Criminal Defense Lawyer Highlights Legal Implications Surrounding Ray Rice Saga

By Nicholas Galea, a criminal defense attorney in Rockford, Illinois and a 2013 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law. You can follow him on Twitter at @invertedWAR.

Ray Rice and wife Janay Palmer (left) now find themselves at the center of the nation's attention due to Rice punching out Palmer on video in an Atlantic City casino.

When TMZ released the video of Ray Rice battering Janay Palmer in an elevator, it raised more questions than it answered. It has also placed renewed scrutiny on all parties: Rice, Harbaugh, Goodell, and even NJ prosecutors.

Questions abound. Why the diversionary program? Why two games? Why the different punishment now? Each facet of the issue touches on a few legal concepts that can be rather confusing, even for seasoned attorneys. So now I’ll try to put my criminal law knowledge to good work and attempt to answer some of the more common questions I’ve seen asked.

What’s with the pre-trial diversion program? How could you not prosecute Ray Rice?

The idea that Rice was not prosecuted is 100% false. His placement in a diversion program involves a plea of guilt, the attachment of due process, and all of the usual processes of a prosecution. Guilty pleas in exchange for these opportunities are quite common, especially as criminal justice reformers have embraced a softer approach to sentencing in order to disrupt defendants’ lives less and save money on incarceration.

Although I am not too familiar with New Jersey’s programs, in Illinois it is common for 1st-time misdemeanor offenders to receive court supervision. This gives the offender a year or two to pay a fine, complete public service work, or comply with any other terms deemed fit. With compliance, the case is considered dismissed, and no conviction is entered. This is advantageous for many reasons. However, the courts always have record of prior court supervision terms. It should be seen less as a gift, but more of a firm message sent by the court that we will give you one opportunity to prove you are better than your criminal action.

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Steelers Running Back Teaches Us All A Valuable Lesson in DUI Law

Le'Veon Bell is starting week 1, but he faces a marijuana-related DUI charge stemming from a preseason arrest.

Today the Pittsburgh Steelers hope to ride running back Le’Veon Bell to victory over the Cleveland Browns despite the fact that Bell and fellow RB LeGarrette Blount were riding dirty a few hours before a flight to Philly for a preseason game last month.

Bell and Blount were nabbed for marijuana possession (about 20 grams worth) and Bell, who was driving, picked up a DUI. Funny thing is, he had no idea DUIs applied to drugs. Frankly, who could blame him? He was smoking marijuana hours before a team flight and he is still starting Sunday. So much for accountability in Pittsburgh.

Ignoring the comical lack of punishment, Bell’s mistaken belief that DUIs only apply to driving while drunk provides a good opportunity to review DUI law in the Keystone State.

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Bengals Cheerleader’s Libel Suit Leads To 6th Circuit Victory For Internet Free Speech

Former Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones learned a difficult legal lesson and lost nearly $400,000 thanks to a recent 6th Circuit Ruling.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) might be one of the most important and powerful pieces of American law.

This Section of the CDA makes the Internet the Internet. Without it, YouTube, Reddit, Craigslist, and even this blog might not exist.

Section 230 of the CDA immunizes website creates or “providers of interactive computer services” against liability arising from content created by third parties. Such immunity allows users to post content that may or may not be defamatory. Although this is largely the basis for “free speech” on the Internet, it also allows shady rumor sites like to exist.

Unfortunately for one former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader, Sarah Jones, upholding the sanctity of Section 230 cost her more than $300,000 in a case that appeared poised to crack the CDA’s broad Internet immunity provision.

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Republican Politicians Seeking Federal Ban Of Online Gambling Except Fantasy Sports

Admittedly, this blog is becoming a little gambling heavy. But next to death and taxes, the only sure thing in a sports fan’s life is gambling, which is why a bill recently proposed by two Republicans Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to kill online gambling should be on every sports fan’s radar.

The bill, known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, might actually bolster the lucrative fantasy sports industry while destroying online gambling.

As Julian Hattem reported for The Hill, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, would reverse a 2011 Justice Department decision that opened the doors for states to permit online gambling in addition to horse racing, fantasy sports and other games, which were already permitted under the law. Eric Holder’s decision was a momentous shift in the government’s interpretation of the Wire Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA).

The latest proposed bill, however, would re-outlaw poker, blackjack and other online casino games, but not fantasy sports.

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New Jersey Set to Double Down On Sports Betting After Supreme Court Ruling

New Jersey plans to take on the federal government to allow sports books in the Garden State.

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court dashed the dreams of sports bettors in the Northeast with two words – certiorari denied.

Despite the major players involved and billions of dollars at stake in New Jersey’s pursuit to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the Supreme Court ultimately refused to hear the case. Granted, the Supreme Court hears only about one percent of cases appealed to it. But come on, we got parlays to hit.

