Louisiana DA’s decision is embarrassing

Published 11:56 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Say it isn’t so.

A district attorney in Louisiana went on the record this week – on camera, to be exact – saying he declined to prosecute two Alabama football players caught with illegal drugs and a stolen gun because he refused “to ruin the lives of two young men.”

Not because they were innocent of the charges; not because evidence didn’t support the charges; but because he didn’t want to unfairly punish two standout college athletes – and hometown heroes – who “have spent their adolescence and their teenager years, working and sweating, while we were all at home in the air conditioning.”

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Yes, you read that correctly.

Ouachita Parish DA Jerry Jones told a local television station on Monday that he was not going to prosecute Alabama football players Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones, despite the pair being caught in a closed public park at 2:30 a.m., in a rental car with marijuana and two handguns, one of which was stolen.

And the lesson he offered to the public, to these two athletes, is that success on the football field trumps obedience to the law.

When we wonder why athletes and celebrities place themselves above or outside the law, we can look to people like this district attorney, who unabashedly admitted that he was giving these players a pass simply because they had worked hard and had opportunities ahead on the football field. Truthfully, that’s a disservice to the athletes; the team; their fans; and the law.

We believe in second chances, as most reasonable people do, and no one wants to see a young person’s opportunities in life derailed because of a singular lapse in judgment.

But giving athletes a pass from prosecution just because they’ve worked hard isn’t the solution. Instead, the prosecutor could have pursued the case, and then pursued leniency if they were convicted. He could have taught the lesson that no one – celebrity, athlete, hometown hero – is above or beyond the law. And the players, if convicted, could have used the incident as an opportunity to build character, to express remorse, to model the behavior of young men willing to work harder – to sweat in public and on the field – for a sport they love.

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, two athletes in a high profile, championship sports program got a pass from a small-town prosecutor who made the decision that their potential careers on the football field were more valuable and more important than upholding the law.

At least that’s how the rest of the country will view the decision.

And that’s a shame, for all of us.