IRVING, Texas – Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent was sentenced today to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation after the jury found him guilty two days prior of driving drunk in a car crash that resulted in the death of his teammate and friend, Jerry Brown Jr.
Brent was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine after being convicted of intoxication manslaughter Wednesday for the December 2012 wreck.
The jurors were sequestered Tuesday before Brent was convicted a day later. The sentencing phase began Thursday to determine the punishment for Brent, who faced up to 20 years in prison. Police said Brent’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit at the time of the incident. Brent was driving at least 110 miles an hour on an Irving service road when he flipped his white Mercedes. Neither man wore a seatbelt and the momentum if the crash threw Brown on top of Brent and cushioned Brent from serious injury.
Photo: The jury in the Josh Brent intoxication manslaughter trial came in with sentencing after deliberations this morning, January 24, 2014. The former Dallas Cowboys player received 180 days and 10 years probation. Defense attorneys George Milner III, center, Kevin Brooks, left, and David Wells, right, spoke with the media following the jury’s decision. (Mona Reeder/DMN)
Prosecutors Heath Harris, Jason Hermus, Becky Dodds and Gary McDonald are asking jurors for prison time. Brent faces up to 20 years in prison but is also eligible for probation.
Photo: Assistant District Attorney, Heath Harris, spoke to the media following the sentencing of former Dallas Cowboys player, Josh Brent. (Mona Reeder/DMN)
Defense attorneys George Milner III, Kevin Brooks and Deandra Grant made a plea for probation.
Photo: Josh Brent stands with one of his lawyers Kevin Brooks while the punishment for his intoxication manslaughter conviction is read in court. Dallas, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Pool/LM Otero, Pool)
The the jury deliberated less than an hour before being sequestered for the night at a hotel.
The trial has attracted national attention and has lasted longer that most trials in Dallas County except for those where prosecutors are seeking death in a capital murder case. Jury selection began Thursday, Jan. 9. Testimony began the following Monday.
After reading the sentence, state District Judge Robert Burns scolded Brent for his actions. “You are not the first Dallas Cowboy to kill someone with a vehicle,” the judge said, “but I hope you’re the last.”
Dallas Cowboys players Barry Church and Danny McCray were among the people to testify during the trial. Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, also testified during the sentencing phase and has repeatedly stated she’s forgiven Brent for what took place.
Photo: LaTasha Brent, the mother of Josh Brent, is helped from the courtroom following the punishment decision. (Mona Reeder/DMN)
Photo: Former Dallas Cowboys NFL football player Josh Brent, center, is lead away from the Dallas courtroom into custody after his sentencing. (AP Photo/Pool/LM Otero, Pool)
Brent, who last played with the Cowboys in 2012 and totaled 1.5 sacks in 12 games, has retired since the incident. The Cowboys still retain his rights. Executive vice president Stephen Jones wouldn’t address the possibility of Brent returning to the team as he spoke from a Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala., prior to Wednesday’s conviction.
Linebacker Sean Lee attended the trial Tuesday and was in the courtroom to provide support for Brent. Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett have also offered their support for Brent since the accident occurred.
“We understand the very serious nature of this situation and express our concerns for all of the families and individuals that have been affected by the tragedy of Jerry Brown’s death,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said in a statement after the conviction.
THE PATH BACK TO VALLEY RANCH: Josh Brent’s to return to the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys rights
Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent will have the chance to restart his NFL career one year after he retired if he chooses to pursue professional football again.
And it’s possible Brent could again play with a star on his helmet less than two years after he was responsible for the death of a teammate.
Brent retired from the NFL on July 18 with an NFL suspension looming and less than 24 hours before the Dallas Cowboys were to report to training camp.
Brent could face some hiccups in his path back to the NFL. He’d have to apply for reinstatement, and any request has to be reviewed and approved by the league. If he were reinstated, Brent could still be suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his conviction under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.
