Chris Rainey

Report: Gator, ‘Nole athletes avoid legal charges more than other students, schools

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In a report that should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, ESPN‘s investigative arm has found that a student’s status as an athlete — and the subsequent “extra” help involved — may help him wiggle out of some difficult legal circumstances — at least compared to the general student body, that is.

In a video expose along with a companion online written piece, the WWL program Outside the Lines reports that it “selected 10 schools in various conferences and geographies, leaning toward colleges in quintessential college towns and in states that had public records laws that seemed favorable to accessing police and court records” in examining how student-athletes were treated in the legal system. The 10 universities involved in the investigation, which takes into account records from 2009-14, were:

  • Auburn
  • Florida
  • Florida State
  • Michigan State
  • Missouri
  • Notre Dame
  • Oklahoma State
  • Oregon State
  • Texas A&M
  • Wisconsin

(The results obtained as it relates to Michigan State and Notre Dame are incomplete as the former heavily redacted the information it turned over to ESPN while the latter, citing its status as a private institution, did not turn over campus police records. ESPN has sued each of those universities, and both cases are still pending.)

From the report:

Overall, the Outside the Lines investigation found that what occurs between high-profile college athletes and law enforcement is not as simple as the commonly held perception that police and prosecutors simply show preferential treatment, though that does occur. Rather, the examination of more than 2,000 documents shows that athletes from the 10 schools mainly benefited from the confluence of factors that can be reality at major sports programs: 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.

One of the more noteworthy statistics gleaned from the piece can be summed up by a tweet from Paula Lavigne, the author of the expansive report.

For the purpose of Lavigne’s report, “athletes” refers to football and men’s basketball players at each institution.

The report shines a particularly harsh light on former Florida running back Chris Rainey and current Florida State associate athletic director Monk Bonasorte.

During his time in Gainesville, Rainey was named as a suspect in five crimes; he was charged once, the report noted. Additionally, Rainey, who infamously sent the “time to die, b***h!” text to his girlfriend, has been accused of three additional crimes in Gainesville since leaving the Gators and hasn’t been charged in any of those cases.

The report also reveals that Bonasorte, a former Seminole football player, was arrested for cocaine distribution in the late eighties and served six months in jail. His name also appears in numerous police reports turned over to ESPN in his unofficial capacity as “liaison” between the football program and police departments.

“He is kind of the fixer for football,” an unnamed former staff member said about Bonasorte. “He knows where the skeletons are buried, but he also helps keep those football players, not out of trouble, but out of paying for the trouble they’ve gotten into.”

In Tallahassee, Outside the Lines found at least nine examples from 2009 to 2014 in which officers documented that Florida State coaches or athletic department officials tried to determine when and where city police would interview athletes or attempted other involvement.

“That would be a classic example of real poor police work,” said Willie Meggs, the state of Florida’s chief prosecuting attorney in the Tallahassee region. “You don’t do an interview of a suspect — football, non-football, athlete, non-athlete — in their own comfortable environment. That’s common sense.”

Meggs, of course, is the state’s attorney who, saying his investigation didn’t find enough evidence to prove it was not consensual, declined to charge FSU quarterback Jameis Winston with rape In December of 2013.

Of course, in this day and age, no report of this type would be complete without a link to the vast, schizophrenic wasteland of sports message boards (and comments sections, in all honesty).  And, suffice to say, this isn’t something that Missouri will be putting on its recruiting literature at any point in the near future.

Dorial Green-Beckham had been a productive but troublesome player since joining the Tigers in 2012 as the top-ranked player in the country in that class. Following three twos — arrests, suspensions and police investigations — in less than two years, Mizzou announced that it was cutting its losses and dismissing the talented receiver.

The last incident that triggered his dismissal was by far the most disturbing as an incident report stemming from the report of a first-degree burglary stated that Green-Beckham pushed one woman down a several steps during a domestic incident.  The victims, one of whom was quoted in the incident report as stating she was afraid of the media and community backlash, declined to press charges, forcing the police to drop the case.

At least as far as the community backlash was concerned, the victim’s visceral fears were warranted:

On TigerBoard.com, a popular online forum for Missouri fans, the name-calling and harassment had begun: “Which loser ass snitch called the cops over some drunk kids arguing?” “Snitches get stitches!” “No, just a jersey chaser looking for $.” “Jock sniffin for dark meat team.” “Is gold digging a sport?”

For the complete ESPN report, click HERE. For how the investigation was conducted, click HERE.