Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Leafs Forward Heading to Jail

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but Mark Bell of the Toronto Maple Leafs is heading to jail. Bell plead guilty in a California court on Tuesday to drunk driving with injury and hit and run charges, stemming from an incident that happened last Labour Day. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail and will have to pay restitution to the victim, in addition to fines.

The interesting part of this story is that Mark Bell will serve his sentence following the 2007-08 NHL season. I was a little shocked by this information since most people must serve their jail sentence in the immediate future – not in eight months time. Is this a form of favouritism?

My first instinct was to say “heck yeah”, but now I’m not so sure. It’s not like the perceived favouritism that we see with the Paris Hiltons and Nicole Ritchies of this world. Bell was sentenced to 6 months in jail, not exactly a slap on the wrist. I’m inclined to think along the lines of what legal analyst Rob Becker said yesterday on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown – that Mark Bell would have received the same punishment if he had gone to trial (he was facing between 3 and 12 months in jail). He chose to plead guilty, and people almost always get some sort of ‘reward’ for doing so. Instead of getting a reduced sentence, Bell’s ‘reward’ is to delay his jail stay until next spring.

I’m curious to see how Bell’s season with the Leafs will turn out. I wonder if his troubles with the Sharks last season ultimately stemmed from this DUI accident. If so, he will have to toughen up psychologically because the Toronto media will not let this story die. Toronto is already the toughest city to play in because of the media pressure, and he will need to be strong because all eyes will be on him for the next 8 months.

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