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January 11, 2008

Marion Jones gets six-month federal prison term

As detailed in this Reuters article, "Disgraced Olympic sprinter Marion Jones was sentenced to six months in prison on Friday for lying to federal prosecutors about her steroid use."  Here are more details:

U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Karas imposed the sentence after Jones pleaded guilty to two charges last October, part of a stunning demise of the five-time medalist from the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Karas gave Jones six months for lying about steroid use and two months -- to run concurrently -- for a separate charge of misleading federal investigators about her knowledge of a check fraud case involving her ex-boyfriend, former 100 meters world record holder Tim Montgomery.

Jones, 32, became the biggest name in international sport to admit to using steroids with her guilty plea in October.  She tearfully admitted to betraying the trust of her fans and country after years of vehemently denying she used performance enhancing drugs. She confessed to lying to federal investigators in 2003 when she denied knowing that she took the banned substance tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), known as "the clear," before the 2000 Olympics.

As part of her plea deal, prosecutors asked the judge to sentence her to between zero and six months in prison, and defense lawyers asked for mercy because she had suffered public humiliation.

Though I try to avoid injecting racial issues into matters that are clearly about a lot more than race, I cannot help but note that Barry Bonds and Marion Jones are the only two high-profile athletes to be formally prosecuted for lying about steroid use even though I have every reason to believe a number of other athletes have clearly lied or mislead federal investigators in the course of steriod investigations.  I wonder what the astute folks at blackprof might think about this prosecutorial reality.

January 11, 2008 at 01:24 PM | Permalink


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What a joke a senetence at the low end of the guidelines for Libby was to harsh so Jones gets a sentence at the high end of the guidelines how is that not to harsh. What a joke.

Posted by: | Jan 11, 2008 1:51:30 PM

Though I try to avoid injecting racial issues into matters that are clearly about a lot more than race, I cannot help but note that Barry Bonds and Marion Jones are the only two high-profile athletes to be formally prosecuted for lying about steroid use even though I have every reason to believe a number of other athletes have clearly lied or mislead federal investigators in the course of steriod investigations. I wonder what the astute folks at blackprof might think about this prosecutorial reality.

I wouldn't rule the race angle out, but it's also worth noting that Jones and Bonds are the most accomplished and highest profile athletes in their respective sports to admit to steroid use. As the article above notes, "Jones, 32, became the biggest name in international sport to admit to using steroids with her guilty plea in October."

In many areas, prosecutors are criticized for being harsh on the small fry. If both are guilty, then Bonds and Jones are 2 of the athletes who have profited most from their steroid use. If one believes that one of the main harms of steroid use is the example that the athletes set for children, then it makes sense to go after the highest-profile users out there. I'd also add that if the Bonds prosecution is successful, the government will have leverage against the others.

The race issue will certainly be raised, and there are some good arguments to support the idea that race is a factor in a bad way in the decisions to prosecute. But in this case, I don't think you can rule out other, more sensible, race-neutral explanations.

Posted by: | Jan 11, 2008 2:26:38 PM

I didn't mean to imply above that Bonds had admitted to steroid use. I typed a bit too quickly.

Posted by: | Jan 11, 2008 2:28:29 PM

Getting jail time for lying seems, well, un-American to me. Sure, it's wrong and illegal, but why should the gov't be able to compell someone to talk anyways?

Posted by: | Jan 11, 2008 2:51:09 PM

No one forced her to lie, she could have taken the 5th. In addition she lied about her boyfriend's fraud scheme. On that front she was not entitled to be silent.

Please PLEASE do not make this about race. Bonds and Jones were two of the best at what they did. Their fall from grace is louder and more visible than just any athlete.

Personally, I don't think the steroid issue is one that should be handled by Congress at all, but once they get you under oath you have to tell the truth. THAT's what she's being punished for. As far as Libby, his sham prosecution is more aligned with Bill Clinton's than Jones' in that they were both gross wastes of money started by political rivals. In this case Jones lied about, not one, but two ongoing investigations.

Posted by: c | Jan 11, 2008 3:10:35 PM

I didn't think she was convicted of perjury, I thought she was convicted of lying to law enforcement.

Posted by: | Jan 11, 2008 7:55:33 PM

I disagree with a custodial sentence here, which I believe should normally be reserved for criminals who pose a threat to society or remain wilful without remorse. With Jones' high-profile, a more constructive amend could have seen her campaign against drug use in sport (and society). And I doubt she would have needed any coercion, as she seems to be genuinely contrite. The jail sentence is poor use of public funds, overly punitive for Jones and her family and my personal opinion is that the US justice system seems to treat non-whites (particularly African-Americans) harsher for similar crimes. (Corporate Manager, Sydney, Australia)

Posted by: Steve Goldsmith | Jan 11, 2008 9:10:49 PM

Bill Clinton lied under oath and to all sorts of prosecutors. I'd say his position as U.S. President is a very very important role model to everyone on the planet. So now he has set a precident, "The President is above the law and lying is OK," but do we prosecute the President? No, we hang the black athelete instead.

