Little faces up to 4 years in prison if convicted

Updated: June 18, 2004, 4:32 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The status of Leonard Little for the 2004 season was further clouded Thursday when law enforcement officials confirmed the St. Louis Rams left defensive end has been indicted on charges stemming from an incident two months ago.

Leonard Little
Little

Little, who, according to his lawyer, will enter a not guilty plea, is charged with speeding and as a persistent offender with driving while intoxicated. He was arrested April 24 after police stopped him for speeding on an interstate. The arrest report contended Little had bloodshot eyes, failed three field sobriety tests, and admitted drinking alcohol.

Driving while intoxicated is typically a misdemeanor, but because Little pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 1998, in an accident that killed a St. Louis woman, Susan Gutweiler, the charge is elevated to felony status.

If convicted of the felony, Little, 29, could face up to four years in prison.

From a league standpoint, Little could be subject to fine or, more likely, suspension if he is convicted or even pleads to a lesser charge. The NFL is monitoring the situation since it falls under the purview of the league's substance abuse and personal conduct policies.

No league action is anticipated before the case is resolved. It is expected that Little will be available for the start of training camp.

Little was suspended by commissioner Paul Tagliabue for the first eight games of the '99 regular season because of the 1998 case. In that incident, his blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit for Missouri. He served a three-month jail sentence and completed 1,000 hours of community service and four years of probation.

The loss of Little, even for a portion of the 2004 season would certainly be a blow to a Rams teams that lost starting right end Grant Wistrom to Seattle as an unrestricted free agent earlier in the offseason.

A former University of Tennessee star, Little is regarded as the Rams' best pass rush threat and he posted 12 sacks in 2003, earning his first Pro Bowl invitation. Over the past three seasons, Little has 39 sacks, notching double digits in each of the three years.

St. Louis has done little to address the defensive end position in the offseason. The team signed journeyman Rich Moran and chose Tony Hargrove of Georgia Tech, who didn't play in 2003 because of academic ineligibility, in the third round of the draft.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

ALSO SEE