Ex-NFL player Chad Wheeler sentenced to 81 months in prison; survivor of attack reacts

By Brent Schrotenboer, USA TODAY

One of the most brutal domestic violence cases in NFL history came to an end Friday when former Seattle Seahawks player Chad Wheeler was sentenced to 81 months in state prison after being found guilty of brutally assaulting his girlfriend in January 2021.

Wheeler, 30, had strangled his girlfriend unconscious, broke her arm and left her for dead then as blood poured from her nose and mouth and into her stomach, according to prosecutors. The woman, Alleah Taylor, still uses a brace on her arm and has scars from the incident near Seattle.

She attended the sentencing Friday in King County, Washington, after a jury convicted Wheeler in November of first- and second-degree assault/domestic violence. In addition to his 81-month term, the judge also sentenced Wheeler to 36 months of community custody.

Taylor agreed to an interview afterward with USA TODAY Sports.

“I’m very satisfied,” Taylor said by phone. “It’s very unheard of that a Black woman was able to get justice from a white NFL player. A lot of people doubted that, that I was going to receive justice and he was going to go to prison. I’m very grateful that I was able to receive justice today, and that is a message to be sent to other men in power – that they will be held accountable.”

Rare testimony at Chad Wheeler’s trial

Taylor testified against Wheeler in the trial last fall, taking the stand over the course of three days – a rare display in domestic violence cases. Such cases don’t often go to trial because the women decide not to press charges or recant their accusations out of fear or desire to reconcile.

Taylor, however, said she wanted to use this case to show other domestic violence survivors that there is another way.

“I would like for my experience to be able to help other people, to advocate for themselves and help themselves instead of giving up and living in fear,” she said.

Wheeler’s mental health issues

Wheeler played offensive tackle for the Seahawks and was cut from the team shortly after the incident. He has bipolar disorder and had resisted taking medication for his mental health issues, according to prosecutors. He suffered another bipolar episode in July 2022 when he was on home detention and found running down a road naked in King County, Washington, according to court records.

He was not taking his medication then, either. After being taken to the hospital, Wheeler announced he had killed multiple prominent people that were still alive and kept asking what year it was and where he was.

His defense in the Taylor case appeared to be that he didn’t remember the incident, Taylor said.

Taylor said Wheeler indicated he didn’t take his medication because it would slow him down in the NFL.

“Mr. Wheeler was deceitful and denied any history of substance use and psychiatric history in at least two documented visits with NFL doctors in 2017 and 2015,” state prosecutors said in a sentencing memo Thursday obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

Wheeler’s previous diagnosis

Prosecutors also said that “despite stating that his January 2021 assault of Alleah Taylor was due to a mental health condition, and knowing the physical damage he was capable of inflicting with his bare hands, Mr. Wheeler continued to disregard the risk of not taking his medication.”

Prosecutors noted another incident in 2015, when Wheeler was detained by police while in college at Southern California. In that incident, Wheeler was described as punching walls and “disorderly” as he barricaded inside an apartment with a woman and her young son. He was taken to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

At the time of his discharge then, medical professionals listed his diagnoses as “polysubstance abuse with primary marijuana dependence, cannabis dependent, alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder, current episode manic, severe with psychotic features,” according to the sentencing memo.

Prosecutors recommended he serve a sentence of 108 months. The judge also ordered Wheeler to have no contact with Taylor again for life and to pay restitution in an amount to be determined.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ex-NFL player Chad Wheeler sentenced to 81 months in prison; survivor of attack reacts