By denying certiorari, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2-1 decision to uphold PASPA will stand. This means no sports betting for any states other than Nevada and to some extent, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana.

However, federal law and Supreme Court be damned, the Garden State is pushing forward with its desire to legalize sports betting — and it plans to do so by stealing the marijuana legalization playbook.

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Gameday Cocktails Lead to Hangover Lawsuits

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Pennsylvania and New Jersey Eyeing Lucrative Sports Betting Industry

Bookies beware, it might be time to find a new job.

Recently, two of the most gambling-friendly states in the Northeast have signaled that they are eager to embrace the multi-billion dollar a year sports betting industry –- federal law be damned. A state senator’s proposal in New Jersey and a study commissioned in Pennsylvania both signaled that these two states are about to go all in on sports betting.

The only catch is that pesky law known as PASPA.

PASPA, which stands for the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act became law in 1992 thanks to strong lobbying by the major professional sports leagues and the NCAA. PASPA banned sports betting in all states except those that offered it at any time between 1976 and 1990. This solidified Nevada as the only state offering fully legalized sports betting, which they have done since 1949. It also allowed much more limited parlay bets on NFL games in Delaware, a now discontinued sports lottery in Oregon, and sports betting pools in Montana.

Notably, PASPA exempted horse racing and dog racing because, you know, those sports were clearly immune from the gravely feared cheating scandals plaguing human athletes.

However, in recent years, PASPA has come under attack as cash-strapped states search for new revenue sources.

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Silver’s Sterling Decision Was A Layup

By Nicholas Galea, a public defender in central Illinois and a 2013 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law. You can follow him on Twitter at @invertedWAR.

New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver laid down the law against racist Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Unprecedented is really the only word you can use to describe the Donald Sterling fiasco. Sure, we all knew he was an old racist jerk, but this is the first time the sports world has universally cared about that. That’s probably equal parts the visceral nature of the comments recorded, as well as this playoff run being the highest profile the LA Clippers have had since Sterling bought the team. Many have expressed uneasiness about NBA Commissioner Adam Silver choosing to effectively kick Sterling out of the NBA for private comments, illegally recorded ones at that. But, I think “choosing” is the wrong word here. Ultimately, Adam Silver had no choice in the matter, thanks to the strong stand the players were willing to take.

Players for the Golden State Warriors were planning to walk off the court in protest if Silver didn’t throw the book at Sterling. That’s not a threat to be taken lightly. From a PR standpoint, it would be an outright revolt against the league office in the most visible way imaginable. But, there’s a pretty good chance the players didn’t have a contractual right to effect this protest. In their statements to the press, the players used the word “boycott” to describe the idea of walking off the court immediately after tipoff. A boycott is more of a consumer protest.

The act of refusing to work to send a message to management is more accurately called a “strike.” I don’t think the players misspoke, though. Turns out, the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement contains a no-strike clause that prevents, well, strikes. When a union violates a no-strike provision, the remedies can vary greatly.

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Clippers Owner Might Be Racist But Infamous Recording Was Illegal

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

By now it is old news that Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, wishes the Confederacy had won the Civil War.

Thanks to a recording by Sterling’s girlfriend, V. Stiviano, first obtained by TMZ, and now rebroadcast around the world, Sterling (or someone with an identical voice) can be heard spouting off racist diatribes about how he wishes his girlfriend would refrain from associating with African-Americans in public. The hateful and bigoted comments are nothing new for the man dubbed the “Slumlord Billionaire,” who has had to settle past housing discrimination lawsuits from tenants of his properties.

Yet while Sterling is rightfully receiving the nation’s scorn and anger, the legality of the infamous recording has seemingly been overlooked. However, there is little doubt that Stiviano’s recording is illegal under California law.

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Top Five Reasons Why Northwestern Football Will Not Unionize

Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald talks with his team and potential union at the end of a spring practice. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune)

Friday marks another historic day in the long battle to dismantle the NCAA. After National Labor Relations Board Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr declared Northwestern University football players as employees, not “student-athletes” last month, the team won the right to unionize.

Although several levels of appeals surely await, the Wildcats will vote on April 25 whether or not to form a union. The vote will take place inside Welsh-Ryan Arena and is likely to be kept highly secret as the university has already banned the media from the arena. There are 76 players eligible to vote, although not all are required to do so. For the College Athletes Players Association, or CAPA, to bargain on behalf of the players, a simple majority of the football players voting would have to side with the union.

Although I would love nothing more than for my alma mater’s football team to stick it to the NCAA, I am willing to bet that the team votes “no” on forming a union. Here are the top five reasons why Northwestern football players will not vote to unionize:

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