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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August 22, 2008 9:52 am

great post. i got banned for a while on hockeybuzz for bringing this up (the sens fans were pretty upset with me)

August 22, 2008 9:01 am

Good post. The Heatley incident makes me sick. Ramage was properly sentenced…Heatley deserved at least 2 years. As for Bell….He got off easy too…In my opinion, the justice system failed in 2 of 3 incidents.

Heavy Heart
Heavy Heart
August 21, 2008 11:15 pm

Obviously Heatley had one hell of a lawyer who did exactly what he was paid to do; get him off with as little consequence as possible.

Reality check: The judicial system was built to protect the rights of the accused. The victims rarely EVER get any type of justice.

I lost a sister, 16 years old, beautiful and full of life to a drunk driver who got absolutely nothing because his slimeball lawyer got him off on a technicality. Believe me, there is little justice out there. Our judicial system is a joke.

Thank-you for writing this article. Lets hope other people actually learn from these guys mistakes too, not just the guys who made them.

The world would be a better place if people looked out for each other more and stopped risking their lives over something so unbelievably stupid. I mean its 100% preventable; that says it all doesn’t it. It never needs to happen, it never should happen, yet it happens all the time.


Down Goes Brown
August 21, 2008 10:44 pm

I’ll put aside whether Heatley should have gone to jail because I think the Snyder’s family’s plea carried a lot of weight.

That said, it’s absolutely depressing how the Heatley story is all but forgotten in Ottawa. It’s just never mentioned. I’ve heard Sens fans talk trash about Mark Bell’s accident, apparently oblivious to the irony. And if you do bring it up, they’ll be sure to tell you that he was never charged (or never convicted, both of which of course aren’t true).

February 9, 2009 12:25 pm

Everyday people go out with there friends and do stupid things. Heatly and snyder were just having some fun, he wasnt drunk driving or anything just going to fast. I bet just having the guilt of killing your friend on your concience for the rest of your life is torture. The family of snyder even wanted heatly to get off. There was no need for jailtime and its stupid to think so. The justice system didnt fail at all they made the right decision. It clearly was a complete accident and those happen all the time. We need to put oursleves in heatlys shoes and just think how it must feel to have to go through that. It real easy to just get mad at the justice system and say it failed but really there were way more contirbuting factors to the decision they made.

October 19, 2009 10:13 am

“There was no need for jailtime and its stupid to think so.”

He committed vehicular homicide (again, that’s called “murder”) due to an “accident” that shouldn’t have happened. Hello! There are plenty of guys n’ gals in the pokey right now for similar “accidents”. Take off the rose colored glasses and stop promoting anarchy.

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