Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

August 2010 Archives

McCourt Divorce to Decide Who Owns the Dodgers

Los Angeles, a wealthy couple with ownership of a baseball team, an alleged affair, divorce, forged documents...it's all in the McCourt case happening in Los Angeles. It looks like Tarnished Twenty is going to start off strong this week.

Jamie and Frank McCourt met at Georgetown in 1979. Jamie practiced family law and Frank worked in real estate. The two eventually became extremely wealthy buying property in the Boston area. Eventually they became interested in buying a baseball team and purchased the Dodgers. However, things fell apart in recent years. Before the McCourt divorce, they were allegedly living above even their means and Jamie was allegedly having an affair with a former Dodgers employee.

 $11M Penalty for Website that Defamed Bengals Cheerleader

Dirty World Entertainment Recordings, operator of thedirty.com, has been hit with a judgment of $11 million for libel and defamation. According to the judgment by U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman, the site posted false and malicious statements about Bengals Cheerleader Sarah Jones The judgment was for $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. The company failed to respond to the lawsuit in February.

Jones alleged that pictures of her were posted on the thedirty.com along with the statement that she had sex with members of the Bengals football team and that the Bengals cheerleader had venereal diseases. The suit also listed Hooman Karamian, AKA, "Nik Ritchie" as a defendant. Karamian operates the site.

OSU Player Tased, Arrested After Being Found Naked and Drunk

I'm sure there is a lesson to be learned in all of this...

Tyler Patrick Thomas, an Oregon State University football player, wandered naked and drunk into the wrong house. For a night cap, the police showed up and treated the 19 year-old offensive lineman to a Tasering and arrest. Police accused him of first-degree criminal trespass, second-degree criminal mischief and resisting arrest. He has since been dismissed from the football team.

According to the Corvallis Police Department, at 4:51 a.m. police responded to a call from a 32 year-old woman. The woman reported that there was a naked man in the upstairs office of her residence. Officers quickly arrived on the scene and ordered Thomas to lie down on the floor. Thomas refused leading the way to getting the OSU player tased. The story took a simultaneously hilarious and painful turn, befitting a Hollywood screenplay rather than real life.

Jayson Williams Gets An Extra Year in Jail for DWI Charge

And One.

Jayson Williams, Former all-star of the New Jersey Nets pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DWI charge stemming from a January crash. Williams was at nearly two and a half times the legal limit when he drove off the road and hit a tree. The judge sentenced Williams to an additional year behind bars for the charge.

Williams was already serving five years behind bars in the fatal shooting of his chauffeur, Costas Christofi, in 2002, then going to extreme lengths to try to cover it up. He allegedly put the gun in the drivers hands, wiped off the fingerprints, removed his clothes and jumped into his swimming pool. He attorney said that he panicked. His first trial ended with a mistrial on the main charge. Williams eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of aggravated assault and settled a multimillion-dollar wrongful death suit with the family of the driver.

Indictment for Former Yankee Pitcher Roger Clemens

The years since 2008 must have passed for former pitcher Roger Clemens like one long, slow walk to the locker room after a particularly tough game. Since his testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in February of '08, investigations based on his statements have been on-going. In the last 18 months, a grand jury investigation has reviewed witnesses and evidence against him. Now, on August 19, an indictment against Clemens has been announced. The former pitcher is charged with one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements, and two counts of perjury.

The ordeal began for Clemens in 2008 with his Congressional testimony. He denied to the committee that he had ever used performance enhancing drugs with contradicting testimony coming from his former trainer, Brian McNamee, reports The Washington Post. McNamee made a deal with federal authorities and to avoid prosecution for steroid distribution.

Skater Nicole Bobek Gets 5 Years Probation in Crystal Meth Case

The fall from grace always seems a little more tragic when it involves the more theatrical sports. The juxtaposition between beautiful costumes full of sequins and color seems so harsh compared to prison orange and a makeup-less mug shot. Former American figure skater Nicole Bobek is no exception. Dubbed as America's best chance for Olympic Gold in 1998, Bobek will now be serving five years probation for charges stemming from her crystal meth case, reports MSNBC.

