The two fishermen caught cheating in the Lake Erie Walleye Trail Tournament by inflating the weight of fish are headed to jail.
On Thursday, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Gall sentenced Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky to 10 days in the local jail. They also face $2,500 in fines and additional time behind bars if they violate probation.
In March, Runyan and Cominsky cut plea deals with prosecutors; in exchange for pleading guilty to a felony charge for cheating in a competition and a misdemeanor for unlawful ownership of wild animals, three other felonies and a misdemeanor were dropped. The deals also called for three-year suspensions of their fishing licenses and forfeiture of a bass boat worth $100,000.
Runyan and Cominsky initially appeared to win the $28,000 prize when the total weight of their fish surpassed those of more than 60 other two-person teams. But their fish were bulging in ways that seemed odd and suspicious. When a tournament official cut one of the fish open, weights and flesh from other fish poured out.
Jail for sports cheaters is exceedingly rare and—unlike with Runyan and Cominsky—usually involves accompanying ties to organized crime or illegal gambling.
In 1982, a former Boston College basketball player was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in a point-shaving scheme that involved mobsters including Goodfellas figure Henry Hill. The player and others faced charges for conspiracy to commit racketeering and sports bribery, and violation of the Travel Act (which forbids using the mail to further criminal acts). In 1999, a couple of Arizona State basketball players received jail time for a point-shaving scheme.
A Cuyahoga County prosecutor compared Runyan and Cominsky to Pete Rose, who bet on games in connection with a bookie and was jailed for five months. But Rose wasn’t jailed for sports cheating—he spent time behind bars for cheating on his taxes.
Runyan and Cominsky, in contrast, were not accused of ties to a broader criminal conspiracy or untoward connections to shady bookies. They simply, and crudely, cheated at their sport.
While a jail sentence is a severe punishment for Runyan and Cominsky, it seems less dire than what could have endured when they faced an angry mob upon being outed as cheaters: