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Disparate Sentences for Local NBA Stars

Clarkston Legal Dec. 24, 2011

A well-respected blog on sentencing picked-up on the infamous NBA drunk driving cases coming out of the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills, MI. The blog noted the difference between Jalen Rose’s straight-forward OWI conviction [he did 14-days in the OCJ]; and the weapons charge component to Big Ben Wallace’s OWI charge, recently resolved in the Waterford & Clarkston Circuit Court before Judge Shalina Kumar.

Here is what the blog had to say about the two cases:

On the surface, it would appear that Wallace committed a (much?) worse offense but ultimately got a (much?) lighter sentence than Rose. Of course, maybe there are some specific differences in the cases not obvious on the surface that justify this seeming disparity. And, perhaps more importantly, the mere fact that can be (and often is) a lot of “low-level” sentencing disparity in this arena does not, in an of itself, necessarily establish that the applicable sentencing law is either unjust or ineffective.

Reading this blog post and being a local criminal defense attorney, I could not resist posting the following comment:

Great blog, DAB. This comment is from a criminal defense attorney in Waterford & Clarkston, MI, where this Ben Wallace and Jalen Rose stuff went down. First, it is a suburb of Detroit; not in the “D”, as we say. Also, Bloomfield Hills, where the district court is seated for that area, is a posh tony burb. (i.e. there are NBA stars driving around partying).

This comment seeks to shed some light on the “disparity” in the sentencing for the two NBA stars. Rose had the misfortune of driving drunk within the jurisdiction of the 48th District Court and to have his case randomly assigned to Judge Kim Small. Judge Small has made national headlines over the years for her drunk driving sentences; they often involve some jail time, even for first offenders with no criminal history. Currently, a group of high-end defense lawyers have challenged Judge Small, seeking to have her disqualified from all drunk driving cases on the basis that she is not fair or impartial, and that her “one-size-fits-all” sentencing policy (i.e. jail for all offenders), violates the “individualized sentencing” mandated by Michigan statute.
This is why Jalen Rose went to jail last summer.

In the case of Ben Wallace, the big fella was OWI while packing some loaded cold steel in his Cadillac, upping his game to the felony level, and thereby “just passing through” the 48th District Court. Fortunately for him, although he too was randomly assigned to Judge Small, his attorneys executed a “fast break”, waiving the preliminary exam, and binding Wallace over to the trial court. Once there, probation was available all day long. Good bye Judge Small; hello Judge Shalina Kumar.

Unlike Rose, however, Wallace will have a felony weapons conviction on his record. Last year, Wallace spoke of going to law school. This probably puts the kabosh on that notion.
Here is a link to our local blawg coverage of
Big Ben.

Sometimes an accused’s notoriety helps his cause; sometimes it hurts the case.