|AP NewsBreak: 'Pacman' Jones intends to take plea deal in Las Vegas strip club triple shooting|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 13 November 2007 08:35|
The Tennessee Titans cornerback intends to plead no contest to one charge of conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct, a gross misdemeanor, in return for a promise to suspend a sentence of one year in county jail, according to a written plea agreement obtained by The Associated Press.
``We have a deal,'' Clark County prosecutor Victoria Villegas said. ``I can't talk about the negotiations until it's actually filed with the court.''
Jones' attorney, Robert Langford, was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday to inform Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Tony Abbatangelo of the plea, but the hearing abruptly was rescheduled for Thursday.
Villegas said the delayed hearing was the result of a scheduling mishap.
``He has agreed to testify in whatever hearings come up regarding the shooter,'' Langford said. Jones, who was not expected to attend Tuesday's hearing, would not be sentenced until after testifying, he said.
Manny Arora, Jones' Atlanta-based attorney, said their focus was to clear the cornerback of involvement in the shooting and called the deal the best situation for Jones.
``While I think we would've been successful at trial, it could've been six months to a year away, and he may have lost another year of eligibility by going forward. In the real world, sometimes you have to make these difficult decisions for what's best for your career, and we didn't want this dragging on any further,'' Arora said.
In addition to one year of probation, Jones must attend an anger management program, complete 200 hours of community service within a year and submit to random drug testing, according to the plea deal. Langford said Jones already is subject to drug testing under NFL rules.
On Thursday, Abbatangelo is expected to waive Jones' preliminary hearing on two felony coercion charges stemming from allegations he incited a melee inside the club. The evidentiary hearing was postponed Oct. 29 while plea negotiations continued.
Langford would not say if Jones knew the identity of a gunman who authorities say opened fire and wounded three people Feb. 19 outside the Minxx Gentlemen's Club minutes after Jones and members of his entourage were involved in a melee inside.
``I can't comment because that's an ongoing police investigation,'' Langford told the AP.
Langford said, however, that Jones did not know the identity of a man whose photo was released in June by police. Investigators said they wanted to question that man in the shooting. The photo was obtained from surveillance cameras, and police said they thought the man lived on the East Coast.
Police have not charged anyone with the shooting, which left three people wounded, including a bar employee, Tommy Urbanski, who was paralyzed from the waist down.
News of Jones' plea deal surprised Urbanski's wife, Kathy, as she prepared to go to work Tuesday.
``I want to see what he does, who he implicates. If he's not going to implicate anyone, I'm going to be absolutely furious. I really am sick of it,'' she said. ``I just hope the victims have rights in this situation. Obviously, the criminals do.''
Kathy Urbanski said she didn't think the original charges against Jones were strong enough, especially not while she and her husband still live in a hotel while their home is renovated to make it wheelchair accessible.
Urbanski, co-worker Aaron Cudworth and club patron Natalie Jones have each filed civil lawsuits seeking damages from Jones.
Urbanski's lawsuit also seeks damages from the NFL, the Titans and the owners of Harlem Knights, a Houston strip club that hosted events at the Minxx club during the NBA's All-Star weekend, Feb. 17-19.
``I'm pleased to see he's accepting responsibility for his conduct on the date in question,'' said Richard Schonfeld, lawyer for Cudworth, a bar bouncer who was wounded in the shooting. ``We're looking forward to proceeding expeditiously with the civil litigation.''
The NFL and the Titans had no comment Tuesday.
The 24-year-old Jones has not played this NFL season, after being suspended for violating league personal conduct rules. The NFL Players Association is appealing commissioner Roger Goodell's decision not to reduce Jones' seasonlong suspension.
The Titans have replaced Jones with Nick Harper and are off to a 6-3 start without Jones. After Goodell declined to ease Jones' suspension last week, the team said it had moved on and would address Jones' future when he's reinstated.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher repeated the team's statement on his weekly TV show. Asked if he would welcome Jones back, Fisher refused to discuss the topic and said, ``Did I stutter?''
Arrested six times since the Titans drafted him in April 2005 from West Virginia, Jones also has another criminal case pending, a felony count of obstruction in Georgia from a February 2006 arrest.
In the Las Vegas shooting case, two co-defendants, including Jones' bodyguard and a woman who police say hit a bouncer in the head with a bottle and attacked other club employees with a chair and a stanchion, also will plead no contest to reduced charges, said Langford, who also represents them. Both will testify if called, he said.
Neither Robert ``Big Rob'' Reid nor Sadia Morrison were expected at Tuesday's hearing.
Langford said he expected Abbatangelo to bind the case over to state court for their pleas to be entered when the hearing is held.
The 37-year-old Reid of Carson, Calif., also will plead no contest to a gross misdemeanor, conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct, in return for a similar promise of a suspended sentence of one year in county jail and one year of probation.
Reid had faced one felony coercion charge alleging that he attacked a club bouncer who tried to restrain Jones. Coercion carries a possible sentence of one to six years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Morrison, 25, of New York, will plead no contest to battery with substantial bodily harm, a felony carrying a possible sentence of one to six years in prison, Langford said. Morrison had faced five charges, including coercion, felony assault with a deadly weapon and battery.
She is expected to receive up to three years' probation, and her conviction would be reduced to a gross misdemeanor if she stays out of trouble, Langford said.
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.