There is no telling why some successful professional athletes turn to a life of crime after, or in some cases during, their athletic careers.
Some were born and raised in extremely dire circumstances, and were actively involved in crime their entire adult lives. Others might have suffered from emotional abuse from parents, coaches, or teammates. Still others might have had trouble controlling their extremely aggressive, competitive natures.
Whatever the reason, there are many athletes who have found themselves involved in arrests, court cases, and convictions, either during or after their careers. These are the ten most notable athletes who turned to a life of crime.
10. Eric Naposki
Eric Naposki was a linebacker and special teams player in the NFL and the World League of American Football, from 1988 to 1997. In those years, he appeared sparingly in NFL games with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, before moving to the Barcelona Dragons for two separate stints in the 1990’s.
Naposki was also involved in a love triangle with Nanette Johnston and businessman Bill McLaughlin in 1994, between his stints with the Dragons. McLaughlin was killed in December of 1994, and in 2009, a California jury found Naposki guilty of first-degree murder. The court decided that Naposki had killed McLaughlin so that Johnston could collect a sizable life-insurance policy.
With a slim chance of an NFL, or at least World League football career, Naposki instead chose to look for the easy way out with a manipulative girlfriend and a big pay day. What he found instead was life in prison, without the possibility of parole.
9. Mark Rogowski
Also known as “Gator” Mark Anthony, Rogowski was a well-known and popular skateboarder in the 1980’s. He was even featured in the music video for the Tom Petty song “Free Fallin'”.
Unfortunately, his life began to fall apart in the early 1990s, when his sponsoring company went bankrupt and he attempted a change to a strict evangelical Christianity. That religious change led to the end of a long relationship with his girlfriend Brandi McClain. Rogowski was obsessed with McClain, but was never able to confront her after the breakup.
In 1991, after spiralling for several years, Rogowski met his former girlfriend’s close friend, Jessica Bergsten, in San Diego. He showed her around the city, before bringing her back to his apartment. There, Rogowski attacked Bergsten with a “Club”, the then-famous anti-auto-theft device, and knocked her unconscious. He then raped and suffocated her, and disposed of her body in a surfboard bag in the Shell Canyon Desert.
Bergsten’s body was found a few weeks later, and Rogowski soon thereafter turned himself in. He is currently serving a 31-year sentence at Soledad State Prison in California. He was last denied parole in 2011, and is not eligible again until 2018.
8. Evangelos Goussis
Goussis was an Australian professional boxer and kickboxer. In the 1990s, Goussis was the World Kickboxing Association’s Middleweight Champion. He finished his professional boxing career with a record of 2 wins, 0 losses and 1 draw.
Goussis was also heavily involved in the Australian gangland scene. He had already served time in prison for a 1989 conviction of drug trafficking and attempted murder. In 2004, Goussis was again involved in the criminal lifestyle. From March to May 2004, Goussis was involved in the killing of two Melbourne gangsters, Lewis Caine and Lewis Moran. In both cases, the victims were shot in the head from close range.
In 2008, Goussis was sentenced to life in prison for the two killings, without a chance at parole for 33 years. He is currently being held at Barwon Prison, near Geelong, Australia, where he uses his athletic abilities to mow the lawns, and probably, win a lot of prison fights.
Goussis has also filed an appeal, alleging police misconduct in his case.
7. Warrington Phillip
Warrington Phillip was a legendary cricket bowler for Saint Kitts and Nevis, internationally known as the Leeward Islands, throughout the 1990’s. Phillip had triumphed over several of the world’s best batsmen in his career, taking their wickets with his infamous spinning abilities.
On February 16, 2006, Phillip’s wife Shermel was found dead in her car with her throat slashed. Phillip was arrested the same day, and after a lengthy trial and delayed sentencing, Phillip was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to life in prison almost exactly one year later, in February 2007. The motive was never clear, but some witnesses suggested the couple had been having marital troubles for some time.
6. James Butler
Boxers often suffer through fits of rage, and concussion-induced losses of memory and poor relationship skills. That all fits the bill with Butler, a one-time USBA super middleweight champion who ruined his career in 2001 when he landed a sucker punch after a fight with Richard Grant. At that time, Butler had a record of 20 wins, 5 losses and 0 draws. After the sucker punch, Butler was unable to box for a few years, and even spent four months in prison for assault. His last fight was in 2004, a loss.
In October 2004, Sam Kellerman, the brother of famous ESPN boxing commentator Max, and a boxing writer himself, was murdered and his house set on fire. Two weeks later, Butler was arrested and charged with murder and arson.
At trial in 2006, Butler pled down to voluntary manslaughter and arson, and was sentenced to 29 years and 4 months in prison in California. At trial, it was revealed that Butler was living with Kellerman after a falling out with his girlfriend, but Kellerman was attempting to get Butler to move out. That enraged Butler and caused him act out, killing Kellerman and then starting the fire in an attempt to cover his crime.
5. Mike Tyson
No such list would be complete without mentioning the “Baddest Man On The Planet”, Mike Tyson. The New York City boxer already had a reputation as tough, wild, and mentally unstable, throughout his early career and first marriage to actress Robin Givens. In fact, Givens had come out on national TV in 1988 and accused Tyson of physical violence and emotional abuse, as well as having mental instability.
Tyson’s violence against women came to a peak in 1991, when he was accused of a violent rape of Desiree Washington, a beauty pageant contestant. An Indiana jury found that Tyson had raped Washington, who was only 18 at the time, and he was sentenced to six years in prison. He served three, and had to register as a sex offender upon his release.
He also, famously, bit the ear of opponent Evander Holyfield, an action that resulted in a temporary suspension of his boxing license, and a loss of some of the fight purse. He was never, however, criminally charged in that incident.
