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Friday, July 16, 2004  

News and analysis: Youth, stupidity and the hockey player

As winter turns to spring, a young man's fancy turns to. . .murder. To Mike Danton, 23, a professional hockey player, that made sense. You see, he had a jones -- drugs. And, his behavior was rather bizarre sometimes. His agent, David Frost, was aware of both problems. Therefore, to Danton, anyway, the man needed to be killed.

The spring cleaning plan from hell came to a just conclusion in an Illinois court this week.

The New York Times has the story.

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) -- Former St. Louis Blues player Mike Danton admitted Friday that he tried to hire a hit man, almost certainly bringing his NHL career to an end.

Danton pleaded guilty to a federal murder-for-hire conspiracy charge and faces seven to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 22.

The plot unraveled when the would-be hit man turned out to be a police informant.

With an accomplice, an equally vacuous young woman, Danton tried to hire a hit man, a dispatcher employed by the police department. The man turned informant. It wasn't long before Danton was giving up a stick and skates for an orange jumpsuit.

I am not ready to enter fuddy-duddyhood by writing a lengthy lamentation about the shortcomings of young people. However, over the last two or three years, I have noticed a seeming decline in intelligent behavior by youths I come into contact with both on and off line. Last week, I explained to a young woman that cash can be used to pay most bills. She was under the impression that only credit cards and checks were acceptable. A few weeks ago, I helped an elderly woman up from the sidewalk after she had been knocked down by a large Labrador a fellow in his early twenties was walking. Fortunately, the entrance to a hospital was only three blocks away. While the fragile oldster leaned on my arm and limped to the emergency room, the young man cursed her as as a "clumsy old bitch" and departed with his dog. Here in the blogosphere, I regularly observe behavior notable both for its stupidity and dishonesty, often by people in the next generation. The ripping off of material from Big Media and attaching of one's name to it, tying to create the impression of authorship, is an example. Apparently, other people are not supposed to realize the young bloggers doing this haven't written a damn thing. But, we do.

I'm not a believer in the broad brush approach. Some of the finest blogger on my blogrolls are in their 20s. I have friends who don't remember Ronald Reagan I trust with my house key. However, I am beginning to think of them as exceptions. In an era when 'Paris Hilton' is among the most sought out references on the Internet, vapidity may become the identifying characteristic of a generation.

Mike Danton's vacuity caught up with him today.

The would-be killer -- identified by the government for the first time in court Friday as Justin Jones, a Columbia, Ill., police dispatcher -- eventually went to police, and Frost was unharmed.

The prosecutor told the judge Friday that Danton had promised to pay Jones $10,000 for the killing, and to make it appear like a botched burglary.

Investigators have said Danton was worried that Frost would go to the Blues with information that could damage his career. Frost has said he urged Danton to get help for his use of painkillers and sleeping pills and his erratic behavior.

I can't help but wonder if Danton ever figured out the kicker to his king-sized mistake. His agent has a legal duty not to disclose confidential information about a client. It is unlikely he would have reported Danton's drug use and erratic behavior to the team.

7:30 PM