Professional Athletes Are Under Fire (con't)

But for every Sean Taylor, there are literally dozens of professional athletes who shot themselves in the foot by hanging around guns. In October 2006, then Indiana Pacers forward Stephen Jackson was charged with a felony count of criminal recklessness, battery, and disorderly conduct for unloading a gun in the air during an altercation outside an Indianapolis strip club. NFL cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones was arrested in February 2007 at NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas after a member of his entourage allegedly shot and paralyzed a night manager at Minxx Gentlemen’s Club & Lounge. Minnesota Timberwolves guard Sebastian Telfair was arrested in New York in April 2007 and charged with felony possession of a weapon—roughly six months after being robbed of a $50,000 chain outside an NYC restaurant. Jackson, Jones and Telfair all pleaded guilty and received probation. Most recently, New York Giants wide received Plaxico Burress was arrested in November 2008 after he accidentally fired an unlicensed handgun into his own thigh at a nightclub in New York City. He has since been charged with illegal weapons possession and missed the chance to help the Giants make another Super Bowl. As of press time, the case is still pending. (Ed. Note: Burress was sentenced to two years in prison after accepting a plea deal in August 2009.)

Critics have fired back. “What is going on with these players to make them think that walking into a club with a .40 caliber Glock pistol makes them either tough or makes them part of the rap world?” former NFL quarterback asked on his NYC-based WFAN (660 AM) radio show in December. “Some of these guys might not need a gun if they put themselves in better situations,” says Hill. “When you’re wealthy, you can’t go back to those clubs you used to be in when you were broke. I understand not wanting to make it seem like money has changed you. But the truth is, it does.”

It’s only natural for athletes to protect themselves, their families, and the things that belong to them. They hear stories involving teammates—stories that never make it beyond locker-room walls. Burress was likely aware that teammate Steve Smith was robbed at gunpoint outside his home—thee days before Burress sustained his self-inflicted gunshot wound on November 29. Smith’s robbery wasn’t reported by the New York Post until two days after the Burress shooting.

“I don’t condone carrying a gun that’s not registered,” says Harris, “but you can’t fault a guy for having a gun when one of his teammates just got robbed. People can say this or that, but yo, Steve Smith could have died. He could have been killed.”

The incidents have forced the professional sports leagues, namely the NFL and NBA, to breathe new life into discussions surrounding guns and players, specifically rookies. Harris was part of the inaugural NFL rookie symposium in 1997. Coincidentally, he attended with former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth, who is now in prison serving a 20-year sentence for the horrific murder of his pregnant girlfriend in 1999. But, he says, guns weren’t a priority back then.

“With all the stuff that’s happened, the NFL will respond as far as teaching younger players about gun safety,” Harris says. The NBA is taking a similar approach. While NBA Commissioner David Stern has publicly urged players to stay away from guns, the league has implemented workshops about firearms into its Rookie Transition Program, which every first-year player is required to attend.

“We definitely do not encourage our players to carry guns,” says Mike Bantom, who has served as the NBA’s senior vice president of player development for 10 years. “But we educate our players about gun safety and laws. We also continue to encourage players to think intelligently about security, and not think that owning a gun will make you more secure.”

“Buys today are definitely more aware about guns,” says Harris. “But they [also] realize it doesn’t have to be a gun. It can be a Taser, some Mace, whatever. Really, it’s just important to know that you need to protect yourself.”—Chris Yuscavage

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Maryland Judge Overturns Jury's Decision To Award Korryn Gaines Family $37 Million

A Maryland judge has overturned a jury's decision to award the surviving family of Korryn Gaines $37 million. The 23-year-old was shot twice, along with her 5-year-old son Kodi, during an hour-long standoff in August 2016. The child survived Gaines did not.

According to CNN, Baltimore County Circuit Court Associate Judge Mickey J. Norman stated in an opinion Cpl Royce Ruby's conduct was "entitled to qualified immunity," which translates as Ruby was well within his rights as a member of law enforcement and is "shielded from liability for civil damages."

Norman's opinion states Ruby acted within the margins of the law. "This court has found that Corporal Ruby is entitled to qualified immunity and therefore, his shooting of Gaines was not unlawful."

However, Norman states the damages Gaines' surviving family was seeking were "excessive and shocks the conscience."

The jury awarded $32.85 million to Gaines' son Kodi, $23, 542 for his medical bills and $4.53 million to Gaines' daughter Karsyn Courtney. The jury also found it fit to award Gaines' mother Rhanda Dormeus $307,000 and $300,000 to her father Ryan Gaines.

Judge Norman said the court would grant a new civil trial on account of this new opinion.