Looking at her mugshot, Bobek commented, "It was very sureal. When I look at it now I was in a complete haze and you can see that. I was not under the influence when the picture was taken, but I was absolutely a different person." The photo of the skater shows the toll that years of drug and alcohol abuse took on Bobek. During her skating prime, Bobek's barbie-doll looks helped her to rake in $300,000 a year in endorsement deals. Hardly recognizable in her 2009 mugshot, Bobek tells MSNBC that she has been drug-free for thirteen months now.

5 Sports Legal Issues That Won't Go Away

It's been a busy 2010 at Tarnished Twenty. Their super hero physique might make you believe otherwise, but athletes are human like the rest of us. This year they have certainly given us a lot of repeat topics. Let's look at some of the most recurring sports legal issues of the year.

Contract Disputes

"Show me the money!" Sure, they might love the game, but it's still a job and pros want to get paid. In July we had a post about new USC coach Lane Kiffin who was in a dispute with Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher accused Kiffin of "poaching" one of his coaches. That didn't phase Kiffin, he's certainly been accused of worse.

Only in sports law do contract disputes involve grown men dressed as Pierogi. The Pittsburgh Pirates fired one of their mascots for criticizing the contracts of the team's general manager and head coach.

AR Sports Radio's Renee Gork Fired for Wearing Florida Hat

In Episode 37 of Seinfeld, "The Letter," which first aired in 1992, Elaine was kicked out of a Yankees game for wearing a Baltimore Orioles baseball hat in the Yankees owner's box. It seemed fairly unlikely that someone would be kicked out of a game just for wearing a hat, but it made for good TV.

However Renee Gork, an Arkansas sports radio reporter, upped the ante when she was fired for wearing a Florida hat to Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino's press conference. Gork graduated from Florida and said it was an innocent mistake. She said that she grabbed the hat in a rush because it was raining. She sent a letter of apology to Petrino, who was bothered by the hat. He remarked at the news conference that he would not answer questions from Gork while she had the Gators hat on.

Mets' Francisco Rodriguez Charged with Assault

Athletes have been known to have their fair share of brushes with the law. Some of it stems from the fame, some from the violence of the game. Some of it relates to the family.

New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, 28, made it for a strange Wednesday after being charged with assault, on his father-in-law, at Citi Field, according the Lt. Mike Wysokowski. His father in law was seen with "facial abrasions" and was taken out of the stadium on a stretcher, loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital. Rodriguez has been charged with third-degree assault, Wysokowski said. Third-degree assault has a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail as a Class A misdemeanor.

Jancy Thompson Sues Coach, USA Swimming Over Alleged Abuse

A lawsuit alleges that USA Swimming coach Norman Havercroft sexually abused, harassed and humiliated a female teenage swimmer for over five years. The lawsuit, brought by Jancy Thompson against the coach, West Valley Swim Club and Pacific Swimming alleges that the abuse began when she was about 15 years-old, beginning in the 1990s. The suit further alleges that Havercroft abused another female swimmer and that USA Swimming was aware of the abuse and did not fire Havercroft. Further, Thompson alleges that she witnessed Havercroft touch and massage several other underage females in an inappropriate manner.

Jancy Thompson is 28 now, has graduated from the police academy and focuses on gang intervention for a nonprofit organization. "I was robbed of my childhood and never performed to my full capabilities," she said, the Associated Press reports. "I want to ensure that no one has to endure what I went through and carry such a burden the rest of their lives."

Former NFL Star Charged With Murder of Bill McLaughlin

Two men, one a retired police detective and one a former NFL linebacker, are both coming out of retirement to be back in the news. However, only the detective is going to be in any way pleased about it. Retired Newport Beach Detective Thomas Voth will be preparing for the murder trial of former Colts and Patriots linebacker Eric Naposki and his former girlfriend, Nanette Packard McNeal. The two have been charged with murder in the 1994 killing of Los Angeles businessman Bill McLaughlin. They will stand trial later this year, or early in 2011.

The Los Angeles Times reports Det. Voth was the lead investigator on the case of McLaughlin's murder. On December 15, 1994, McLaughlin's son heard gunshots and went downstairs to find his father dead in the kitchen of their Newport Beach home. Prosecutors believe Packard convinced Naposki to kill McLaughlin. At the time, Naposki worked very nearby as a bouncer at a bar and according to authorities, Naposki was late for work the day McLaughlin was killed.

