Top 10 Famous Jailed Athletes Serving Major Prison Time

Tags: #Sports ,   #Crime ,   #Prison

Dan N. Scarborough

Dan N. Scarborough

Last updated:  2023-06-07 07:34:45

Athletes are typically incredibly inspiring persons whose accomplishments and lives serve as role models for young people worldwide. On the other hand, being a famous sportsperson does not make someone a paragon of virtue. Unfortunately, many elite athletes turned bad and committed some truly heinous things. Furthermore, many of them face lengthy prison sentences for their misdeeds. This top ten list includes some of the most atrocious offenders.

10. Oscar Pistorius

He mixed his girlfriend for a home robber

Oscar Pistorius' tale was once among the most inspiring in sports history. Pistorius earned a gold medal in the 400-meter run at the Athens Paralympics in 2004 after being born with a congenital abnormality that left both of his legs without fibulas.

However, on February 14, 2013, he was arrested for the shooting and killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The prosecution claimed that the murder was planned because Pistorius and Steenkamp regularly argued (and Pistorius had a history of violence against women). Consequently, Pistorius was convicted guilty of murder in a second trial after a seven-month trial where he had a lighter sentence. He was penalized with 13 years in prison.

9. "Fast Eddie" Johnson

Fast Eddie wasn't faster than the hand of the law

Edward Lee Johnson Jr. was really an NBA superstar. He played in two straight NBA All-Star Games for the Atlanta Hawks, and his explosive speed and slicing ability, combined with an accurate outside shot, garnered him a career total of 10,163 points. Fast Eddie's life beyond basketball, on the other hand, would be a disaster.

Unfortunately, Fast Eddie was no stranger to crime. Therefore, he'd been arrested almost 100 times on "burglary, violence, robbery, marijuana possession, and drug paraphernalia." Yet, Johnson was convicted to life in prison without the possibility of release for sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl. In 2020, he died while serving the sentence.

8. Darren Sharper

Famous NBA player played Bill Cosby all over The States

Retired commentator and five-time Pro Bowl NFL safety Darren Sharper is one of the most well-known professional sportsmen presently spending time in prison. Sharper moved on to new endeavors after retiring from the game, including serving as an analyst for NFL Network and, tragically, the serial drugging and raping of "as many as 16 women in four states."

Sharper claimed guilty or no contest in federal and four different state courts in August 2016. In the end, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Louisiana state judge after being condemned to more than 18 years by a federal judge.

7. Clifford Etienne

From prison to boxing to prison again

Clifford Etienne was a foolish high schooler who held up some consumers at a shopping center just because. Etienne was prosecuted as an adult despite his age and received a 40-year sentence. While incarcerated, Etienne began boxing and amassed a 30-0 record on his way to becoming the champion of the Louisiana state prison's boxing circuit. Furthermore, Etienne's sentence was reduced to ten years, and he promptly went pro upon his release in 1998. Etienne advanced fast through the boxing ranks, but his hype train was halted by Mike Tyson, who knocked him out 49 seconds into their highly publicized bout.

He kept boxing but quickly reverted to his old criminal enterprises. Etienne broke into a check-cashing establishment in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, stole $1,900 and a getaway car with two children inside...twice! He didn't get far before crashing, being apprehended by police, and firing a defective gun. Etienne was condemned to more than 150 years in jail, but his sentence was reduced to 105 years in prison in 2013. Lucky guy.

6. Keith Wright

A new high score for the longest sentence

Keith Wright, a defensive tackle from the University of Missouri, was a sixth-round draft pick who often hopped about the NFL. After playing for Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europe, he returned to northern California, completing his career by committing a string of crimes.

Wright was charged with 19 felonies during his spree, including kidnapping, armed robbery, false imprisonment, and sexual assault. A year later, he received one of the heaviest sentences ever handed down to a former professional athlete (or anyone): 234 years and eight months. (The eight months ensure that he truly learns his lesson.) Furthermore, the judge made him pay restitution and court fees if he had any money left over from his NFL contract.