Such a decision would hinge on how the league ultimately views Brent’s one year away from football. If Brent returns, he would have missed a year by his own choice, and the league could decide not to pursue a suspension. Or, because Brent is a repeat offender with a previous DWI arrest in Illinois, his suspension could be longer than that of a first-time offender.
The Dallas Cowboys retain Brent’s contract rights, however, and he should be out of jail before the team reports for training camp in late July in Oxnard, Calif. Brent’s time served began Friday, and 180 days from today would put his release date at July 23.
Whether the Cowboys would welcome Brent back isn’t clear. But they’ve fully supported him since the tragic crash, even helping him get a job at a warehouse after he retired from the league. And, on Wednesday, before Brent was convicted of the second-degree felony, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones didn’t exactly close the door on Brent.
Asked if he’d ever consider Brent playing again for the Cowboys, Jones said, “I wouldn’t address that right now.”
The Dallas Cowboys declined to comment today after Brent was sentenced.
Peter Schaffer, Brent’s agent, was asked today if his client has completely closed the door on a future in the NFL.
“Haven’t thought about that,” Schaffer said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Brown family.”
Defense attorneys George Milner III and Kevin Brooks acknowledged that Brent could play pro football again. But Milner said Brent has never mentioned playing again and doesn’t talk about football unless he’s asked about it. They did not know if Brent still worked out.
“That road is not foreclosed,” Brooks said.
First Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris, the lead prosecutor in the case, said he would not begrudge Brent for returning to football. But he said Brent needs to get treatment and serve as an example to other players about the consequences of drunken driving.
“As long as he’s not out drinking and driving, I don’t have a problem with anybody doing his occupation,” Harris said. “Everybody has a right to earn a living.”
Other NFL players have continued their pro careers after being responsible for someone’s death.
Cleveland Browns receiver Donte’ Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian in March 2009 while driving drunk. Five months later, Goodell suspended Stallworth the entire 2009 season without pay. Stallworth, who received 30 days in jail and eight years’ probation, was reinstated by the NFL the next season and went on to play in 20 games from 2010 to 2012 for three different teams.
After leaving a birthday party in 1998, then-St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little crashed into and killed a woman in St. Louis while driving drunk. Little received four years’ probation before going on to a 12-year career with the Rams.
Brent will spend his 26th birthday Thursday in jail. Though still young, what kind of shape he’s in when he’s released will play a part in teams’ possible interest in him. And he isn’t exactly an ideal fit for the Cowboys since they’ve switched defensive schemes.
Also, he had only 31 career tackles in three seasons with the Cowboys before his arrest.
ATTORNEY’S LIVE INTERVIEW: Testimony from Jerry Brown Jr.’s mother brings leniency in sentencing for Josh Brent
Photo: A packed courtroom listens to Judge Robert Burns III, right, admonish former Dallas Cowboys Josh Brent as he stands with his lawyers after Brent’s sentencing for his intoxication manslaughter conviction was read in court Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, in Dallas. Brent was sentenced for a drunken car crash that killed his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown Jr. He could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. (AP Photo/Pool/LM Otero, Pool)
One of Josh Brent’s attorneys, Kevin Brooks, joined KRLD-FM today. Here are some highlights from the interview.
On Josh Brent’s feelings right now:
“Josh is not the person that some folks have made him out to be. The people that know Josh will tell you that and if you ever spend any time around him you would see that he’s a very private person. In a lot of ways he’s an extremely shy guy, which would be surprising for someone his size and his physical presence. When we went back in the holding cell after the verdict Josh wasn’t jumping up and down happy. He was still extremely somber. I told him, ‘You’ve got a lot to process,’ because as I said during closing arguments this is something that he has lived with since December 8.”
On how this has changed Josh Brent:
“I can only go — in terms of how he was before this accident — by what people have told me. They described him before this accident as a very upbeat, positive, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Since then they’ve noticed that he’s become extremely reserved, which is not surprising knowing that he’s had this thing hanging over head for almost a year a half. But he is still a fairly reserved, quiet, private individual.”
