Since MXA has never been afraid to say it like it is, I have a few questions for you. Do you think James Stewart has kissed his career goodbye? Will no one will want to sponsor a convicted felon? If convicted will he be able to leave the USA to compete in events in Canada and Japan?
James Stewart is accused of and, according to media reports, confessed to police officers to a third-degree felony (although there are conflicting reports that he might be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, but all of that is up to the District Attorney). James needs to make sure that he hires a good attorney and pleads this case down to a misdemeanor because otherwise he will be known as “former Supercross Champion and convicted felon James Stewart” for as long as he lives.
First an foremost, although using police lights to get through traffic faster or to deal with people you think cut you off sounds like a teenage prank—neither Stewart (25) nor his passenger (44) are anywhere near being teenagers. This is an adult crime committed by adults. Impersonating a police officer is a serious offense, because it is normally the precursor to other serious crimes (including rape, robbery, carjacking or fraud). Public safety and faith in the police depends on the public's belief that the only people with lights and badges are in fact real police officers. Although Stewart may have just been messing around—he messed with the wrong guys, with the wrong crime, at a bad time in the news cycle and with an offense that has had negative ramifications for victims across the nation.
For those who ask in James defense, “How many of us haven’t done stupid things in our lives?" The obvious retort is, “How many of us are convicted felons?” This may have been a prank—but it is a prank with serious consequences.
No matter the charges, Stewart will survive the negative publicity—because sports heroes are forgiven if they sink a basket after a rape case, throw a touchdown after a domestic violence arrest or win the big game after spending time in the slammer for cruelty to animals. James’ sponsors will stick by him because the ethical and moral standards in the sports world is very low—not just for the athletes, but for what the industry will accept.
Although every one is innocent until proven guilty, if Stewart did indeed confess, then that particular old saw is off the table.
Will we think less of him because of this incident? Yes, of course we will. How can anyone who admires professional motocross racers get rid of the image of their hero doing a perp walk out of jail in the middle of the night with a cap and hood shielding his face (How does that work when his picture is everywhere already as a sports star?) Any time a motocross racer gets arrested for drug possesion, drunk driving, assault or impersonating a police officer it takes all of us down a notch. The sport suffers because the conversation turns away from talent and skill to stupidity and criminality.
But, this isn’t a murder case, assault and battery or grand theft—it is stupidity magnified. James' fans will still root for him. The great mass of unwashed fellow felons will become fans. His enemies, who are evident by their twitter feeds, will revel in his descent into notoriety. But, true motocross fans will still cheer when he rides his bike at the highest level. Such is life...we are shocked, surprised and concerned, but we forgive.
AS FOR THE CONSEQUENCES
If Stewart is in fact charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor, he needs to know that pleading guilty to a felony has more punishment involved than just what the judge says at sentencing. There are dire consequences to being convicted of a felony. A felony conviction will affect every aspect of your life, from your ability to vote and hold public office to your ability to pursue the career of your choice (although a guy who claims he makes $10 million a year probably isn’t worried about career aspirations beyond spending the money).
(1) As a convicted felon, you may not be eligible for federal assistance. This may include your ability to receive food stamps, higher education school loans, grants, or work study funding.
(2) In many cases a convicted felon has to give up any professional licenses they hold, including medical degrees, teaching certificates and law licenses.
(3) In addition to these effects, your ability to travel to foreign countries may be impacted. For example, Canada does not allow people who have been involved in criminal activity to enter their country. That includes both minor and serious offenses such as theft, drunk driving, assault and impersonating a police officer (or Mountie).
(4) Where ever you go in life, the words “convicted felon” can be attached to your name. This not only discredits your integrity and trustworthiness, but it is 100 percent accurate as to your new identity. It is the most serious of all the consequences because it is emotional and personal.
(5) Convicted felons may not be able to possess firearms, vote in elections (although this right can be regained), hold public office, serve on a jury (for seven years) or get any job that requires a security clearance.
So, James Stewart needs to wield his financial might to get the case dropped, the charges reduced or be proven innocent. He is not going to jail for a first offense—but he will live in a jail of his own making if the becomes a “convicted felon.”