Colts' John Gill: Public Intoxication Charges Dropped

An NFL player is found face down in a ditch, drunk and passed out. Police arrest him for public intoxication and take him to jail to sleep it off. You might expect the story that follows to be a cynical tale of an athlete who threw away his career over alcohol. Instead, it's a sad story, but one that actually comes away with an encouraging message.

The player is Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle John Gill. After he was released from jail with the charges dropped in Indianapolis, the team rallied around him. Team president, Bill Polian, announced that Gill will be kept on the team as an "injured reserve" and sent to treatment.

...he's got a problem unfortunately that many Americans are familiar with either in their family or in the workplace ... The No. 1 priority for him is to get treatment and we're in that process right now ... Football is not a priority. It's not even a consideration," Polian said.

Karen Sypher Found Guilty in Rick Pitino Extortion Case

When it comes to extortion case, usually everyone involved loses. Count Louisville coach Rick Pitino among the loses. Sure, the U.S. attorney's office succeeded in convicting Karen Sypher of extortion, lying to the FBI and retaliating against a witness. But the case exposed Pitino in a way that no one would ask for.

The case brought to light ugly details about Pitino's personal life, beginning with a sexual encounter Pitino had with Sypher seven years ago. "I used extremely poor judgment and I've made my peace with God and my family," Pitino said by phone to ESPN.

Nolan Ryan Group Wins Texas Rangers Bankruptcy Auction

Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan is known for his record 5,714 strikeouts, but it looks like he hit a homerun this time.

Ryan, and an investment group he leads won an auction for the Texas Rangers Thursday with a $608 million bid. "It was an emotional roller coaster," a smiling Ryan said between hugs with colleagues and well-wishers in the courthouse, ESPN reports. "You go to court one day and it didn't go your way, but you go back another day and it would. It's a relief."

Ryan beat out Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in what became a long, contentious auction for the team. More than once attorneys were seen yelling at each other over the heated Texas Rangers auction. Ryan won the auction in federal bankruptcy court just before 1 a.m. Central Time. Cuban had offered nearly $600 million for the Rangers. The Rangers auction was the first major league baseball bankruptcy auction since Peter Angelos acquired the Baltimore Orioles out of bankruptcy in 1993 for $173 million.

Retired NFL Players File Class Action Over Madden '09 Likenesses

What happens when a video game maker creates an avatar bearing someone's likeness, but without using their name?

In this case, they get sued.

Michael "Tony" David has filed a class action lawsuit against video game maker Electronic Arts, known for the tagline, "EA Sports. It's in the game." Davis filed the lawsuit on behalf of 6,000 retired NFL players who are allegedly "In the game," Madden NFL '09, without their permission. The suit seeks compensation for actual, statutory and punitive damages. David claims EA has deprived and violated the right to publicity of the class action and that the court should disgorge all profits attributable to the use of their likeness.

The class action lawsuit alleges that EA wrongfully inserted the players' likenesses into the best selling football game, including appearance, statistics, positions, height and weight. The game maker did not use the players names or numbers, allegedly in order to avoid paying licensing fees. The suit also alleges that Electronic Arts stopped using the "historic teams" in the 2010 version of the game because the company was aware that their actions were illegal.

OK State's Jamie Blatnick Charged with Assaulting Teammate

College football coaches are fond of aggression, as long as it occurs between the lines. It also goes without saying that arguments and fights with former teammates are off limits. So when the aggression comes off the field, directed at a former teammate, athletic directors cringe and coaches hold awkward press conferences promising to clean things up.

A particularly gruesome and violent event in Stillwater, Oklahoma has drawn considerable media attention. Jamie Blatnick, starting defensive end at Oklahoma State University, is accused of assaulting teammate Stephen Denning after allegedly hitting him in the face with a beer bottle. The Tulsa World has a brutal photo of Denning bleeding from the face. Denning had to be taken to a hospital where he was diagnosed with a fractured orbital socket. He required stitches to his left eye and cheekbone. Blatnick was charged with aggravated counts of felony assault and battery.