By Calvin Palmer
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth starts a 30-day jail sentence today after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter in the death of 59-year-old Mario Reyes.
The construction crane operator was struck by Stallworth’s black 2005 Bentley as he crossed the road to catch a bus after finishing his shift at 7:15 a.m. March 14.
Stallworth had spent the night drinking at Miami Beach’s Fountainebleau hotel. Police said his blood-alcohol level was .126 after the crash, well above Florida’s .08 limit, and he was traveling at about 50 mph in a 40 mph zone.
Stallworth, 28, said: “I accept full responsibility for this horrible tragedy. I will bear this burden for the rest of my life.”
The NFL player has also reached a confidential financial settlement to avoid a lawsuit from the Reyes family, his attorney Christopher Lyons said.
Although he escaped a possible 15 years in prison, Stallworth must serve two years of house arrest and spend eight years on probation after his release.
The NFL has said it will review the matter for possible disciplinary action. Lyons said the plea agreement will allow Stallworth to resume his football career.
Stallworth must also undergo drug and alcohol testing, will have a lifetime driver’s license suspension and has to perform 1,000 hours of community service.
Lyons said after five years, Stallworth could win approval for limited driving such as for employment.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle cited Stallworth’s lack of previous criminal record, cooperation with police and willingness to accept responsibility as factors in the plea deal.
Rundle also said the Reyes family — particularly the victim’s 15-year-old daughter — wanted the case resolved to avoid any more pain.
“For all of these reasons, a just resolution of this case has been reached,” Rundle said.
None of the Reyes family attended the hearing. Their attorney, Rodolfo Suarez, read a statement saying the family wants to “bring closure to this emotional and tragic event”.
[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]