Financial agreement avoids lawsuit
MIAMI -- Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte' Stallworth took full responsibility for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk in Florida and began serving a 30-day jail sentence Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter.
Stallworth also reached a confidential financial settlement to avoid a potential lawsuit from the family of 59-year-old Mario Reyes, according to Stallworth's attorney, Christopher Lyons. Reyes was struck and killed March 14 by Stallworth, who was driving his black 2005 Bentley after a night drinking at a swanky hotel bar.
A source told ESPN's Kelly Naqi that while the financial terms of the settlement with the family have not been disclosed, Stallworth was covered by two insurance policies: a car insurance policy and a $5 million umbrella policy.
Stallworth, 28, told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy that he hopes to get involved in drunken-driving education programs.
"I accept full responsibility for this horrible tragedy," said Stallworth, who was accompanied at the hearing by his parents, siblings and other supporters. "I will bear this burden for the rest of my life."
Stallworth faced 15 years in prison. According to the plea agreement, Stallworth needs to serve only 24 days of his 30-day sentence. Murphy agreed to give Stallworth credit for the one day he already served, April 2, which was the day of his arrest and booking. In addition, Stallworth received an additional five days of credit because of a Florida state statute stating anyone who is sentenced to 30 days (besides civil, contempt, drug treatment and house arrest cases) automatically gets five days' credit time served for every 30 days, spokesperson Janelle Hall of the Miami Dade County Corrections Department told Naqi.
After his release from jail, Stallworth must serve two years of house arrest and spend eight years on probation.
Lyons said the plea agreement will allow Stallworth to resume his football career.
The Akron Beacon Journal reported that according to an NFL source, commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to discipline Stallworth before the Browns start training camp July 31.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is reviewing the matter for possible disciplinary action. Stallworth could face suspension without pay for some games this year.
The Browns released a statement Tuesday evening, saying "The Browns are very conscious of the seriousness of the charges to which Donte' Stallworth plead guilty to today. We are continuing to evaluate the situation and will make the decisions that we believe are in the best interest of the Cleveland Browns."
Stallworth must also undergo drug and alcohol testing, will have a lifetime driver's license suspension and must perform 1,000 hours of community service. Lyons said after five years, Stallworth could win approval for limited driving for reasons such as employment.
Lyons noted that Stallworth stopped immediately after the accident, called 911 and submitted to roadside alcohol testing despite spending most of the night drinking at a Miami Beach hotel.
"He acted like a man," Lyons said. "He remained at the scene. He cooperated fully."
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." Suarez was not immediately available to comment after the hearing.
After Stallworth spent the night drinking at a bar in Miami Beach's Fountainebleau hotel, police said he hit Reyes, a construction crane operator who was rushing to catch a bus after finishing his shift at about 7:15 a.m.
Stallworth told police he flashed his lights in an attempt to warn Reyes, who was not in a crosswalk when he was struck.
Stallworth had a blood-alcohol level of .126 after the crash, well above Florida's .08 limit. Stallworth stopped after the crash and immediately told officers he had hit Reyes. Police estimated Stallworth was driving about 50 mph in a 40 mph zone.
Stallworth signed a seven-year, $35 million contract with the Browns before last season but was injured much of the year. The California native and University of Tennessee college star also has played in the NFL for the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints.
The night before the crash, Stallworth earned a $4.5 million roster bonus from the Browns.
David Cornwell, a Stallworth attorney handling the NFL situation, said he has kept top league officials apprised of the case.
"Whenever it is appropriate to do so, we are prepared to discuss the circumstances under which Donte' will resume his career," Cornwell said.
Kelly Naqi is a reporter for ESPN's "Outside The Lines." Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
DONTE' STALLWORTH SUSPENDED BY NFL
Browns receiver Donte' Stallworth was suspended by the NFL without pay for the 2009 season following his guilty plea to DUI manslaughter.