OTL implicates Florida football, others for avoiding criminal punishment
College football players avoid criminal prosecution way more often than the average citizen.
That’s an ironclad truth that didn’t take an Outside The Lines (ESPN) investigation to reveal.
But an OTL investigation did uncover intricate and insightful details into the mechanisms that contribute to that truth, and the exact statistics on the percentage of successful prosecutions for each subset of the population.
The investigation focused on a sampling of 10 large programs, including Auburn, Florida, Missouri and Texas A&M. OTL documented each time football and basketball players at those schools became named suspects in crimes from 2009 to 2014, then studied whether those players were charged and prosecuted.
Of those 10 schools, Florida by far represented the most athletes named in criminal allegations. In just five years, 80 Gators football or basketball players were named as suspects in 100 different crimes. Police dropped charges or did not investigate 56 percent of the time, exactly double the comparative figure for the general college-age male population in Gainesville, Fla.
The OTL investigation revealed, among other things, that former Florida player Chris Rainey was named a suspect in five Gainesville crimes and only faced charges once. He sent a text message to a woman who was then his girlfriend in September 2010 that read, “Time to die, b—-, U and UR!” while she was at home with her 8-year-old son and sister.
Huntley Johnson, a graduate of Florida’s law school and an athletic donor who often represents the team’s players during legal issues, helped work out a deferred prosecution, reducing a charge of felony stalking to misdemeanor stalking.
This from the OTL report:
Rainey told Outside the Lines he remained wary of police, but he had confidence in Johnson to keep him, and the team, out of serious trouble: “… you still got Huntley, so, if anything happens, we got Huntley. So, he will get you out of anything, everything.”
Former Florida linebacker Ron Powell, pulled over for a lane violation in 2014, got off with a traffic warning after an officer found cocaine in his car. The officer noted in the police report that she “did not believe the cocaine was Powell’s but was likely tied to a known drug offender who lived at the same address.”
OTL found that athletes on occasion received preferential treatment, as the classic and tired narrative goes. But a number of other factors contributed to the disconnect in likelihood of prosecution: “the near-immediate access to high-profile attorneys, the intimidation that is felt by witnesses who accuse athletes, and the higher bar some criminal justice officials feel needs to be met in high-profile cases.”
Here are the number of football and basketball players at the 10 investigated schools named as suspects in criminal incidents, according to OTL (the data is incomplete for Auburn, Michigan State and Notre Dame):
Auburn: 5 percent*
Florida: 24 percent
Florida State: 18 percent
Michigan State: 15 percent*
Missouri: 14 percent
Notre Dame: 2 percent*
Oklahoma State: 11 percent
Oregon State: 18 percent
Texas A&M: 15 percent
Wisconsin: 14 percent
And here is the percentage rate of incidents involving those players that were dropped or not prosecuted:
Auburn: 32 percent
Florida: 56 percent
Florida State: 70 percent
Michigan State: 62 percent
Missouri: 38 percent
Notre Dame: 50 percent
Oklahoma State: 46 percent
Oregon State: 60 percent
Texas A&M: 60 percent
Wisconsin: 40 percent
In addition to its lengthy and thorough general report, OTL produced individual reports providing more detail into each of the investigated teams. If you’d like to read more about the four SEC programs, you may do so by following the links below: