Sam Hurd and the War on Drugs

Calvin Watkins considers "The sad case of Sam Hurd," a former wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears.

Calvin Watkins considers “The sad case of Sam Hurd,” a former wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears.

It was kind of shocking to see former Cowboys wide receiver Sam Hurd in a federal courtroom in Dallas and hear him say, “I’m sorry for everything I’ve done.”

Hurd pled guilty to trying to buy cocaine and marijuana to set up a drug-distribution network.

Hurd now faces a minimum 10-year sentence for conspiracy to possess cocaine and marijuana with the intent to distribute.

[…]

Hurd was remembered as a quiet player who talked about God and tried to stay humble. He was a likable player in the Cowboys locker room and seemed to need a fresh start.

He got just that when he was signed by the Chicago Bears. But even there, Hurd never could become what he wanted to be — an elite NFL wide receiver.

In December 2011, Hurd’s secret life moved to the forefront when he was arrested outside a Chicago-area steakhouse after allegedly accepting a kilogram of cocaine from an undercover officer. Prosecutors alleged Hurd told the officer and an informant at the steakhouse that he wanted to purchase up to 10 kilograms of cocaine a week for $25,000 per kilogram.

Somehow, Hurd’s goals of becoming a solid NFL player went way off track as a new desire took over.

To see Hurd now is sad. His story shouldn’t have ended this way because he had so many people rooting for his success.

But in the end, all Hurd could do is apologize for his actions, as terrible as they may be.

Now, I never met Sam Hurd. His brief career with the Cowboys was forgettable. And, certainly, even a journeyman NFL player has far more advantages than most who find themselves on the wrong end of our criminal justice system.

Still, it’s not obvious to me why he’s facing a minimum of 10 years in prison for, well, not much. Trying to buy cocaine? Hoping to start a drug network? Yes, drugs ruin a lot of lives and drug traffickers facilitate that. But Hurd didn’t actually ruin any lives but his own.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Quick Takes, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Decades-High Poverty Rates and the War on Poverty

    California’s ‘Progressive’ Workplace and Wage Laws and its 9.6% Unemployment Rate

    Strict Rent Control and Numbingly-High Rents in Manhattan, D.C., Los Angeles, Boston

    Strict Gun Control and High Rates of Gun Violence in Chicago, Detroit, Philly, San Francisco

    Obviously this is the wrong crowd for that sort of fare, and to expect those types of dots to be connected, but still they’re worth mentioning.

    As far as the Feds’ endless quagmire of the “war on drugs,” indeed it’s among the dumbest thing the Feds have done in memory. A waste of federal taxpayer dollars. A gross misallocation of public resources. A slap in the face of federalism.

    Uncle Fed should disengage from the “drug war” tomorrow. Then cut in literal terms DOJ’s overall budget by 25% over the next 5 years. And tell the US Attorneys’ offices that their first and foremost priority is that of anti-terrorism prosecutions. Common sense for common cents. Which ironically ain’t so common.

  2. edmondo says:

    According to your story he did purchase a kilo of coke. At least he actually did something wrong compared to a few of the others who have been chewed up by our prison-industrial complex.

    http://www.salon.com/2013/03/27/taibbi_three_strikes_laws_are_cruel_and_unusual/

  3. legion says:

    Still, it’s not obvious to me why he’s facing a minimum of 10 years in prison for, well, not much. Trying to buy cocaine? Hoping to start a drug network? Yes, drugs ruin a lot of lives and drug traffickers facilitate that. But Hurd didn’t actually ruin any lives but his own.

    James, I don’t mean to be rude, but have you lived under a rock for the last 30 years? Using _any_ drug charge, regardless of intent, to utterly destroy people’s lives with no chance of recovery has been the overt philosophy and first-choice anti-drug tactic of every administration since Reagan. It’s what makes federal cops feel like they’re accomplishing something in the absence of any measurable decrease in drug use.

  4. edmondo says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    And tell the US Attorneys’ offices that their first and foremost priority is that of anti-terrorism prosecutions.

    Yeah, that’s what we need to be afraid of, those terrorists! LOL.

