Weighing In: Donte Stallworth

By now everyone has heard about the plea deal Donte Stallworth and the State of Florida agreed upon for his traffic incident where a pedestrian was killed. If you just read the headlines, which are scripted similar to, “NFL’s Stallworth gets 30 days in jail for a DUI resulting in the death of a pedestrian,” and immediately close your browser, it sounds like the gravest miss-carriage of justice, EVER. Outside of the written word, ESPN and ESPN News touch on the story by announcing that “Stallworth was given only 30 days in jail for killing a pedestrian while intoxicated.” How could Florida pander to an NFL football star in the way it has? How could Michael Vick get years in prison for killing dogs and Stallworth gets 30 days? How is Donte Stallworth any different than the person who crashed into Angles’ pitcher Nick Adenhart?

Looking at the facts, or reading complete articles in this case will reveal to us why this isn’t the worst injustice since O.J. went free.

The Facts:

  • Donte Stallworth had a BAC of 0.12 driving in the left lane on the MacArthur Causeway.
  • The MacArthur Causeway is 6 lanes, 3 traveling in each direction.
  • The victim, trying to catch a bus was running across a section MacArthur that did not have a cross walk.
  • Stallworth flashed his lights at the victim before he was struck.
  • After striking the victim, Stallworth came to a stop and called 911 immediately.
  • During and after the incident Stallworth has cooperated with investigators and the wishes of the victim's family.

The facts above that make this case different from other cases are the ones that place the victim, Mario Reyes, in a place where he wasn’t supposed to be. Now before I go further, I want to acknowledge that Stallworth made an extremely bad decision when he decided to get behind the wheel of his car having the equivalent of 4-5 beers in his system. There is no reason, especially for someone with money and resources to spare, not to grab a cab, call a friend, or do anything that keeps them from being behind the wheel of a car in that situation. With that said, a person trying to run across 3 lanes of traffic outside of a crosswalk could be hit by anyone, intoxicated or not.

Some argue that if Stallworth had time to flash his lights then he should have had plenty of time to avoid Reyes altogether. If Stallworth had not been intoxicated he would have had more time to react. That’s definitely possible, but to use that defense, one must also consider the other possibilities. Most traffic lanes are about 12ft. wide. A person walking casually could clear that distance in about two seconds. That leads me to believe that if Reyes was in Stallworth's lane when Stallworth flashed his lights, there was either less than two seconds to react to seeing Reyes, or that Reyes was standing still in the lane. A third senario would have Reyes coming from the far right lane towards the median. In that case it's more likely Stallworth flashed his lights before Reyes was in the left lane (as he was crossing the 2 outer lanes), Reyes didn't notice the flash and Stallworth ultimately does not stop in time. None of the reports I can find specifically state where on the causeway the incident happened, but I would believe one of the above scenarios is close to accurate based on what I have been able to put together.

The victim being in a precarious place is what makes this case different than Vick’s or Adenhart’s. With Vick, people need to remember that he didn’t go to jail for killing dogs. Vick went to jail for running a multi-state gambling operation and lying to the Federal Government about it. The drunk driver who ran into the car Adenhart was riding in, had a suspended license for a previous DUI, ran a red light, plowed into a stopped vehicle, fled the scene, and has now pled Not-Guilty in the case.

Stallworth, for what it’s worth, has also done everything right since the incident occurred. He started by giving full disclosure about what happened the moment Cops arrived on the scene. He told police where he had been and how much he had to drink. More importantly, Stallworth has not tried to buck the system. He pled guilty, and has already worked out compensation for Reyes family. According to CNN, “Stallworth reached an ‘amicable’ financial settlement with the Reyes family” and will have to adhere to the following:

  • 30 days in Jail
  • Lifetime license suspension.
  • 8 years probation
  • Must submit to random drug testing and drug and alcohol counseling for the entirety of his probation
  • 2 years house arrest – Allowed to play NFL Games

Roger Goodell has also come forward and said that Donte Stallworth has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL. Chris Mortensen has said that he thinks that this suspension will be longer than year possibly 2 or 3. I however, do not think that will be the case. If Stallworth doesn’t play football then the Reyes family won’t be able to collect on the money they have agreed to. The terms were not disclosed, but I would assume that it is in millions of dollars over a given amount of years. If Stallworth is in prison, he won’t make the millions that he will need to pay the Reyes family. Vick went bankrupt after being in jail for a little under two years. I don’t see that happening in this situation. I feel a year suspension would be on the high side.

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