49ers

How the NFL has handled players accused of DUI resulting in death

49ers
Henry Ruggs III is the fourth active NFL player over the last 25 years to be involved in a drunk-driving incident resulting in death.
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The Las Vegas Raiders announced that they had released the 22-year-old wide receiver less than 24 hours after he was charged with alleged driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in death and reckless driving, according to court documents. Police said the Chevrolet Corvette he was operating crashed at a high speed into the back of a Toyota RAV4.

The driver of the Toyota and her dog were both killed, police said. The woman has not been identified.

The Raiders released a statement earlier Tuesday saying the team was “devastated by the loss of life."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy also issued a statement, saying, “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victim of this horrific tragedy. We will continue to gather facts and monitor the matter under our policies, but our thoughts at this time are with those impacted by this devastating incident.”

Ruggs is likely to have a long journey ahead, including potential prison time, before he could have any chance of returning to the NFL — but others before have made a comeback.

 

He is the fourth active NFL player over the last 25 years to be involved in a drunk-driving incident resulting in death. In each of the previous cases, the player did not serve a long sentence in prison.

Under Nevada law, Ruggs would not be eligible for probation if he's convicted, and faces between two and 20 years in prison. The NFL could discipline him if another team attempts to sign him.

While each prior case was different, the NFL has a history of being lenient with players involved in these incidents.

What happened after Donte Stallworth pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter in 2009?

In 2009, former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter after he struck and killed a construction worker, Mario Reyes, in Miami Beach, Florida. Stallworth had a blood-alcohol level of .126 after the crash, above Florida’s .08 limit.

Stallworth, who was 28 at the time, was suspended without pay for the entire 2009 season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league’s personal conduct and substance abuse policy. He had faced the possibility of 15 years in prison, but served just 24 days of a 30-day sentence and reached a settlement with Reyes’ family to avoid a civil suit.

Stallworth was placed under house arrest for two years but given provisions to allow him to resume his football career. He was also instructed to do 1,000 hours of community service and given eight years of probation.

Stallworth returned to the NFL in 2010 and played in eight games for the Baltimore Ravens that season. He played in 11 games for the Washington Football Team in 2011 and spent his last season in the NFL with New England Patriots in 2012.

After retiring from the NFL, Stallworth became an advocate for ending impaired driving. In 2014, he spoke at the NFL’s rookie symposium, sharing his story and pleading with young athletes to not make the same mistakes he made. In 2017, he became a contributor for CNN and wrote a piece about what he did wrong and how to prevent impaired driving.

 

What discipline did Leonard Little receive from the NFL after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 1998?

Former St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in June 1998 after he hit and killed a woman, Susan Gutweiler, while driving under the influence in St. Louis. 

The accident occurred after Little’s 24th birthday party and a blood test showed Little had a blood-alcohol level of .19, nearly twice the legal limit of .10 at that time.

Little was given four years of probation, ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service and sentenced to 90 days in a city workhouse. Gutweiler’s husband said the family received a small settlement from a civil proceeding against Little.

Little was suspended for the first eight games of his 1998 rookie season by the NFL and went on to play for the Rams for 12 seasons, winning a Super Bowl in 1999 and making the Pro Bowl in 2003. He compiled 266 total tackles, 87.5 sacks and 33 forced fumbles over the course of his career.

What happened to Josh Brent's NFL career after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter?

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2014. Brent was driving home from a night of partying in December 2012 when he lost control of his car and crashed, killing his Dallas teammate, Jerry Brown, in the passenger seat.

Blood tests showed Brent’s alcohol level at .18, more than twice Texas’ legal limit of .08. Brent faced up to 20 years in prison, but was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation.

 

Following the accident, Brent stepped away from football for two years. He returned to the Cowboys in 2014, appearing in one game before retiring from the NFL in 2015.