Sutton plea part of deal with prosecutors
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State basketball coach Eddie Sutton pleaded no contest Friday to drunken driving charges for a traffic accident in which his SUV swerved, collided with another vehicle and then hit a tree.
Sutton, who turned 70 on March 12, was charged with misdemeanor aggravated drunken driving, speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road.
Sutton, wearing a gray suit and a tie, said "Yes, sir" when asked by Special Judge Michael Stano if he understood the charges against him and again if he understood that entering a plea would forfeit his rights to a trial.
When asked for his plea, he said deliberately, "No contest." Stano accepted Sutton's plea, which was part of an agreement with prosecutors.
Prosecutors recommended a one-year deferred sentence for Sutton and asked he be required to pay a $500 fine plus court costs. Sutton has already completed an alcohol treatment program that was also part of the deal, a prosecutor said.
He will also be required to attend a victim impact panel and may be asked to pay restitution. A hearing to determine whether restitution will be necessary was set for Aug. 8
"I recognize the importance of accepting responsibility for one's own actions. That is what I'm doing today," Sutton said in a statement. "Alcoholism is a terrible disease and I cannot stress its seriousness. I remain grateful no one was injured in the accident.
"I accept the consequences and I am ready to move ahead."
The woman in the other vehicle struck by Sutton's SUV, Teresa Barnard, was not hurt. Sutton was cut and bruised but escaped serious injury.
Court records showed his blood alcohol concentration was 0.22, almost three times the legal limit.
Since the accident, Sutton has undergone surgery to relieve back and hip pain brought on by a pair of spills two years ago and he also went through a five-week inpatient alcohol treatment program.
The coach's son, Sean Sutton, has taken over coaching responsibilities on an interim basis.
Eddie Sutton ranks fifth on the NCAA Division I career coaching wins list with 798, including four that came after he took a medical leave of absence following a Feb. 10 accident but were still credited to his record. He has said a return to coaching remains a possibility.
"We know this was a difficult day for coach Sutton," the university said in a statement handed out by spokesman Gary Shutt. "Our thoughts are with Coach during this time when he is not only addressing his health concerns but is also addressing legal matters surrounding the unfortunate situation.
"We respect the way in which he has conducted himself in a responsible manner. We believe it is premature and, simply, out of place given the events of the day to engage in any discussion about what is next for Coach Sutton."
Payne County District Attorney Rob Hudson has said Sutton is also undergoing further outpatient treatment.
Sutton broke bones in his lower back when he was bumped and fell on an airport escalator in Los Angeles in July 2004. Two months later, he cracked his tailbone in five places when he jumped into a ditch to avoid being hit by a vehicle.
Sutton, who underwent treatment for alcoholism at the Betty Ford Center in 1987 while he was coach at Kentucky, has said lingering pain was a factor in his relapse.
"The pain at times literally has been unbearable. ... The pain was so bad that I took a lot of pain pills, but that didn't seem to work, so I succumbed to temptation and went and bought a bottle," Sutton said in a news conference five days after the accident.
Only Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876), Bob Knight (869) and Jim Phelan (830) have more career wins than Sutton.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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