In a few months from now, Jim Adenhart will see the drunk driver that killed his son. He will see him in court, where the repeat offender will be sentenced to spend most of the remainder of his natural life in prison.
In a few months from now, Bill Gutweiler will see the drunk driver that killed his wife. He will not see him in court. This repeat offender will not spend most of the remainder of his natural life in prison. For this drunk driver, 90 days, two fines, and 1,000 hours of community service was sufficient punishment for two DUI arrests, one of which resulted in a death.
The fundamental difference in the two cases is that Andrew Gallo doesn’t know how to sack the quarterback 14.5 times in a single season. Leonard Little does.
Bill Gutweiler will not see Leonard Little in court. He’ll see him from the sideline of the Edward Jones Dome, where Gutweiler works as a freelance photographer for ESPN. Three or four times a year in the decade since his wife died, Gutweiler has faced the almost surreal task of documenting for posterity’s sake the athletic accomplishment of her killer. He does it to support the son Little left motherless.
In California, a DUI manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Gallo, who struck and killed Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart and two other passengers in his vehicle last night, will see a stiffer penalty. His prior DUI makes this offense a 2nd degree murder, per the California Supreme Court case People v. Watson (1981). If found guilty of all charges levied against him by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Gallo will spend more than 50 years in prison.
Rackauckas’s decision to pursue this as a Watson murder rather than manslaughter is undoubtedly driven to a degree by the fame of one of Gallo’s victims, but it’s still the right decision. Karmically speaking, I don’t know what the exact punishment should be for taking a life when one could’ve taken a cab. My gut feeling, however, is that it’s closer to 50 years than 90 days.
I guess 14.5 sacks trumps karma.
This is the pervasiveness of permissivism in sports. We make gods of men, and in doing so ensure that they will never acquire the fear of God. I don’t claim to know whether or not the fear of God would stop Leonard Little from driving drunk again in 2004, but I do know this: if he had been punished for the first offense the way he would have if he worked at Denny’s, driving drunk in 2004 wouldn’t have even been an option – he would have still been in prison.
I watch Larry Johnson and contemplate the same idea. I don’t know whether or not the fear of God would keep Johnson from hitting another woman. Some men are just wired for domestic violence, and it can’t be coached, coaxed, or beaten out of them. I do know, however, that one of his prior arrests – the one where he brandished a handgun, for instance – would have kept him out of the Power & Light District altogether. It’s hard to make it to the bar when you’re behind bars.
But we continue to send the message that as long as an athlete keeps making big plays, he’s guilty of nothing. Helping your college team to a Bowl Game entitles you to a communications degree; 400+ carries and a Pro Bowl berth entitles you to a free pass on your first three domestic violence charges; 14.5 sacks entitles you to a cartoonish sentence reduction for plowing someone over while plowed; and 2,000 yards in a single season entitles you to kill your estranged wife and her boyfriend.
That’s a hell of a rewards system. We might want to rethink it.
It’s good that Andrew Gallo doesn’t know how to sack the quarterback 14.5 times in a single season. He’ll learn something Leonard Little never will – consequences for his actions. The only real repercussion Little has faced thus far is being elected to the Pro Bowl only once. The only other repercussion he will face in the future is never seeing his name on a Hall Of Fame ballot (which is inconsequential, as he’d never make it anyway). Gallo, by contrast, will be isolated from his friends and family forever. The few of them that haven’t died by the time he again becomes a free man will have long since forgotten him. As penance for depriving so many people of so much joy, he will forever be reviled.
Little should be so lucky. Karmically speaking, a lesson like that would do him a world of good.