What if I told you that you could, through your own voluntary and illegal actions, take another man’s life and get just six months in prison? Would you be shocked or surprised?
Well, you should not be surprised at all. In fact, you could count former Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent in your corner.
Brent, as you may recall, was involved in a fatal accident in December of 2012 when he got behind the wheel after drinking the night away at a Dallas nightclub. Brent left that club in his Mercedes-Benz with close friend and teammate Jerry Brown in the passenger seat. Brent was traveling at an estimated 110-mph on an Irving service road when he lost control of the car, resulting in a fiery crash.
Prosecutors in the case say that Brent had as many as 17 drinks before getting behind the wheel while police tested the 320-pound defensive tackle shortly after the crash and reported that his blood-alcohol level was found to be at .18, more than twice the legal limit in Texas.
Predictably, Brent’s defense team claim the test was wrong and there is no way their client could have drank that much that night.
Brent was found guilty by a Dallas County jury and later sentenced to a 10-year suspended sentence. What this means is that Brent will serve 10 years on probation with a legally-required 180-day jail stay. That’s it. Get drunk, get behind the wheel, take a life and get six months.
What kind of message does this send and why the leniency in a state typically known for firm administration of justice?
The first answer, unfortunately is easy. The second, well, that one is a bit harder to answer. Certainly, it helped that Brown’s mother was pushing for no jail time for Brent. But since when is justice set aside just because someone pleads for mercy? And is Brent really someone we want roaming the roads? Those in Brent’s corner say that he doesn’t need further punishment as he will live with this forever.
But is this a guy that learns from his mistakes? He lost his driver’s license in Illinois after a drunk driving arrest. And even while awaiting this trial he violated his terms of release up to four times and twice during this period tested positive for marijuana.
But, wait Rodney, you say, how is he driving in Texas if he lost his license in Illinois? Ah, easy…he avoided having to install an ignition interlock device on his Mercedes by simply not carrying a valid Texas drivers license or insurance. And this is the fine citizen 12 members of a Dallas County jury decided did not need to serve time behind bars. The 180 days he got was the highest the judge in this case could levy.
It constantly amazes me at the lax attitude some take toward drunk driving. I’m not among that group. In fact, I strongly believe drunk drivers should face seriously stiff penalties for the first incident. And, apparently, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) agrees with me as the group is "shocked and appalled" at the light sentence Brent received.
Getting drunk and getting behind the wheel is a conscious decision that could easily end in tragedy. No one accidentally gets drunk; when they head to the bar or the Super Bowl party and down beer after beer after beer, or whatever mind-altering liquid of the moment, they know what’s going to happen. We’re adults here; you drink too much you get drunk.
My loved ones drive daily, and my youngest son is about to join them. I constantly worry about their safety with people like Brent on the road. My professional stance at The Anna-Melissa Tribune and the Van Alstyne Leader has been the same — I always print names of those arrested for drunk driving in police reports. And consequently, I’ve gotten more than one heated phone call or email. It never fails to amaze me how someone can drive drunk enough to be spotted at night by an officer of the law, putting everyone around them in danger, yet vent their spleen at the local newspaper for reporting as much. It does not matter, I will continue to print these names as furnished by the local reporting agencies. If they want to drive drunk and put others in jeopardy then they should be prepared to face the music.
I didn’t have a say in the Brent verdict, but I wish I would have.