J. Wyndal Gordon, Gaines' family lawyer said the family is disappointed but not "defeated nor deterred from doing what must be done now."

"We have great appellate issues and an excellent opportunity to have reviewed not just the recent decision but some of the earlier decisions in the case that were disfavorable," Gordon said. "Nobody told us the road would be easy. I don't believe God brought us this far to leave us. This case is by no means over. We will fight to the finish to preserve the jury's verdict and restore justice to the family."

Baltimore County police spokesperson confirmed that Cpl Royce Ruby is still a member of the department.

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Alberto E. Rodriguez

Jussie Smollett's Attorneys Deny Actor Paid $3,500 To Orchestrate Attack

Sources close to the Jussie Smollett investigation have spoken with several media outlets and allege new evidence shows the Empire actor may have orchestrated the attack, and even paid men $3,500 to go through with it.

The two men who are brothers were arrested Wednesday and released Friday (Feb. 15) without charges. Both men are cooperating fully with Chicago police, and authorities found records they purchased a rope at a local hardware store, which was used during the attack.

Smollett's attorneys, Todd S. Pugh, and Victor P. Henderson, quickly denied the claim made by authorities.

"As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with," the statement read. "He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."

On Jan. 29, Smollett was leaving a Subway fast-food restaurant when the actor alleges to have been attacked by two men who beat him, poured bleach on him and tried to hang a rope around his neck. The 35-year-old entertainer, who identifies as gay, said one of the men shouted "This is MAGA country" as well as other racial and homophobic slurs.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said one of the men appeared on Empire and have past affiliation with Smollett.

During his interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America Thursday (Feb. 14), Smollett expressed frustration about not being believed. Sunday morning (Feb. 17) the hashtag 'JussieSmollettHoax' trended on Twitter. The Internet was split with many offering a digital "I told you so" due to the reports, while others, particularly members of the black LGBTQ community, questioning why many were quick to believe the word of law enforcement.

Us straight men waiting on the LGBT community to apologize after Jussie lied

— Flickens McCray (@Mickens__) February 17, 2019

No idea what actually happened w/ Jussie Smollett. But do know that 4 years ago, Chicago PD spent 13 months justifying Laquan McDonald’s murder before releasing dashcam video showing he was walking away before being shot at 16x by an officer. Why are we just accepting their word?

— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) February 17, 2019

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Dave Chappelle Personally Provides Tickets To Couple Who Were Scammed On Craigslist

One couple's Valentine's Day was made thanks to Dave Chappelle after they were scammed out of $500 dollars on Craigslist trying to buy the tickets to see the comedian.

Diedra and Eddie Dickens story was brought to light by WBTV on Wednesday (Feb. 13) when the couple shared how they were robbed online. In an effort to surprise her husband for Valentine's Day, Diedra attempted to buy tickets to see Chappelle on Valentine's Day after hearing he would perform in their hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. After she was unable to find tickets on Ticketmaster, she tried Craigslist where she found a perfect match for her and her husband, who would've needed a wheelchair accessible seat.

“They were seats one through four so those would be great because I could put my husband in seat one at the end of an aisle and that kind of good stuff,” she said.

But after sending $500 via Apple Pay to the seller, she never heard back. Diedra filed a police report after she was unable to get in touch with the seller.

“I was having good faith and it cost me $500,” she said. “You have no empathy or goodness, or I don’t know, maybe no soul."

After their story was shared on the local news, Chappelle's team caught wind of what happened and decided to surprise the couple on Thursday (Feb. 14), who decided to have dinner with friends.

Last night we told you this Charlotte couple was scammed out of hundreds of dollars trying to buy @DaveChappelle tickets on Craigslist. Tonight we were there as DAVE HIMSELF hand-delivered the group tickets! Awesome! @WBTV_News

— Alex Giles WBTV (@AlexGilesNews) February 15, 2019

Shocked and amazed, the couple was thrilled to meet the comedy legend who hand-delivered real tickets to his show. He chatted and took pictures with the couple while sharing the importance of buying tickets from credible platforms.

"Someone on my team called me, actually last night, and told me about this situation and we thought it'd be fun to do that for someone for Valentine's Day," he said to WBTV, who helped him find the couple. "I didn't expect to be on the news doing it but I'm glad, that's good. It's good that people know to always get your tickets from reliable sources and take every opportunity that's presented to you to be kind, especially if it's something that's easy to do."

Here’s a portion of our interview with @DaveChappelle. Great quote - “Take any opportunity that’s presented to you to be kind, especially if it’s something easy to do.” @WBTV_News

— Alex Giles WBTV (@AlexGilesNews) February 15, 2019

Check out the good deed above.

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