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USA Today's Wild Expose on Athlete Sentencing

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USA Today unleashed a massive package on disparaties and problems with the sentencing of athletes convicted of crimes. The central hook of writers Michael McCarthy and Jodi Upton seems to be the Monday sentencing of John Green, the nice fellow who threw the beer cup on Ron Artest.

Green got 30 days in jail, two years of probation and a $500 fine. Green can, however, work during daylight hours during the jail sentence, which apparently started Monday.

Artest, meanwhile, got 50 hours of community service (which he will take care of this summer at a youth basketball clinic, apparently at The Palace and apparently with the other Pacers - Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen Jackson, David Harrison and Anthony Johnson - sentenced to community service), a year of probation and a $250 fine. (And yes, that should be one hell of a clinic, what with Ron-Ron and Main-Main's falling out. Awesome.)

USA Today's McCarthy and Upton, at least in this particular story (their arguments concerning Kurt Busch and DeShawn Stevenson, as seen in the main bar, seem more reasoned), completely miss the reason why the punishments were so disparate.

That reason? Green's absolutely horrible attorney: Shawn Patrick Smith.

I ain't passed the bar, but I know a little bit. Enough to know this lawyer is absolute sh*t.

On his website, Smith touts that he helped get a woman who blew .26 (three times the legal limit) off on a technicality. And he unleashes this hellacious quote on the Green sentencing:

Shawn has stated for the record, he will fight until blood comes from his eyes!

I would pay to see that.

Anyways, in the USA Today story, here's what the good lawyer - Shawn "The Law" Smith - has to say:

This is the same thing that goes on every day in the justice system -- if you're rich and powerful, you get away with murder.

Smith errs a bit in not fully explaining himself. What he means is that when you're rich/powerful, you can get a decent lawyer. When you have a decent lawyer, you don't get sent to jail for simple assault.

Smith is really just arguing that he is a crappy lawyer, which is something we can all see plainly. It is kind of funny hearing it come from the horse's mouth, though.

Smith is the only attorney in the whole brawl fiasco who let his client go to trial (as far as I know - all the players involved definitely plead and I believe all/most of the other fans did so as well). There's no doubt in my mind that Green would've gotten off with community service and probation had his moron-of-a-lawyer worked out a settlement with the D.A. instead of insisting on a trial and pushing hard for an opportunity to question Ron-Ron in court.

(Although, Smith would've gotten tons of spotlight had Ron-Ron been forced to testify against Green in court. And for hack defense attorneys, spotlight is money. Well-played, I guess.)

Anyways, McCarthy and Upton also ignore Artest's biggest punishment in this story: a definite $5 million in salary, and untold amounts of cash in future basketball contracts. (The writers mention the penalty in the main bar, where they try to flesh out what the best penalties for athletes gone wrong should be. I tend to think the penalty - 73 games, $5 million and an eternally marred reputation in the prime of your career - fits Ron-Ron's crime here. Which makes this particular story even more unconscionable. If that's a word.)

So, what this story really should have said is:

John Green hired a horrible lawyer, who insisted on going to trial. He went to trial, and was sentenced to jail time. He would've been better off with a public defender. But alas, he made a dumb choice and picked the most ridiculous lawyer available, one who had no concern for his client, instead looking for some publicity. Now, he pays for it. Lesson learned.

And I'm almost sure that's what anyone who's followed the ordeal thinks, including McCarthy and Upton. But why tell the truth when you can print the conventional wisdom - "Artest is a bad rich guy who got off, Green is the poor middle-class guy who made a mistake at a basketball game and got screwed by the system. Something must be done!"

Give me a break. I mean, that's not even a better story than the truth! It's bland, it's cliche. It's useless.

McCarthy and Upton do make up for it, at least partially, with a glowing account of how Chris Webber did good by his judge and turned his community service sentence into meaningful mentoring for Detroit children. Of course we all know how great a citizen Chris Webber was while here in Sactown, but it's good to see him get recognized for it elsewhere, too. He realized he made a mistake, he admitted it, and he made it right. That's what judges and district attorneys should be looking for in working out plea deals with "bad" athletes - turn a tragic moment into a magic moment.

In their quest for the silver bullet of athlete punishment, McCarthy and Upton need to look directly at this example (and Dany Heatley's, which is explained in the main bar) and hoist it on a flagpole, instead of wasting time feeling sorry for John Green.