On the 10-year probation:
“For him to get probation in this case the jury had to come back with a sentence of 10 years or less. Anything above 10 years, they could not recommend probation so the 10 years was the starting point. And obviously the next point was do they recommend probation, which they did. The judge sentenced him to 10 years of probation. In the state of Texas that’s the maximum amount of time a person can be placed on probation is 10 years. If he were to violate he’s looking at 10 years.”
On returning to football:
“As far as the Cowboys or going back to the Cowboys or anything like that, that’s never been part of our discussions.”
On people saying Josh Brent got off light:
“They weren’t privy to the evidence that the jury saw and heard, particularly during the punishment phase. They were not there to witness the real grace and forgiveness that Jerry Brown’s mom came across with it. It’s pretty clear from here testimony to the jury that she did not want Josh going to prison and Josh was a second son to hear. And then the other thing that I think most citizens don’t know is there are people on probation for that same offense and one of the things that we brought out during the punishment phase is that presently there are 34 people on probation for that offense. One of the things we did not bring out, the year before there was 55 people on probation for that same offense. So in terms of painting this probation as something that’s unusual or unheard of, I think we were able to show that’s simply not the case.”
On the terms of Brent’s probation:
“There are a lot of terms and conditions. Generally there are 17 that are standardized and they can be as simple as pay your probation fee each month, perform a number of community service hours as determined by the judge, attend alcohol or drug treatment classes, restitution payments if necessary. Things of that nature. Any of those things are what you called technical violations. They rarely result in a person’s probation being revoked. The main thing would be continuing to test positive for any drugs or committing a new offense whether it’s alcohol-related or not.”
On what his restrictions are on driving:
“Those are the types of things that fall under terms and conditions of probation for him and those are things that the judge can add or takeaway. I have no doubt that at the point he’s released at the end of the 180 days, he’s going to put him on a monitor. He’s going to put him on what’s called a ‘SCRAM’ which will let the court know if he’s using alcohol. He’s not going to be allowed to drink alcohol while on probation, so there’s going to be a lot of restrictions on him and there’s going to be a lot of technical devices to monitor him and what he’s doing or consuming.”
Media Coverage immediately following the sentencing of Josh Brent
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COWLISHAW EDITORIAL: Will fans be as forgiving if Dallas Cowboys bring Josh Brent back?
A light sentence handed to Josh Brent on an intoxication manslaughter charge Friday — 180 days in jail plus 10 years’ probation — was no great surprise. This is Texas. If you’re going to be convicted of manslaughter on a drinking-and-driving charge (after you have already been convicted of another DUI), this is one of the better states to avoid doing hard time.
A recent case in which a 17-year-old was basically deemed too spoiled to be responsible for having killed four people while driving drunk — he received no jail time — still boggles the mind. Against that backdrop, finding a jury quick to sympathize with Brent after he had jeopardized the holiest of careers — playing for the Dallas Cowboys — must not have been overly difficult.
And yet I believe the idea of Brent jumping right back into a Cowboys uniform and playing next season — he will be free from jail in plenty of time — would repulse much of the fan base. Cowboys fans have long accepted a reasonable amount of aberrant behavior from their heroes as long as they produced titles. Such a quick willingness to forgive and forget here could be the last straw for many struggling to maintain ties with a team so far removed from its championship glory.
A DMN survey suggests a majority of fans will be ready to see Brent back in cleats this fall. We shall see on that.
The problem for me is that giving Brent probation has proved to be a failed cure. He received probation for a DUI charge at the University of Illinois and, yet, there he was in the wee hours of Dec. 8, 2012, finishing off about 17 drinks (according to the evidence) before climbing into his Mercedes, driving recklessly and killing his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown Jr.
Brown’s mother forgave Brent long ago. Is that really all that matters? If the victim’s family forgives, does that mean a serious crime was not committed?
A disturbing but not overly surprising sentence was handed down by a jury Friday.
Time will tell whether the Cowboys — desperate for anyone to play the role of defensive lineman — forgive as quickly and how their fans cope with that decision.