On eve of the game against the Pacers, let's revisit one of the major reasons they made the trade: to get rid of Stephen Jackson and his legal troubles. He doesn't seem like a bad guy, but he gave the franchise a bad name with the Detroit brawl and the shooting outside of the night club. It was clear Indiana wanted to get rid of him, why else would they take on two horrendously bad contracts?
I'm not expert on legal issues, nor will I pretend to be. Good thing we have johnl in the community to explain everything that's going on. This is an explanation he put in one of the posts awhile back and should be shown on the frontpage for everyone who wants to understand the situation better. Thanks johnl for dropping knowledge.
OK. Since we were right that the judge would find a probation violation on Friday but not send Jackson to jail -- yet -- we can make some educated guesses about what's likely to happen at sentencing, this summer.
But first, a key fact (as reported by the Associated Press and appearing in the Detroit Free Press and, I believe, unreported locally here): The key witness at the Friday hearing in Michigan was the Indiana prosecutor who'll try Jackson on the shooting-related charges next month. He testified that Jackson retrieved the gun from his car and fired at least five shots BEFORE being hit by the other car. (They'll need percipient witnesses at the Indiana trial, but no prosecutor would testify like this at a probation hearing unless he/she were sure they had such evidence.) If true, this dramatically undercuts any "self-defense" argument Jackson's attorney might make; indeed, if the shooting was first, the guy in the car has the better self-defense argument.
This came as big news to me. If it's proven at trial, it greatly enhances the odds of Jackson's being convicted there (Indiana) and actually doing some time. The big question, then, for me at least becomes whether Jackson is convicted of a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor -- since a felony conviction could not only lead to more time but much greater esposure to "punishment" by the NBA, the W's, etc.
My guess is that Jackson's Indiana counsel will -- if he/she believes the prosecutor can prove that Jackson shot first -- try to cut a deal to plead to a misdemeanor (e.g. assault) even for a short sentence (perhaps on electronic home detention, if it's available) in order to avoid the spectre of a felony conviction. In that case, probably the best case for Jackson right now, no trial -- but the Indiana sentence imposed by the plea deal would likely have an inverse effect on any sentence the Michigan judge hands down this summer for the probation violation. (Sentencing is all that remains in Michigan; the probation violation sticks even if Jackson is acquitted in Indiana.)
Thus, at this point, the Michigan issue is really the tail wagging the dog. If Jackson has to go thru the Indiana trial -- bad pub, even if he skates -- and is convicted, the effect of that sentence will impact on what the Michigan judge does later. My sense is that she'll want to ensure that Jackson does pay some penalty, but if he gets nailed badly in Indiana, she's not likely to add too much.
Finally, if Jackson were able to beat the Indiana charges altogether, though the Michigan judge has made clear she takes probation violations seriously, I don't see him getting more that 30 days in Michigan, and suspect the greater likelihood is that he could do community service as his punishment. (Here, though, this is pure surmise.) So, I think his attorneys will be spending a great deal of time cooking up community service options to present to the court.
The cloud over Jackson, then, is there for at least another month -- though the Indiana result will certainly tell us a lot. In the meantime, though I remain skeptical of double offenders (as Tim K is, in his blog), I do appreciate that Jackson has been a very good player for the W's thus far, and I particularly like his quick hands and savvy play. So I'll enjoy his play now, and we'll just see what happens next month.
Also, GSoM's own GSDubz wrote a Letter to Stephen Jackson in his diary. If you haven't read it already, click the link and check out the piece.
Are you worried about Jax's legal troubles and how it will affect the team? Furthermore, do you think his legal issues are causing unnecessary distractions to the team?