    How about we throw some of those work hours at corruption in both the private and public sector. If a hungry man steals a sandwich, he goes to jail. If a hedge fund manager steals a billion dollar pension fund, he’s an entrepreneur and the federal government covers the loss.

  5. anjin-san says:

    Want to know why the war of drugs goes on decade after decade, doing vast harm to society?

    California Prison Academy: Better Than a Harvard Degree

    Roughly 2,000 students have to decide by Sunday whether to accept a spot at Harvard. Here’s some advice: Forget Harvard. If you want to earn big bucks and retire young, you’re better off becoming a California prison guard.

    The job might not sound glamorous, but a brochure from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations boasts that it “has been called ‘the greatest entry-level job in California’—and for good reason. Our officers earn a great salary, and a retirement package you just can’t find in private industry. We even pay you to attend our academy.” That’s right—instead of paying more than $200,000 to attend Harvard, you could earn $3,050 a month at cadet academy.

    It gets better.

    Training only takes four months, and upon graduating you can look forward to a job with great health, dental and vision benefits and a starting base salary between $45,288 and $65,364. By comparison, Harvard grads can expect to earn $49,897 fresh out of college and $124,759 after 20 years.

    As a California prison guard, you can make six figures in overtime and bonuses alone. While Harvard-educated lawyers and consultants often have to work long hours with little recompense besides Chinese take-out, prison guards receive time-and-a-half whenever they work more than 40 hours a week. One sergeant with a base salary of $81,683 collected $114,334 in overtime and $8,648 in bonuses last year, and he’s not even the highest paid.

    Sure, Harvard grads working in the private sector get bonuses, too, but only if they’re good at what they do. Prison guards receive a $1,560 “fitness” bonus just for getting an annual check-up.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704132204576285471510530398.html

  6. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    @anjin-san: This sick thing is we would want to pay prison guards well for the work they do, IF the environment was something other than gang and rape factories half-stuffed at least with people who have no business being there.

    It’s going to to be a very tough battle to end the drug war. Greed brooks no buzz-killing.

  7. @anjin-san: I don’t know, man. I’m very uncomfortable with private prisons and California’s penal system is a joke. But none of that seems relevant to Hurd’s scenario.

    But there’s a lot of room between “elite NFL wide receiver” and “aspiring cocaine trafficker.” I read an article about an NFL player who was running a Circle K. Hurd could have tried that. John Elway went into the car business. Hurd could have done that.

    Hurd could have also set up a 501C dedicated to fighting the drug war. He could have done a lot of things.

    But he chose to do the thing that would expose him to a decade in prison. I feel bad for him, sure, but not too bad.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Elway was nationally famous and rich; Hurd didn’t have the same options. But, sure, he could have tried to make an honest living. I just don’t think 10 years in prison is reasonable.

  9. @James Joyner:

    I just don’t think 10 years in prison is reasonable.

    Agreed. It will not help him find gainful unemployment, nor will it reduce the flow of cocaine.

    Still, he should have known better. They killed Pablo Escobar 20 years ago, and law enforcement agencies are even more committed to the Drug War now. As my Mom would say, “Well, what did you think was going to happen?”

  10. it’s not obvious to me why he’s facing a minimum of 10 years in prison for, well, not much.

    You can thank the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which give judges very little discretion to stray from what the guidelines say it should be, something that Federal Judges have been complaining about for years.

  11. matt says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Truth. If hurd was the average drug dealer he’d leave prison better educated in the ways of crime.

  12. matt says:

    I visited my home town the other month. Apparently the war on drugs has been somewhat successful in that area because few people carried pot. Most dealers were only selling meth, heroin tar, coke and such. Apparently pot busts were on the rise so there were fewer people interested in running pot. Most people switched to the way more profitable and easier to hide hard drugs.

    Go team drug war…

  13. anjin-san says:

    @ matt

    The war on drugs helped start the 70s cocaine boom in the US. The government had a lot of success shutting down pot smuggling from Mexico, so dealers switched to cocaine. Less bulky, easier to smuggle, more profitable.

  14. jimmy john says:

    legalize it all & once for all get rid of black markets
    This man’s case is one of a number of the tragedies of the war on drugs.
    We don’t need a DEA, we need “Let the buyer beware”