Mark Bell, Dany Heatley… American Justice?

Kudos to Mark Bell today for repaying his debt to society. It gives time to reflect on two of the most recent episodes of hockey bad boys Mark Bell and Dany Heatley. I am not sure there is a clearer example of justice being blind.

To recall, On September 29, 2003, Dany Heatley killed his fellow teammate Dan Snyder when his Ferrari 360 Modena struck a wall along Atlanta’s Lenox Road. Both players were ejected from the car, which was split in half by the force of the impact. Snyder suffered a fractured skull and internal brain injuries due to the rapid acceleration/deceleration incident. He lapsed into a coma following emergency surgery, and died six days later on October 5 as a result of his injuries complicated by a subsequently-acquired infection.

Heatley was charged with vehicular homicide(also called murder) as a result of the crash. He pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide(murder), driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain a lane, and speeding. He was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to give 150 speeches on the dangers of speeding for his crime. If memory serves me correctly, this was not the first time that Heatley wrapped his car around a pole for going too fast.

Conversely, During the 2006 Labour Day weekend, Mark Bell was arrested in the San Jose area for alleged hit and run and driving under the influence. Both are felony offences. His arraignment was set for January 3, 2007. Bell pleaded no contest to drunk driving causing injury and hit-and-run on August 14, 2007. Although Bell was supposed to serve time for his actions, his sentence was reduced to 11 weeks of community service. So instead of spending time in the clink, Bell busted his butt for eight hours a day, five days a week for 11 weeks in Santa Clara County working on the side of highways, picking up garbage, cutting grass and pulling weeds.

Doesn’t seem quite fair to me. Heatly, an alleged repeat offender KILLED someone. Sorry, not just SOMEONE, one of his best friends and teammate. His sentence never included jail time, he got off with having to give 150 speeches. Ummmmm hello???? He KILLED someone. I don’t buy the argument that he has to carry the grief of KILLING his best friend and teammate so that is punishment alone. What Bell did pales in comparison to what Heatly did. I am not trying to lessen either the actions or effects of what Bell did. Drinking and driving, hitting someone and then fleying the scene is brutal. It seems to me however, that at least Bell was dealt with appropriately. Where is justice?

I know the family of Snyder begged for leniency for Heatly. They are true heroes having to deal with the death of their son. The family of Keith Magnuson also pled for leniancy in the sentenicng of Rob Ramage when Ramage, allegedly under the influence totaled his car killing his friend Keith Magnuson . Ramage, sentenced in Canada is going to jail for four years (pending appeal).

So let’s review, Bell, hits someone(who miraculously avoids death), while drinking and driving and and flees the scene. He pleads out, gets sentenced to jail and serves his time doing 11 weeks, over 440 hours on the CA highways with other criminals. Ramage, allegedly KILLED someone, while allegedly under the influence, and has been sentenced to 4 years in jail. Then there is Heatley, who Killed someone, while under the influence of alcohol (albeit within the legal limit) and he has to give 150 speeches????? Even if each speech lasted 2 hours apiece, it doesn’t equate to what Bell just did, that would only be 300 hours!

So, irrespective to what we think of him on the ice, we should salute Mark Bell, for repaying his debt to society. Here is hoping he has learned his lesson and will continue to be a valuable member of our society.

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