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January 2, 2008

Should Marion Jones get any prison time for lying to the feds?

In yet another case involving the intersection of sports, steroids and suspect statements, former Olympic star Marion Jones is due to be sentenced in federal court next week for lying to federal authorities.  This AP piece and this New York Daily News article provides details of the sentencing arguments Jones is making in the hope of avoiding any prison time.  Here are snippets from the Daily News article:

Marion Jones has suffered enough, according to her lawyers, and she shouldn't have to go to jail for lying to federal authorities investigating steroid distribution and bank fraud.  In a document filed Monday ... Jones' lawyers asked the court to give the disgraced Olympian probation instead of prison time....

According to a presentence memorandum filed by Jones' attorneys on Monday, the five-medal winner at the Sydney Olympics should not go to prison because has accepted responsibility for her actions "without excuse, equivocation or any attempt to shift blame."  The document noted that Jones has "suffered enormous personal shame." "She has been cast from American hero to national disgrace," it added.

The document quoted letters from friends and relatives who describe Jones' humility, discipline and her approachability.  They also cite her "genuine kindness, respect and modesty towards all: and note her devotion and dedication to her two sons, an infant and a 4-year-old.  "Marion is essential to the care of both of her children in every way that a mother can be," the document said.  "Her infant son requires her daily nurture. Her 4-year-old also depends on her."

The full sentencing memo is available at this link, and it details that Jones's guideline range is 0-6 months as a result of her plea agreement (in notable contrast to the much longer guideline ranges faced by Victor Rita and Lewis Libby, who were convicted after a trial of similar offenses).

Not surprisingly, the Jones submission emphasizes 3553(a) factors and the purposes of punishment.  Consider, for example, this paragraph from the sentencing filing: "There clearly is no need here for a term of imprisonment to deter Marion Jones-Thompson who, other than the matter presently before the court, has led a completely law-abiding life, without any blemishes on her record.  Nor is any prison term necessary to protect the public from Ms. Jones-Thompson, who poses no threat to the community."  Also, the submission cites the recent Gall opinion and its emphasis on the import and seriousness of a term of probation with various limits on a probationer's liberty.

January 2, 2008 at 11:46 PM | Permalink


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Hell, no, and neither should Bonds, nor anybody else. I'm sick of this witch hunt. Seriously! Aren't there actual CRIMES out there for the feds to investigate? Must we really prosecute people for failing to cooperate with them on a public relations project?

As the old saying goes, ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies. They shouldn't be in this in the first place, and it discredits no one IMO not to cooperate. Perhaps that's disgust talking rather than reason, but I see no public benefit from grinding these folks under the wheels of justice for the sake of the public spectacle.

Perhaps such misuses of power will end when we no longer have a president who's a former baseball team owner. I've never understood what DoJ is doing investigating steroid use in professional sports.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 3, 2008 7:03:41 AM

What did this defendant really do that constitutes some crime? Somehow I missed the crime.

Posted by: | Jan 3, 2008 7:40:30 PM

Because, grits, if professional athletes "juice", then college ones will and high school ones etc. etc. That's why.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 3, 2008 8:51:22 PM

I hope that whatever punishment she gets will suit the crimes she has committed. It is a crime to use drugs and then lie to millions of innocent youth who use her as a role model. It affects someone in a negative way regardless of how "harmless" a crime it appears to be. Simply tell the truth and face the consequences in the early. Why now? The fall will just be harder.

Posted by: Sequoia | Jan 11, 2008 10:53:41 PM

As a former Olympic athlete that competed drug free, I personally feel cheated out of my dreams by a whole host of athletes that will never be caught.

I was competing during the infamous 80's of the Ben Johnson era, and when allegations were plentiful against Flo Jo and Carl Lewis. It was well known that drug use was rampant, but nobody dare stand out.

However, I was an outspoken advocate against drugs in sport, and I was blacklisted on numerous occasions. I was even refused entrance into the US to compete.

I am now a lawyer, and I was aware of Marion's cheating allegations long before she was actually caught. See Wikipedia/Marion Jones.

As a lawyer, all one really does is look at the letter of the law. Did she break a legal rule? Yes. She perjured herself. In sentencing, it is really up to the judge to use his discretion. Was her lawyer strong enough to sway that discretion in favor of Marion?

Will the sentence send a strong message to the sporting community if she goes to jail? Yes. Will it maybe influence the cheats in baseball? Yes.
Just like it sent a strong message, when Martha Stewart went to jail, because of she lied. I know I was shocked, even though I know the law.

Looking at the bright side, Martha came out stronger, so there is no reason why Marion can't. Marion can write a book. Maybe, Marion will not get jail time, but will have a few days of hell to rethink her cheating life. Most people didn't think Martha should go to jail either.

When I read most of the comments, I realize that many of you have never been at the Olympic, Professional or International level in sports as clean athletes. So you do not know what it is like to always be out of the medals, knowing full well that the athletes ahead of you are cheating.

My highest world ranking was top four, and I was top ten in the world for a decade. I refused to cheat to win, unlike most of my fellow athletes.

Losing to cheats is like winning 10 million dollars, knowing you have the winning numbers, but being cheated out of the money, because the guy behind the counter lied, and the organization that is supposed to support you turns a blind eye. That is how I saw the entire organization, when I was competing. At the International, National and local levels.

So, if things are getting better great. I am sure none of you want it to be your son or daughter that has to suffer losing a dream to a bunch of cheats, whether it is in sports, work or play. Life does not have to be like that, and I am glad to see some small changes.

Posted by: Angela Bailey | Jan 11, 2008 11:52:51 PM

Regarding Marion Jones incarceration. I am a white,
elderly male sports enthusiast. I have been outraged by actions of liberal judges who place
sexual predators, violent criminals, and felons on
probation. The indiscretion of a young black
athlete does not justify incarceration. Marion Jones is not a sexual predator, has committed no
violent crime or any crime against ANYONE. This is
not justice - it is tantamount to a lynching. Her
incarceration will bring shame on the justice

Posted by: robbie anderson | Feb 8, 2008 1:17:51 AM

It does seem harsh, especially in relation to the sentences handed out for some violent offences.

Posted by: Wendy Ragiste | Aug 1, 2008 6:15:52 AM

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