Monday, May 9, 2011

Nailing the Dude: Criminal Prosecution of Sports Heroes

At the end of last week, news reports carried the story of the indictment of baseball legend Lenny "Nails" aka the "Dude" Dykstra (pic) the former Mets and Phillies outfielder.  With Dykstra batting in the lead-off spot, the 1986 Mets coasted to the division crown, outlasting the Phillies by 21 games, en route to a 108–54 season. The Mets made it to the World Series after a hard-fought victory over the National League West Champs Houston Astros in the NLCS.  Dykstra will forever be remembered for his walk off home run in Game 3, which is considered one of the biggest hits in Mets franchise history and the definitive moment of Dykstra's career. Dykstra would bat .304 in the 1986 NLCS and later hit .296 in the World Series against the BoSox. However, it was Dykstra's lead off home run in Game 3 of the World Series at Fenway that served as the spark for a Mets team that had fallen behind 2 games to none.  Following Dykstra's home run, the Mets rallied to defeat the Red Sox in seven games in one of the most memorable World Series of all time.

Dykstra went onto to a brilliant career with the Mets and then the Phillies retiring in 1996 except for a Spring Training comeback abandoned in 1998.  Off the field, Dykstra's business acumen and personal conduct repeatedly brought him to the attention of the authorities.  He was arrested by U.S. Marshals and it is said that he'll be prosecuted by the feds for bankruptcy fraud.  This is the LA Times account:

"Former baseball star Lenny Dykstra was indicted by a federal grand jury Friday on charges including bankruptcy fraud and obstruction of justice, for allegedly sneaking away more than $400,000 in property that should have gone to his creditors, then lying about it under oath.  Dykstra, 48, a former Mets and Phillies outfielder known to his fans by the nickname “Nails,” is accused of stealing, hiding and destroying items such as chandeliers, artwork, sconces and sports memorabilia about himself from his $18-million Ventura County mansion, according to the indictment.  He later filed declarations under oath and lied in bankruptcy court about having received money from selling off the items, the indictment alleged.

Dykstra’s attorney, Mark Werksman, accused the government late Friday of 'using an indictment to punish a debtor,' and said the criminal charges were 'heavy-handed and overbearing.  This is payback by the U.S. government to Lenny Dykstra’s resistance to the trustee’s dismantling of his property and assets in the bankruptcy,'  Werksman said. 'When all the facts come out, we’ll show that Mr. Dykstra acted in good faith and behaved properly.'

If convicted of all 13 counts in the indictment, Dykstra could face a maximum of 80 years in prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.  Dykstra, who fashioned himself as a financial guru and entrepreneur after retiring from his baseball career, filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2009 when business ventures started failing and debt began piling up. He was soon pushed into court-ordered liquidation by his creditors.

Bankruptcy trustee Peter C. Anderson called Dykstra’s alleged crimes 'an egregious abuse of the bankruptcy system,' and said they would 'not be tolerated,'  according to a statement released by prosecutors. Dykstra’s bankruptcy case remains pending."

Lance in Maglia Rosa
 As many followers of this blawg know, the Bad Lawyer is an avid fan of professional road cycling and an amateur cyclist himself.  The Giro d' Italia (tour of Italy) began it's 3 week round-about Italy.  I follow this wonderful bike race every year--until realtime coverage came along online, I ordered VHS tapes, and subsequently DVDs (usually arriving months after the race was complete.)  But the delay to see this race, even when the outcome was known was almost always be worth the wait.  In recent years each edition of the Giro featured some drug or cheating scandal effecting the outcome and careers of the participants and race teams.  I believe I wrote about the cheating scandals and ultimately the premature death of the great Italian cyclist, Marco Pantani, Il Pirata.

Largely because of the astounding physical demands on the cyclist, professional bicycle racing is the breeding-ground for all sorts of cheating.  Now, with the confession of cycling cheat and liar, Floyd Landis, many of us who follow cycling are waiting for the indictment (or, perhaps the decision not to pursue charges) against Lance Armstrong.  Some well-placed observers believe that federal charges of wire and mail fraud are imminent.  Allegations against Armstrong relate to hundreds of millions of dollars perhaps involving his ubiquitous Livestrong Cancer foundation  with its iconic rubber yellow bracelet.  The bottom line is the accusation that Lance Armstrong was a "doper," fraud, and perjurer--that millions of dollars changed hands from sponsors and insurance carriers relying on the material representation that Armstrong rode clean. 

Prosecutions of our sports heroes fall into several categories.  There are the offenses connected to the sports performance:  "blood doping" or steroids.  There's sports betting, for example Pete Rose.  Recently there are revelations of sports cheating, gambling and fixing in Sumo wrestling and international cricket matches.  Then there are the non-sports offenses which can be neatly divided into criminal conduct during the playing years and criminal conduct after retirement.  In addition to the drunken and drug-fueled episodes,  there's domestic violence, and sexual misconduct.   Then, there are the financial crimes in which we see guys like Art Schlichter, and now Lenny Dykstra. 

Sports gives men and women who have little else that they can agree on, something to talk about without killing one another.  Until recent years it was possible to follow sports without wishing you had a law degree or lawyer on retainer to explain it all to you.  Well, maybe we should dig into this a little more.  Barry Bonds, Lenny Dykstra, Floyd and Lance....there's just so much to mull over.  Here's is a category of law awash in testosterone and greed--it's almost as bad as politics.

Let's talk sports!


  1. The Maglia Rosa is the pink jersey worn by the cyclist who is leading and ultimately has the best overall time during the Giro. It is the Giro's version of the "yellow jersey"--both the Maglia Rosa and the Yellow jersey are connected to the color of the newspapers that sponsor these Grand Tours. Lance was not known for participating in the Giro d'Italia, so there's a bit of a visual pun intended in the republication of his image from "his comeback."

  2. The Giro d'Italia is a very beautiful and thrilling event, sadly as I chose to mention it in connection with this post I learned that a young Belgian cyclist, Wouter Weylandt was killed following a 3d Stage crash this morning. Here's the link to the VeloNews account: