DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Former Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent has been sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation for the deadly crash that killed his teammate and passenger Jerry Brown Jr.
The jury reached its decision shortly after 11 a.m. Friday, after listening to testimony from prosecution and defense witnesses including Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson. Jackson had said publicly and during testimony that she has forgiven Brent for the crash.
“He’s still responsible, but you can’t go on in life holding a grudge. We all make mistakes,” she told the jury.
Brent faced a punishment of up to 20 years in jail for his intoxication manslaughter conviction. The jury decided on the 10 years probation part of the sentence. The judge added the six months of jail time.
“Sadly Mr. Brent, you’re not the first Dallas Cowboy to kill someone with a motor vehicle, but I sure hope you are the last. Sadly, you’re not the first Dallas Cowboy to be convicted of a felony in this past year’s time, but I hope you’re the last for a long time,” said Judge Robert D. Burns, III.
Brent’s probation will likely include mandatory treatment for substance and alcohol abuse, lawyers said. He will also be monitored by the court for drug or alcohol use for the next ten years, and may be sent to prison if found in violation. Brent’s license is also suspended; he’s not allowed to drive a car.
Judge Burns must agree to the jury’s sentence, but had strong words for the former football player before court dismissed.
“I’m all for a young man with a high pressure job to blow off some steam, but you have to do it responsibly. Your actions, I think, bring shame to the City of Dallas. I think you do a grievous wrong to humanity by killing your friend. You certainly had a big warning sign that you were on the wrong path with that prior DWI. And you chose the path of irresponsibility,” said Judge Burns.
Defense attorneys are happy with the sentencing, but told reporters, there are no winners in this case. Co-defense counsel Kevin Brooks, was asked about Brent’s reaction.
“There was no jumping for joy. He was kind of teary eyed, and somber. His words to me were, ‘I’m not sure how to take it from this point,” Brooks said.
“He knows he played some role in Jerry’s death and will forever hold responsibility,” said Brent’s attorney, George Milner, after the sentencing. “You can’t understand the guilt he lives with.”
Brent’s mother and uncle were present for the reading of the sentencing.
“Anyone who has supported my child, I appreciate it, to the fullest,” Ms. Brent said.
Brent, a Cowboys defensive tackle, and Brown, a linebacker on the practice squad, were close friends, who also played together at the University of Illinois. They were headed home from a night of partying when Brent lost control of his Mercedes and crashed. Officers who arrived on scene saw Brent trying to pull Brown’s body from the wreckage.
Blood tests pegged Brent’s blood alcohol content at 0.18 percent, which is more than twice the state’s legal limit to drive of 0.08 percent. Prosecutors told jurors that the burly, 320-pound lineman had as many as 17 drinks on the night of the crash.
One of Brent’s attorneys, George Milner, argued that Brent wasn’t drunk and was only “guilty of being stupid behind the wheel of a car.” He contended that Brent couldn’t have had nearly as much to drink as prosecutors said he had, and that the police blood tests were flawed.
Brent’s attorneys pushed their case for probation Thursday, calling a Dallas County official who testified that the county currently has 34 intoxication manslaughter cases that resulted in probation.
Brooks said the one-time defensive tackle would be easy to monitor because of “who he is and who he was.” Brent retired from football last year.
Prosecutors were pushing for prison time for Brent, who went to trial only weeks after another Texas intoxication manslaughter case sparked widespread public outrage. In that case, a defense expert argued that the defendant, a 17-year-old boy who caused a drunken crash that killed four people, deserved leniency because his parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility – a condition the expert termed “affluenza.” The teen wasn’t given prison time.
On Thursday, prosecutor Rebecca Dodds emphasized Brent’s 2009 drunken driving arrest in Illinois to press the state’s argument that he deserves prison time. In that case, he served 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
“Probation doesn’t work for Josh Brent,” prosecutor Rebecca Dodds told the jury during closing statements in the punishment phase.
Brent played in all 12 games for the Cowboys in 2012 before the crash. Brown made the practice squad that season.
As for a future playing NFL football, Milner said it’s not a closed door, but that only Brent knows if that is something he will pursue.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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