Tyson has had an interesting life, and his post-boxing career has seen its ups and downs, but he might just be remembered as a violent, unstable, fighter with a history of emotional instability and substance abuse problems. He was also one of the greatest boxers the world has ever seen.
4. Tom Payne
Many of the athletes on this list were guilty of terrible crimes, but were most often singular events. They were not repeat offenders. That can not be said of Tom Payne, the former NBA basketball player and boxer.
Payne starred at the University of Kentucky in the 1969-70 season as a 7-foot, 1-inch center. He later joined the Atlanta Hawks and had a middling 1971-72 season. His career halted when, in the summer after the 1971-72 NBA season, Payne was arrested and charged with several rapes in the Atlanta area during his time with the Hawks. He served five years in a Georgia state prison for two counts of rape and one count of aggravated sodomy.
After serving his time in Georgia, he was extradited to Kentucky for more rape charges from his college time. After another five years spent in jail in Kentucky, Payne was released from prison in 1983 and moved to California to try acting and boxing.
While living in Los Angeles in 1986, Payne was caught in the act of raping a woman. This lead to a 14-year jail term in California, for the rape and violating parole from the Kentucky conviction. After his release in 2000, Payne was sent back to Kentucky for 15 additional years for violating his parole. He is set to be released this year.
3. Rae Carruth
Carruth was a gifted wide receiver at University of Colorado – Boulder before he was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the NFL Draft in 1997. He had a solid rookie season, then suffered a foot injury in the first game of his second season, which forced him to miss the remainder of that year. He was on his way to another good year in 1999, when he was suddenly missing from team meetings and practices.
On November 16, 1999, Carruth’s girlfriend Cherica Adams was shot in a drive-by style shooting on the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina. The shooter was Van Brett Watkins, a friend of Carruth’s. Adams phoned the police, alleging that Carruth had stopped his car in front of her and allowed Watkins to pull the trigger from beside her. Both Carruth and Watkins then fled the scene.
Adams was pregnant at the time, and alleged that Carruth wanted her to abort the pregnancy, and when she refused, hired Watkins to kill her. Adams died on December 14, and Carruth fled the state. He was found a day later, hiding in the trunk of a car outside a motel, with candy bars, a change of clothes, and bottles of his urine.
Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. The jury did not find him guilty of first-degree murder, which spared him the death penalty. In January 2001, Carruth was sentenced to a term between 18 to 24 years in prison. He is currently being held at Tyrrell Prison Work Farm in Columbia, North Carolina. He could be released as early as October 22, 2018.
2. Marvin Harrison
Harrison played 12 seasons in the NFL, all with the Indianapolis Colts, and only missed 18 games in all that time. He was always seen as a quiet leader, rarely showboated after scoring touchdowns, and was a shining example for other young receivers.
Except, he was likely also running a Philadelphia criminal enterprise, during and after his NFL career. He was the owner of several Philadelphia businesses, and got into an altercation with a drug dealer, Dwight Dixon, who was denied entry into one of Harrison’s businesses, a bar called Playmakers.
Dixon was shot at that night, allegedly by Harrison himself or an associate, but managed to escape. Six months later, Dixon was gunned down, and killed, while sitting in a car a few blocks away from Playmakers. Again, Harrison was a suspect, and gun registered to Harrison was suspected to be the one used in the incident. Either Marvin or his cousin Lonnie were the likely shooters, but this was never able to be proven in court.
In 2014, Harrison was fired at, but escaped, in a burglary incident late at night on a Philadelphia street.
While many of the other athletes on this list are low-level trigger men or rage-driven killers, Harrison appears to be a kingpin, having a murder arranged and separating himself far enough to appear innocent. Whatever Harrison’s role in the death of Dwight Dixon and shooting injury of another man, the allegations will never go away, but Harrison will likely never spend a day in jail.
1. Aaron Hernandez
The story of Aaron Hernandez is long, twisted, and at times both sad and rage-inducing. A one-time star with the New England Patriots, Hernandez rose to fame as an athletic and sure-handed tight end, partnering with Rob Gronkowski for the most proficient tight-end receiving duo in NFL history, one that could have continued to this day.
Unfortunately, Hernandez also had a history of violent crimes. His criminal history began as a 17-year-old in Gainesville, Florida, where he was a freshman tight end for the Florida Gators football team. In April 2007, Hernandez punched a bar employee after being asked to leave for being underage, as he was only 17-years-old at the time. The charges were deferred in that case. Later that same year, a shooting took place outside a Gainesville nightclub, where three men were shot. The victims reported seeing a “Hispanic” male with arm tattoos fire the gun, a description that matched Hernandez. That is still unproven, however.
Two men were killed in July 2012, in Boston, when an assailant opened fire into their car. In May 2014, it was proven in court that Hernandez was the shooter in that case.
In the summer of 2013, Alexander Bradley was shot in Miami. He refused to name his assailant, as Bradley was a friend of Hernandez’s, but police believe Hernandez wanted Bradley dead as he was a witness in the previous shooting in Boston. Hernandez was subsequently found guilty of witness intimidation for shooting Bradley.
Less than a week after the Bradley shooting, Massachusetts police began searching Hernandez’s North Attleboro mansion, looking for a connection to the death of Odin Lloyd, another friend of Hernandez. Lloyd’s body was found about a mile away from the Hernandez home, with multiple gunshot wounds.
In April 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of first degree murder in the death of Odin Lloyd. With additional charges stemming from the previous incidents, Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison without parole, in a Massachusetts maximum security prison.
The life of crime can be tempting to people coming from tough, dire circumstances. But for athletes with a life of travel, luxury, and money on the horizon, it seems insane that these athletes chose to turn to criminal activity. But hopefully their stories can be cautionary tales for young men and women entering professional sports.
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