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December 13, 2011

NBA's Ben Wallace gets Michigan drunk driving break not afforded to ESPN's Jalen Rose

Regular readers may recall a bit of controversy this past summer when  ESPN analyst and former NBA player Jalen Rose was given 20 days jail sentence for drunk driving in Michigan.  As reported in this blog post, one of Rose's lawyers called it a crime that Rose got such a "harsh" sentence and both the local press and national media ran stories about how persons sentenced in different areas of Michigan and the nation often will get stakly different sentences for drunk driving offenses.

Now, this new local sentencing story out of Michigan state court concerning another professional basketball player provides another interesting data point in the disparity story.  The piece is headlined "Detroit Pistons' Ben Wallace gets probation on drunken driving, gun charges," and here are the basics:

Ben Wallace was sentenced to a year's probation this morning and ordered to spend 30 hours coaching kids basketball following his plea earlier this year for drunk driving and having an unlicensed hand gun....

His attorney, Steven Fishman, noted that Wallace had been very cooperative with police when he was pulled over in the early morning hours of Sept. 24, driving erratically on Telegraph, near Long Lake in Bloomfield Township.  Police also found a handgun in the car, and live ammunition.

Wallace was initially charged with carrying a concealed weapon, a five year felony, but under a plea deal with prosecutors, he was allowed to plead to carrying a weapon while driving intoxicated, a 93 day misdemeanor, and also one count of driving while intoxicated.  The judge also ordered he pay a $600 fine, plus court costs.

Wallace is expected to hold a basketball clinic for the Boys And Girls Club of Royal Oak. The details have not be set, including dates.

On the surface, it would appear that Wallace committed a (much?) worse offense but ultimately got a (much?) lighter sentence than Rose.  Of course, maybe there are some specific differences in the cases not obvious on the surface that justify this seeming disparity.  And, perhaps more importantly, the mere fact that can be (and often is) a lot of "low-level" sentencing disparity in this arena does not, in an of itself, necessarily establish that the applicable sentencing law is either unjust or ineffective.

A few related posts on sentencing drunk drivers in Michigan and elsewhere:

December 13, 2011 at 11:08 AM | Permalink


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well, according to Justice Kagan (see Lafler v. Cooper Oral Arg. Tr.), the mere fact that Rose got a raw deal whereas Wallace did not is evidence of a constitutional violation . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Dec 13, 2011 12:11:16 PM

Wow, an unlicensed gun and ammo in the vehicle and driving while hammered..

In a a major city it takes on a harsh view, thug like..

In a rural setting in the midwest, its closer to a daily occurance... Guys got done hunting and stopped in the bar and had too much to drink....

Although they both are the same, the environment is opposite....So given the limited info that I have, I can't say if Jalen Rose got a raw deal or not... But Bend Wallace did get a very good deal...Attitude and cooperation I would certainly think upon arrest would drive a good plea deal...Although I can't imagibne Jalen Rose being a bully or uncooperative, always impressed me with his good attitude etcd...

Now take Dennis Rodman...Nah, enough said...

Posted by: Josh2 | Dec 13, 2011 4:30:13 PM

California DUI deaths drop to record low (LA Times)

California also marks the biggest single-year decline in DUI deaths in 14 years. Officials credit safety campaigns.

Posted by: George | Dec 14, 2011 12:08:32 AM

Great blog, DAB. This comment is from a criminal defense attorney in Oakland County, MI, where this Ben Wallace and Jalen Rose stuff went down. First, it is a suburb of Detroit; not in the "D", as we say. Also, Bloomfield Hills, where the district court is seated for that area, is a posh tony burb. (i.e. there are NBA stars driving around partying).

This comment seeks to shed some light on the "disparity" in the sentencing for the two NBA stars. Rose had the misfortune of driving drunk within the jurisdiction of the 48th District Court and to have his case randomly assigned to Judge Kim Small. Judge Small has made national headlines over the years for her drunk driving sentences; they often involve some jail time, even for first offenders with no criminal history. Currently, a group of high-end defense lawyers have challenged Judge Small, seeking to have her disqualified from all drunk driving cases on the basis that she is not fair or impartial, and that her "one-size-fits-all" sentencing policy (i.e. jail for all offenders), violates the "individualized sentencing" mandated by Michigan statute.

This is why Jalen Rose went to jail last summer.

In the case of Ben Wallace, the big fella was OWI while packing some loaded cold steel in his Cadillac, upping his game to the felony level, and thereby "just passing through" the 48th District Court. Fortunately for him, although he too was randomly assigned to Judge Small, his attorneys executed a "fast break", waiving the preliminary exam, and binding Wallace over to the trial court. Once there, probation was available all day long. Good bye Judge Small; hello Judge Shalina Kumar.

Unlike Rose, however, Wallace will have a felony weapons conviction on his record. Last year, Wallace spoke of going to law school. This probably puts the kabosh on that notion.

Here is a link to our local blawg coverage of Big Ben:


Posted by: Timothy P. Flynn | Dec 15, 2011 7:40:10 AM

Great post! Wow, we really need to start seeking harsher punishments for 'celebrities'. Wallace was associated with a concealed weapon charge and they want him to host a basketball camp for young children? Why on earth is that his 'punishment'? It's absolutely ludicrous the things that these celebrities get out of now-a-days.

Posted by: PA DUI Attorney | Dec 30, 2011 1:22:17 PM

Thanks for posting this...blog...

Posted by: Stephensmith | Jan 10, 2012 8:01:02 AM

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