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Sentence Does Not Fit the Crime

It’s a catchy motto, a cool motto and, until last week, a valid motto.

We are the Kings.

Um, no, not all of them.

Not when one of them is a convicted felon.

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The Kings are selling family but sounding phony in the wake of their refusal to get tough on a man who got tough with a woman.

His name is Joe Corvo, and he plays defense, except for a few minutes in a Boston restaurant at 1:30 a.m. on a November night last year.

There, with a woman who was no match for his 205-pound frame, he allegedly went on the attack.

According to police, he squeezed her buttocks and was asked to leave the restaurant. He returned later and punched her in the face, causing her to crumple to the floor. He then allegedly kicked her several times before fleeing.

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Initially, Corvo said he didn’t do it. But last week, he pleaded guilty to a felony count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon -- his foot -- and a misdemeanor charge of simple assault and battery.

It sounded like prison term stuff.

Instead, it was little more than penalty box stuff.

The judge gave him a two-year suspended sentence. The Kings gave him a three-game suspension.

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What the judge was thinking, who knows? But from the Kings, it is reasonable to expect more.

Three games?

That’s not a penalty, that’s a hiccup. That’s not a statement, that’s a shrug.

By virtue of their ownership of Staples Center and their hold on one of the most passionate fan bases in town, they have a huge investment in this community and its standards. Deciding that felonious violence toward women is worth only a week on the bench is lowering that bar to limbo-expert levels. Thirty-six years without a Stanley Cup is easier to swallow.

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Three games?

Dividing Corvo’s $475,000 salary amounts to about $2,638.00 a day in the hockey calendar, so his felony cost him about $7,500.

What is that, the cost of a new set of choppers?

Corvo will return to the ice Thursday at Tampa Bay with his organization paying a much higher price, that of being the first Los Angeles major sports team in recent memory to field a felon.

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Local athletes have played after being convicted of misdemeanors, but a misdemeanor is defined as a “misdeed.”

A felony is defined as a “serious criminal offense.”

How serious? While serving a felony conviction, one loses the right to vote. In some states, that right can never be reclaimed.

Convicted felons often lose a lot more than that.

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“My guess is, if you pulled a stunt like that and worked for a regular company, you’d be out on your fanny,” said Dr. Rahla Hall Lindsey, a former USC professor who leads ethics workshops. “If he has been convicted, why are they still keeping him around? Why doesn’t somebody have any backbone here?”

According to the L.A. Times handbook, if I was kicking that woman, I’m probably not writing this column. Grounds for termination include “Criminal acts which cause an employee to be unsuitable for continued employment.”

Hockey, of course, is a different, um, animal. Does the manner in which the league promotes fighting by failing to outlaw fighting mean that this incident actually makes Corvo more suitable for employment?

That’s not fair to the 99% of hockey players who are among the kindest and most accommodating athletes in sports, but you get the picture.

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“It’s a tough call, but you have to look at it strictly from an employer-employee relationship,” said Casey Wasserman, the owner of the Avenger Arena football team. “You have to decide whether his conviction affects the way he does his job. If it doesn’t, then you don’t have a lot of room to do anything.”

Wasserman was the last guy in town to employ a felon when he hired Todd Marinovich to quarterback his football team a couple of years ago. It didn’t work, because Marinovich couldn’t stay away from drugs, but Wasserman said it was worth giving him a chance.

“His problems occurred before he came to us, so we said we would judge him on how he treats us, and nothing else,” Wasserman said.

If the Kings used that standard, Corvo would disappear for more than three games. If the Kings adhered to standards set by other pro teams, Corvo would sit until his rear froze over.

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The Cleveland Browns suspended running back William Green this week for one game -- one-sixteenth of his season -- because he was accused of drunk driving and possessing marijuana.

Glenn Robinson was suspended for three games by the NBA at the start of this season for a misdemeanor assault conviction.

And remember when the Angels tried to run Tony Phillips out of town within days after he was arrested on a felony cocaine charge?

None of those cases involved something as serious as a convicted felony, yet all of them involved convincing action.

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It’s not that Corvo, 27, can’t still have a long and rewarding career.

Craig McTavish, the coach of the Edmonton Oilers, is a convicted felon. So, too, are baseball’s George Steinbrenner and Pete Rose.

But all have paid prices longer than three games.

The Kings declined comment for this story, referring only to General Manager Dave Taylor’s initial statement about the suspension.

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”... We felt this was the appropriate action,” Taylor said in that statement. "... Joe’s conduct was completely unacceptable.”

That makes two of them.

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Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com.

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