5. Randall Woodfield

He finally became famous, although not the way he wanted

Randall Woodfield, a former Green Bay Packers wide receiver, finally gained a catchy nickname. Therefore, he was dubbed the "I-5 Killer" for perpetrating many murders in Oregon, Washington, and California because I-5 is the name of the freeway connecting all three states.

After being released by the Packers, he worked for a trucking company in Wisconsin before returning to Oregon, where his I-5 crimes began. Woodfield was sentenced in 1981 for shooting and killing Shari Hull at an office building before being linked to five other murders and was suspected of killing many more. This serial killer was sentenced to life in prison + 90 years at the Oregon State Penitentiary when he was 30.

4. Hardbody Harrison

Pimpin' ain't easy, as seen in the example

Hardbody Harrison, a former pro wrestler, allegedly became a pimp after his career did not go as planned. After an honorable release from the US Army in 1995, the Georgia native became a jobber who frequently lost matches to the main draw wrestler. Harrison, unfortunately, was not offered a new contract after WWE bought WCW.

To make ends meet, Harrison eventually turned to a life of crime. He would bail women out of jail, give them a place to stay at his Cartersville, Georgia home, and then force them to become sex workers. When he was under arrest, it was claimed that several women were forced to perform sex acts in addition to household chores in his home. Despite claiming those women were there to train wrestling, Harrison was pronounced guilty and is currently serving a life sentence.

3. Jon "War Machine" Koppenhaver

Don't take your job home, especially if you are a fighter

Although Jon "War Machine" Koppenhaver rose to prominence as an MMA fighter in Bellator and the UFC and later became an adult movie star. However, he is best remembered for brutally beating his ex-girlfriend, Christine Mack, and her boyfriend, Corey Thomas. Before the heinous crime, Koppenhaver and Mack dated for years. Still, their relationship ended because of the ex-fighter's allegedly bad temper and physical abuse.

Koppenhaver supposedly broke into Mack's Las Vegas home without permission on the night of the attack and beat up Thomas, leaving him with several injuries, including a broken nose and dislocated shoulder. Koppenhaver then told Thomas, a cast member on VH1's "Megan Wants a Millionaire," to leave and began brutally beating Mack. Due to the severity of her injuries, Koppenhaver was sentenced to 36 to life. 

2. Gavin Grant

The famous football player moonlighted as an assassin

Gavin Grant faced numerous obstacles coming of age in Harlesden, London, to compete for professional soccer clubs Millwall, Wycombe Wanderers, and Bradford City. But all fell apart for the rising sports star when he was convicted in 2010 for killing Leon Labastide, who was 21 then. Grant was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison, while two other shooters were also convicted and sentenced to the same amount of time.

Labastide was murdered in a "tit-for-tat" assault in an area once rife with gang activity. Labastide and a group of people allegedly went into Grant's best friend, Romain Whyte's, home and took £20,000. Grant, Downie, and Williams then searched for Labastide, who was shot six times when they discovered him.

1. Joe Son

Austin Powers thug became a real-life villain

Joe Son was recognized by MMA fans as a stocky fighter with a brief UFC career who tapped out after being battered in the junk in a memorable 1994 pay-per-view battle. But, even as Austin Powers' Oddjob copycat Joe Son flirted briefly with popularity in the 1990s, he was hiding a dark background that would finally come to light in 2008. 

Thanks to a DNA sample, he was connected to a brutal kidnapping, rape, and torture case that sent him to prison for life. Son's fate as an espionage cinema's most renowned off-screen criminal was cemented just one month into his life sentence. He was charged with slaying his cellmate in yet another display of violence.

It's a long way down from the glory of sports to the terrible and frequently degrading reality of prison. Some of the athletes listed in our top ten were at the pinnacle of their respective sports. Still, due to a few unwise actions, they are now being sentenced to prison time. It will be long before these folks can walk the streets and sign autographs again, if ever.

Who is the most infamous athlete behind bars? Which ones would you add to the list?

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