Donte' Stallworth vs. Michael Vick: It's Better to Kill People Than Dogs

Daniel MuthSenior Analyst IJune 16, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03:  Donte Stallworth #18 of the New England Patriots takes a knee before taking on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Daniel Espinoza was 17 when he was involved in a DUI accident that claimed the life of two people in Palm Beach County, Fla.

Despite his lack of prior trouble, a strong family background, and the fact that he was a minor, he received a 24-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter. He will be over 40-years-old when he is released.

Angela Harper, who experienced the personal hell of losing her own son in a crash related to alcohol consumption (blood alcohol content of 0.11 percent), was sentenced to nine years in prison after being charged and convicted of vehicular manslaughter in Jacksonville, Fla.

Natalie Rodriques was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a DUI manslaughter in Tampa after killing a 16-year-old boy while driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.13 percent.

Donte' Stallworth, the Cleveland Browns wide receiver, plowed into 59-year-old Mario Reyes while operating his vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.126 percent in Miami and has now been sentenced to 30 days in jail.


DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony in the state of Florida and carries a sentence of five to 15 years in jail, with the average for a single death being in the 10-year minimum range. 

Not only is Stallworth’s sentence unheard of, it’s got to be a bitter pill to swallow for all the “average Joes” like Espinoza, who will be cooling his heels for a quarter-century for a mistake he made as a minor.

Stallworth could afford a driver, and he shouldn’t have even been close to the road in his condition.

What Stallworth can also afford is an “undisclosed settlement” to Reyes' family in exchange for forfeiting their right to a civil suit and apparent prosecutorial leniency.

The national outcry has been nonexistent. Stallworth is still not “indefinitely suspended” by the NFL and, in all likelihood, may end up suiting up for games this year.

In comparison to the Stallworth sentence, Michael Vick received 23 months in jail for dogfighting charges leveled against him. This exceeded both the prosecutor's recommendation of 12-18 months and the sentences received by his co-defendants Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips, who were charged with the exact same crime.

It is also worth noting that dogfighting cases are seldom even sentenced in the United States (dogs are considered property), and in the absence of an agent actually witnessing a dog fight, the circumstances of a kennel can be readily explained.

Dead dogs in the backyard? Well, dogs die, plain and simple.

You’d probably find the same scenario at any greyhound racing facility that you encountered. By quirks in the law, that behavior is perfectly legal.

Enter PETA and a media frenzy with a national outcry, and you get a harsher than standard sentence and an “example made” of a bad egg who murdered dogs without compassion.

The point of this article is not to argue sentencing laws in the United States (though clearly there needs to be some consistency), and it is not to exaggerate the seriousness of one crime while diminishing the seriousness of another.

It’s merely to find some sort of perspective in the midst of the craziness that seems to be incurrent in our legal system and society. 

We expect the mob to be fickle, and we expect the media to pander to the mob, but we expect the legal system to operate in a more reasonable fashion, apart from the whims, outrage, and indifference of a populace that is more and more ready to pass judgment without the need or want of the facts.

Was it Vick’s blood lust we were punishing, or our own we were satiating? Is it Stallworth’s crime, or his victim that we’re indifferent to? Or are we just so used to buying what the media’s selling (or not selling) that we take it with a glass of water every night without question?

In the end, Vick found himself in a rough position for a rich man to be in. There were no families of his deceased dogs that he could buy off, and he didn’t have enough money to buy off the legions of dog lovers who called for his demise (though if he did, I bet they would’ve taken it). 

There were no questions of racism that could be raised because, unlike O.J. Simpson, no one wants you to get off when you kill a dog. But if you stab a white woman, well, that’s a different story.

Old tensions rise up and muddy the issue.

There were no stories he could spin about playing around with a gun that blew away his driver because, unlike Jayson Williams, his buddies all turned against him.

And so Stallworth will be walking as a free man less than a couple months after he took the life of another.

Another human, that is.

And when the day comes when I make my million dollars and find myself in a homicidal mood, you can bet I won’t be touching a dog, or a dolphin, or a horse. No, you can bet I’ll have the good sense to kill a human...

...and then eat a pig, a cow, or a chicken for dinner.


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