Man guilty of threatening ex-Irish coach Willingham

Updated: July 6, 2006, 2:08 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A Florida man has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of leaving a threatening telephone message for then-Notre Dame football coach Tyrone Willingham, saying he was drunk when he did it.

Andrew French, 26, of Fort Myers, Fla., pleaded guilty Wednesday in exchange for the government dismissing a felony charge against him for the November 2003 message left on Willingham's voice mail while he was still coach at Notre Dame.

French said in court that he was drunk and under peer pressure when he made the call. French said he did not use good judgment and said "terrible things" during the 4 a.m. call, including using racially charged terms about Willingham, now the coach at Washington, and threatening to burn a cross in the coach's yard.

French admitted to a charge of interfering with Willingham's ability to enjoy his employment because of threats of harm related to his race or color.

French told U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Christopher Nuechterlein he did not remember making the call after it occurred but had listened to the tape twice.

"It makes me sick to think I did it," he said.

French has taken part in a pretrial diversion program for about 18 months. Nuechterlein took the guilty plea under advisement, giving French until July 19 to withdraw the plea. If he does not withdraw the plea, French faces a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine up to $250,000.

The Associated Press left a message at Washington's sports information department seeking comment from Willingham.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press