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13 Pro Careers Interrupted By Incarceration

by: Esteban On  Tuesday, February 7, 2012

athletes prison mike danton

For most sports fans, living the life of a professional athlete is the ultimate fantasy. People chanting your name, exotic cars, fancy suits, gorgeous women—what’s not to fantasize about?* So to those of us sitting at home watching the game on the couch, it’s always mind-boggling when we see pro athletes misbehaving or getting involved in illegal activities that land them in prison. Why, we wonder, would these guys ever do anything that could jeopardize their lucrative careers?

*Besides the endless traveling, debilitating injuries, family always asking you for money, and insane pressure to perform night in and night out

Well, human nature is what it is, and being rich and famous doesn’t mean you’re not greedy and stupid. So sometimes, pro athletes end up in jail.

Today we’re going to take a look at 13 such pro athlete-convicts who had their careers interrupted by incarceration. But don’t worry: this will be Vick-free list. You’ve heard enough about that guy, and frankly I’m tired of writing about him. Thus, since we all know he went to jail for running a dogfighting ring, we’ll just leave him off.

So with that said, click away to see who comes in at #13…

13. Luis Polonia

Luis Polonia

Polonia played baseball for six different teams between 1987 and 2000, including three separate stints with the Yankees. He used to be known as a decent hitter and a base-stealing threat, but after he was convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old girl in 1989 and sentenced to 60 days in jail, he was known mostly for his pervert skills.

After pleading guilty to the charges, Polonia told the judge, “I made a mistake and I’m really sorry for it. I’m a human being and anybody can make the mistake I made.”

A mistake anybody can make? No, not really, Luis. Sorry.

12. Craig MacTavish

craig mactavish

Most people remember Craig MacTavish as a member of the dynastic Oilers teams of the 1990s, and for the fact that he was the last NHL player to not wear a helmet. However, some—like the family of Kim Radley—also remember that he missed the entire 1984-85 season because he spent a year in prison after being convicted of drunk driving vehicular manslaughter. After getting out of prison, the Boston Bruins released him from his contract, which is when MacTavish joined the Oilers.

11. Plaxico Burress

Plaxico Burress

And the award for most hilarious way for a pro athlete to get himself locked up goes to…Plaxico Burress.

This one was a no-brainer, really. I mean, as the Buffalo Bills’ Steve Johnson reminded everyone back on November 27, the guy shot himself in the leg, then got 2 years in prison for criminal possession of a weapon and public endangerment.

10. Mike Tyson

mike tyson

Iron Mike Tyson had a chance to become the greatest boxer of all time. But in 1991, when Tyson was just 25 years old, he was arrested, tried, and convicted for raping an 18-year-old woman in an Indianapolis hotel room. He was sentenced 6 years behind bars, but only served 3.

And now he makes humorous cameos in movies, which is pretty weird. I mean, I’m all for forgiveness and second chances, but would you feel comfortable working with a convicted rapist?

9. Charles E. Smith

charles e. smith

Before getting sentenced to four and a half years in the slammer for killing two college students in a 1992 hit-and-run, Charles E. Smith played ball for the mighty Celtics. After getting out of jail, Smith managed to make it back to the NBA with Minnesota, but he didn’t last long.

More recently, Smith made the news in 2010 when he was shot in his own home. Bad luck? Nope. Police found lots of cocaine at the home, and evidence of a large gambling operation.

8. Mike Danton


Mike Danton wins the award for “Weirdest Crime Committed by a Pro Athlete.” Sorry Mike.

On April 16, 2004, St. Louis Blues forward Mike Danton was arrested for hiring a hit-man to kill his agent and former junior hockey coach, David Frost. Why? Because Frost stole money from him? Because he was blackmailing him? Nope. It’s a lot more complicated. You see, it turns out that David Frost was a first class scumbag who had been manipulating Danton and other (young) players since they were kids, encouraging them to alienate their families and creating extremely demented co-dependencies…of a sexual nature.

Danton was convicted in the murder-for-hire plot and served just a hair over 5 years in prison; but people kind of understood why he did what he did.

After being released, he played some college hockey in Canada, and later joined the Swedish pro team IFK Ore. Then, in just his first game with Ore in 2011, he saved a teammates life using emergency skills he had learned in prison. Soon thereafter, he was named team captain.

Crazy story, isn’t it?

7. Dwayne Goodrich

dwayne goodrich

This former Dallas Cowboys cornerback saw his young career ended in 2003 when he was convicted on two counts of criminally negligent homicide. Goodrich struck and killed two people who were trying to rescue a man from a burning car on a Dallas freeway, then left the scene—though he wasn’t under the influence. For his crime he received a relatively stiff seven and a half year sentence. (Compare this with the case of Craig MacTavish, for example.)

6. Ugueth Urbina

ugueth urbina

This journeyman relief pitcher got into some serious legal trouble in his native Venezuela during the offseason in 2005. He apparently thought some laborers on his farm had stolen a gun from him. So, obviously, he went after them with a machete and poured gasoline on them—presumably to light them on fire. Two years later, Urbina was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Obviously, they aren’t messing around down there in Venezuela.

5. Cecil Collins

cecil collins

This former Miami Dolphins running back was convicted of burglary and sentenced to 15 years back in 1999.

If 15 years for burglary seems harsh, it is. But he was only charged with burglary because there is no official crime called “broke in to the house of this lady he knew from the gym and watched her sleep and was probably going to rape her.”

4. Rubin Hurricane Carter

hurricane carter

Boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was wrongly convicted for a triple homicide back 1967. Why? Pretty much just because he was black, and the guys who committed the murders were black.

After spending 19 years behind bars for something he didn’t do, Carter was finally able to get his conviction overturned in 1985. Since then he has dedicated himself to running an organization called Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted.

3. Rae Carruth

rae carruth

The story of Carolina Panther Rae Carruth is one of the most depressing on this list.

In 1999, Carruth hired his friend to shoot and kill his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, who was pregnant with his child. Caruth pulled his car up in front of Adams’ car on the road near his home in Charlotte, NC. Then a third car drove up along side that of Adams, and the passenger, Van Brett Watkins, fired multiple shots.

Adams was able to call police and report what had happened before slipping into a coma. At the hospital, doctors saved the unborn child—Chancellor Lee Adams—but mom eventually passed away.

Police eventually found Carruth hiding in the trunk of a car outside a motel in Tennessee. In the trunk with him was $3900, a cell phone, and a bunch of bottles full of urine.

2. Tom Payne

tom payne

Tom Payne made history when he became the first black player to play basketball for the University of Kentucky—a pretty big deal. Then he went on to play for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks for 1970-71 season.

However, in addition to being a great basketball player, it turns out Payne was also a serial rapist. He was arrested in Atlanta in 1972 and convicted on two counts of rape. When he got out of jail for that, he was extradited to Kentucky and convicted of one count of rape and two counts of attempted rape.

After getting out of jail in Kentucky, Payne moved to LA to try to become an actor. And he had some mild success…before cops caught him in the act of raping a woman in 1986.

When you add it all up, Payne has spent over 20 years in prison.

1. Darryl Henley

darryl henley

Henley was drafted out of UCLA by the LA Rams in 1989. He played in 76 games for the Rams before being arrested for drug trafficking. Oops.

But you know what’s crazier than having a great-paying job and decided to get involved in drug trafficking? Hiring guys to kill the judge presiding over your drug trafficking trial.

Yep, that’ll get you some serious time—like 41 years.