Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What Would Your Mother Think?

Recently, several student-athletes have run afoul of the criminal law. In December 2007 two Texas A&M football players, Yemi Babalola and Brandon Joiner were suspended indefinitely after their arrests for robbery and drug offenses. In August 2007 a former Bryan High School basketball player, Michael Young, was sentenced to life in prison for stabbing a local woman 42 times.

Nothing hurts more than seeing a promising athlete's career fade-to-black because they were not responsible enough to work hard, play fair, keep clean, and stay out of trouble. Criminal defense lawyer, Micheal Taheri, featured in an article in the "Buffalo News," offered a simplistic, yet unique method of encouraging his client athletes to stay clear of law enforcement:
Amherst attorney Michael S. Taheri looks at all these incidents, shakes his head, and offers a simple piece of advice for student-athletes everywhere.

“In any given situation, I tell them to ask themselves, ‘Would my mother be proud of me if she saw what I am doing at this moment?’ If you look at your actions from that perspective, it can keep you out of a lot of trouble.”

“I try to explain to them that the things they do in their high school years can have serious ramifications for them years down the road. When they apply for sports scholarships, many colleges ask them right up front, ‘Have you ever been convicted of a crime?’

“When they hit the job market, a lot of employers ask the same question. A DWI or drug conviction at age 17 can hurt you down the road.”

About student-athletes, Taheri also commented:
“Every year, I see more and more of them getting into trouble. Every year, I see situations where outstanding student- athletes who have the potential to be scholarship players, or even potential pros, throw it all away for drugs or alcohol.”

Student-athletes, especially the most accomplished ones, are highly visible in their schools, often popular and often faced with many temptations, including opportunities to attend parties where drugs and alcohol are available.

Top student-athletes are sometimes coddled and often put on a pedestal by American society. But society also subjects the young athletes to extreme pressures — including the pressure to succeed, and peer pressures that lead some into illegal conduct.

Although not confined to the student-athlete, there are several common criminal trouble spots facing young people, especially in a college town where temptations abound:
  • A DWI arrest can cost an athlete and his parents plenty. Fines imposed by a judge, alcohol evaluation and counseling, various state fees, increased insurance costs and legal fees can put them in a financial hole for years.
  • Obtaining alcohol for anyone younger than 21 can result in criminal prosecutions for providing alcohol to a minor, endangering the welfare of a minor, or other crimes.
  • Even consensual sexual conduct with an individual under age 17 can result in a criminal prosecution. An athlete who is 17 years or older, having sex with a 16- year-old, could potentially be prosecuted, even if the girl misrepresented her age.
  • A student who sends nude images of a minor over the Internet could be prosecuted under tough federal and State child pornography laws.
  • Harmful hazing activities — such as forcing a teammate to drink large amounts of alcohol — could constitute a crime be punishable by up to a year in prison, or longer.
Student athletes face many pressures in our culture to perform. But Helping Parents Parent is part of the job of the criminal defense lawyer. If we can help save even one, the effort is well worth it.

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