Posted by: mark mcnulty | Jan 11, 2008 9:19:53 PM

so now the Clintons are the latest victims of the race card? I'm a Hispanic, and I support Obama, because I think he would be a great President. However, I think he needs to distant himself from whole the race campaign. I know this is a little of subject, but every sincethe south carolina primary became near, they've been trying to portray this as a white vs. black race. And that will ultimately hurt Obama in a national election.

Posted by: EJ | Jan 12, 2008 5:53:03 PM

I am a retired, white, female factory worker. I cannot believe that this young woman deserved a prison sentence for lying & using steroids. Give me a friggin' break! This is America for crying out loud! She is being treated as if she lived in the Middle East!

Posted by: Andrea | Jan 12, 2008 11:46:20 PM

I compare Marion Jones with Mike Nifong.

A prosecutor lies to try to get three innocent people convicted, continually denies his crime, gets a state sentence of 1 day, and the Feds decline to investigate.

A non lawyer lies to investigators about steroids. A federal prosecution ensues. The defendant pleads guilty and gets 6 months.

What is wrong with this picture?

Posted by: William Jockusch | Jan 13, 2008 4:41:40 AM

"What is wrong with this picture?"

One is white and the other is black.

Posted by: | Jan 13, 2008 7:36:05 PM

I agree with you. I think that people should be punished for their crimes, but I think that if Marion Jones was not a black woman, she would not have gotten six months. The judge may not be racist, but I do believe that race was a subconscious factor in his decision.

Posted by: Tina | Jan 13, 2008 10:21:32 PM

It could be the judge would have given anyone in this position a harsh sentence to set an example. Prosecutors are the ones that choose who they are going to charge and prosecute not the judge.

Posted by: Mark | Jan 14, 2008 9:45:55 AM

I am a working professional with over 25 years of time dedicated, but not in the area of law enforcement. My comments are as follows:

If Bill Clinton can lie to the entire country about his exploits that took place in the White House, how is it that these people face jail time for lying for doing something that will ultimately only hurt themselves? I understand what they did (lying) is wrong, but why is the sentence different for people that don't lead the country, but for the country's leader, he gets nothing? Oooohhh nooooo, we can't lock up our president for that, now can we? How is it that because of his status/profession, he can't be sentenced for lying to pretty much, the entire country. Was it not him that lied on television to the country and said, "I did not have sexual relations..." Whether it was to federal prosecutors or not, a lie is a lie and he put his out to the entire country. He didn't get prosecuted for his act, while serving as the nation's leader, in the White House either now did he?

In my opinion, law enforcement/the justice system goes at certain people when it should be even across the board. Another problem in this country is that money weighs way too much. If you have a lot of it, you can get out of most everything because you can pay for that elite legal team.

If the average Joe went to court for O.J.'s case, he'd be proven guilty and thrown in prison that same day; probably for life.

If I get caught with drugs in my system, I would lose my job and never be able to seek employment for a government agency, but people like Robert Downey Jr. not only keeps his job, but gets multi millions for it after he has been convicted on three occasions.

I'm not judging, but that how it is (the law) in this country. The saddest part of all is that there are many jobs in law enforcement that are based on negative merit. In other words, police officers, District Attorneys and their assistants, prosecuting attorneys, up through judges; all their jobs are based on convictions. The more they get, the more they progress. Wouldn't this make a person biased when it comes to performing their jobs? Won't they be 'gunning for the bad guy'? This bias will make everyone look guilty. Who is watching the watchers out here? There is no checks and balance system in the area of law enforcement in this country, but that's ok. It is so hard to get to someone employed in law enforcement that it would take gross negligence to have one prosecuted, but the average person gets prosecuted based on their 'professional opinions'. How is this fair?

Shouldn't there be some merit in their jobs to not proving 'justice' as they call it, but also promoting necessary acquittal and randomly rewarding those who keep the laws? If I drive over a million miles over 20 years, and another person drives 75 miles over two months, we both get the same amount of negative points when convicted of a driving violation. Where is the 'legal' merit for the person who drives with a clean record for a sustained period of time? So my auto insurance goes down. Big deal. What about adding some positive points in my 'driving kitty' (on my record)?

This country, though it is a great place to live is out of balance and out of control. If my parents weren't alive, I would move out of the country and seek employment elsewhere where laws are not just implamented, but enforced consistently (not compromised by money and/or status/position like America).

Then there is the quote-unquote 'race card...' That's a totally different topic that I won't even touch.

Posted by: Random Guy | Mar 7, 2008 7:30:08 PM

It's somewhat gratifying to see posts questioning the legitimacy of the unholy powers federal agents and prosecutors wield with abandon against American citizens these days.

Particularly troubling to those of us who remember life in America before federal agents were deified and imbued with police-state powers is the notion lying to bureaucrats (not under oath) is a felony punishable by imprisonment.

Of course, as might be expected, one poster trots out the authoritarian line: "No one forced (Jones) to lie; she could have taken the 5th."

From what I've seen, though, invoking rights (pleading the 5th or forcing the feds to actually prove a case before a jury) just irks them and sets in motion the vengeful practice of stacking charges.

Posted by: John K | Mar 23, 2009 11:58:33 AM

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