Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007
UNEQUAL TREATMENT UNDER THE LAW
In 1986, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which, among other things, mandated sentences for offenses involving crack cocaine to be 100 times more severe than for crimes involving powdered cocaine. Many have seen this disparity in sentencing guidelines as reflecting the similar disparity in the way the law treats the poor and the not so poor. Whether true or not, crack cocaine is typically associated with urban neighborhoods while powdered cocaine is seen as the drug of choice in the Hollywood hills and townhouses of Manhattan.
What does this have to do with Sports Law?
A major impetus for the Anti-Drug Abuse Act was the death earlier that year of Len Bias, the University of Maryland basketball star and number one pick of the Boston Celtics. Bias reportedly died of a cocaine overdose.
And today, the Washington Post is reporting the tragic story of Willie Mays Aikens, the former Kansas City Royals first baseman noted for being the only player in baseball history to hit two homeruns in a game twice in the same World Series. In 1994, Aikens was sentenced to 15 years in prison for possessing 64 grams of crack cocaine, about the weight of a candy bar; to receive a similar sentence for possessing powdered cocaine, one would need to be caught with more than 6 ½ kilos or more than 14 pounds.
Aikens has become the symbol of what many see as the unequal treatment of the poor and minorities in America’s judicial system. As he told the Post, "The disparity, as far as I'm concerned, is totally wrong. This took me away from my family. My girls were 4 and 5 years old when I was sentenced. Now they're 18 and 19."
Aikens is not scheduled to be released from the federal penitentiary in Jessup, Georgia until 2012.