Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Former Football Stars Wage a DUI Derby in Alabama

We posted recently about former University of Alabama and Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler and the curious acquittal he received from a municipal judge in south Alabama on a drunk driving charge.

Now we learn that a former standout at Alabama's other football factory, Auburn University, is trying his darnedest to keep up with Stabler--if not pass him--in the DUI derby.

Lionel James, who starred at Auburn in the early 1980s and played professionally with the San Diego Chargers, has been charged with his third DUI since July--that's July of 2008.

The most recent charge against James came on Sunday night in Shelby County. He also was charged with drunk driving on October 23 and July 24. Both of those also were in Shelby County.

Several thoughts come to mind as we ponder this DUI derby between two Alabama sports icons:

* We already know that Stabler was acquitted under circumstances that even a number of lawyers said where suspicious. Turns out the judge in that case, James Sweet, is a Robertsdale, Alabama, attorney who was serving in an acting capacity because the regular municipal judge had a conflict. The Robertsdale City Council appointed Sweet to handle the case, and guess where Sweet went to law school--why, the University of Alabama. Now, UA has one of two university-based law schools in the state. (The other is Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham.) Naturally, the state's legal circles are heavily populated with UA graduates. But the good folks in Robertsdale, for a case involving a former UA football star and current color analyst, could not find someone who was not a UA graduate? Hmmm. Wonder how many Roll Tide fans are on the Robertsdale City Council. Double Hmmm.

* How will Lionel James fare in court? Well, let's consider a few factors: (1) He went to Auburn, which has no law school and thus does not have the pull in the legal community that the University of Alabama has; (2) James is black, while Stabler is white; (3) James is being held without bond and Bill Bostick, chief assistant district attorney in Shelby County, said he will review the file to see if it is appropriate for felony prosecution.

* Something tells me that black Lionel "Little Train" James won't get the same friendly treatment in conservative Shelby County that Kenny "The Snake" Stabler received in Robertsdale.

* The James case is being handled so far by Shelby County District Judge Ron Jackson, the same "jurist" who found my neighbor--the criminally inclined Mike McGarity--not guilty of trespassing even though McGarity unwittingly confessed to the crime. I'm not making this up, folks. Jackson is so corrupt it's a wonder his eyes don't pop out of their sockets. And he's not even the most corrupt judge in Shelby County. That honor would have to go to the dueling Bozos--J. Michael Joiner and G. Dan Reeves.

If Lionel James has been driving drunk--and it appears that he has--he will get no sympathy from me. But it will be interesting to see how the treatment of a black former Auburn player compares to the treatment of a white former Alabama player.

(By the way, Stabler also has had multiple run-ins with the law over drinking and driving, although not all in a four-month period of time. The Snake likes to spread his DUIs out over several years.)

It also will be interesting to see how James' treatment compares with that of William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig, the UAB donor who is a "person of interest" in my unlawful termination. Hazelrig gave UAB $5 million to help build a new radiation oncology facility, and that gift is believed to be the largest from an individual in school history.

While Hazelrig seems interested in helping people beat cancer, he also seems to be doing his darnedest to put innocent people into UAB's trauma unit--at least that's what his lengthy record of driving mayhem would indicate.

Hey, maybe that's the key to Hazelrig's financial relationship with UAB. He not only gives them millions of dollars, he also helps them make money by causing car crashes that provide UAB with plenty of trauma patients.


Hazelrig has already been convicted of drunk driving in Mountain Brook Municipal Court, but he is appealing to Jefferson County Circuit Court, with trial set for December 1.

Wait till you hear about the details of his DUI arrest. It's a shocker. And we will be covering his case every step of the way.

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