. Robert Rozier: 25 to life – Murder and Check Kiting
If the story of Rae Carruth was upsetting and genuinely disturbing, Robert Rozier’s tale is twisted and more than a bit confusing. Rozier had a very short football career, lasting only six games for the Cardinals before he was cut from the team due to drug related problems. After the end of his football career he joined a black supremacy group led by the infamous Hulon Mitchell, better known as Yahweh ben Yahweh. In order to officially belong to his “Brotherhood”, one had to kill a “white devil” (white person). Rozier admitted to murdering seven, and after testifying against the “Brotherhood” he was sentenced to 22 years in prison, only serving ten. Later on, he was found to have cashed numerous bad checks. In light of this being hi 3rd strike, he was given 25 to life. I’ll repeat that; murder seven people and tell on your cult leader: 22 years (but really 10). Write bad cheques: 25 to life because you did bad stuff before.
5. Dave Meggett: 30 Years – Criminal Sexual Conduct and Burglary
Meggett was one of the better return specialists of the early to mid-1990’s, and still holds the #2 spot for most punt return yards of all time. He won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice. Along with being a solid returner, he was also a substitute running back and was known to line up as a receiver when it was called for. Unfortunately, his reliable play on the field did not translate into his being a good citizen off the field. In 2006, he was convicted of sexual battery (only a misdemeanor in North Carolina) which translated into two years’ probation. In 2009, he sexually assaulted and robbed a 21 year old woman. He was convicted in 2010 to a prison term of 30 years. Looking at this New York Post article, it is interesting that the title is “Giants Super Bowl Hero Meggett gets 30 years for Rape Conviction” and how athlete criminals are remembered sometimes. Seems almost like the guy is being glorified in spite of his heinous crime.
4. Lawrence Phillips: 31 Years – Assault…Lots of Assault
Phillips was the 6th pick in the 1996 draft by the St. Louis Rams. People thought he was going to do great things in St. Louis but ultimately he was misbehaved in college and continued that trend during his professional career. He spent time in jail while with the Rams and after being traded to Miami, he dealt with legal troubles again after assaulting a woman in a bar. He was ultimately unsuccessful in the NFL and played with some success in the Arena Football League and CFL, but was ultimately too much of a loose cannon off the field to be a viable asset on the field. Then in 2005, he drove a car into a group of teenagers following a dispute in a park and in that same year, he brutally assaulted his then-girlfriend, allegedly choking her to the point of loss of consciousness. For these crimes he was sentenced to 31 years and because both crimes caused serious injury to people he is required to serve 85% of his term regardless of good behavior.
3. Darryl Henley: 41 Years – Drug Trafficking and Conspiracy to Commit Murder
Darryl Henley was a half decent corner back who played for the L.A. Rams back in the early 90’s. He played in 76 games over his five seasons and was able to rack up a respectable 247 tackles and 12 interceptions. Overall, he could have been worse as an NFL corner. In 1995, he was charged with cocaine trafficking. Here’s where this story gets insane. He tried to hire hit men to kill not only the main witness at the trial but also the presiding judge. His plot was found out and rather than just a cocaine charge he was hit with an attempted conspiracy to commit murder charge, totaling 41 years in prison. It sounds reasonable right? If you’re in trouble, have the people who hold your fate in their hands murdered. I guess that’s another example of that sneaky old thing called risk and reward.
2. Eric Naposki: Life in Prison; No Chance for Parole – First Degree Murder
Naposki had a lackluster career in the NFL, playing two years with the Patriots and one season with the Colts before heading off to the World League of American Football, playing for the Barcelona Dragons for four seasons. In 1994, Eric Naposki murdered a man by the name of Bill McLaughlin in Newport, California, so that McLaughlin’s girlfriend; Nanette Johnson, could collect on his life insurance policy. Neither was arrested for this crime until 2009. In 2012, both were sentenced to life in prison without parole.
1. Keith Wright: 234 Years – You Name it
Another sub par NFL career turns into a great career in crime. Wright was tossed from 2nd string to practice squad over and over between 2003 and 2006. He played for the Buccaneers, Texans, Colts and Lions and briefly in NFL Europe before his career came to an end. In 2011, he was arrested in connection with a home invasion and sexual assault case. After a bit of digging, police connected him to other crimes that had occurred in the Sacramento area including assault, armed robbery, kidnapping, burglary, and false imprisonment. Overall, he was found guilty of 19 different crimes, hence the two century sentence.
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