The Arrest of Sam Hurd and the Trials of Drug Sentencing

The Bears’ receiver and special-teams captain faces a maximum of 40 years and a $5 million fine if he’s convicted of drug trafficking. But if his football predecessors in the drug trade are any indication, expect a lighter sentence.

Sam Hurd Bears

 

Today’s big news is Sam Hurd’s drug bust—he’s facing up to 40 years and a $5 million fine. Among the more notable disclosures in the criminal complaint is that not only was Hurd arrested for allegedly attempting to buy four kilos of cocaine, it’s said that Hurd disclosed he and a co-conspirator were already distributing that much per week, about $100,000 worth. (Even at wholesale prices, that’s considerably more than Hurd makes playing for the Bears.)

In the Tribune, Jason Meisner writes:

Unlike other athletes who have drawn headlines for relatively minor drug offenses, Hurd’s case is striking in that the charges against him portray him as what cops would consider a major player in the drug world.

As part of the Trib’s package, Dan Pompei rounded up some of those NFL drug offenses, from former Bear Bam Morris to Packer Johnny Jolly. What’s interesting about Pompei’s roundup is the distribution of sentences.

Bam Morris: Convicted twice of drug offenses, the first for four kilos of marijuana and a gram of cocaine (resulting in a fine, community service, and probation), the second for attempting to distribute 100 pounds of marijuana. He was sentenced to ten years in prison, and served less than three.

Travis Henry: Three years in prison, $4 million fine for trafficking 15 pounds of cocaine (six kilos); the fine was waived, as Henry had no money to pay it.

Jamal Lewis: Four months in prison for brokering a deal to acquire acquire five kilos.

Compare that to Johnny Jolly, who received six years in prison (though he could be paroled earlier) for possession of 200 grams of codeine—a lot of codeine, several months worth for a serious addict, which Jolly was, but with no charges on distribution.

Hurd faces a substantial amount of time in prison; in 2001, according to the Kennedy Commission, the average drug trafficking sentence was a bit over six years. But the likelihood that he’ll serve that, if his predecessors are any guide, seems low. Morris, Henry, and Lewis all took plea deals, as did Nate Newton, who was arrested with 175 pounds of marijuana just six weeks after posting bail… after first being arrested with 213 pounds of marijuana in his car. Newton served two years and eight months. Years of Hurd’s life will depend on how he, and his lawyers, choose to approach the case.

 

Photograph: Chicago Tribune

 

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