James Padgett pleads guilty to lesser charge, likely won’t be suspended

October 19, 2012

Maryland forward James Padgett, who was arrested in June on charges of driving while impaired by alcohol and failure to use his headlights, pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless driving in Prince George’s County District Court on Friday. The alcohol-related charge against Padgett was dropped and, according to his attorneys, he likely will not be suspended by the school and will be able to play in the Terrapins’ season opener against defending national champion Kentucky on Nov. 9 in Brooklyn, N.Y., his home town.

Maryland’s student-athlete code of conduct states that athletes charged with DUI or DWI must be suspended from 10 percent of their team’s games, effective immediately. However, because the alcohol-related charge was dropped, Padgett’s attorneys said, no suspension will be levied.

The Maryland athletics department confirmed that Padgett will not be suspended. Since his DWI was dropped, the school’s student-athlete code of conduct no longer applies. 


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Wearing a sleek navy suit with a white dress shirt and blue tie, Padgett pleaded guilty to the reduced charge, simply saying, “Yes, Your Honor.”

Judge Joseph L. Wright sentenced the Maryland co-captain to one year of unsupervised probation,  48 hours of community service to be completed within six months, a $250 fine and mandatory attendance at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving impact panel, where Padgett will hear personal stories from victims of impaired driving.

According to Padgett’s attorneys, he likely will fulfill the community service requirement over winter break through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, an organization whose mission is consistent with Padgett’s desired career path and family studies major. “It’s much more productive than picking up trash,” attorney Rick Jaklitsch said.

The charges were amended after Padgett’s attorneys successfully argued that the University of Maryland police improperly administered a second breathalyzer test when he was arrested on June 16 after he was observed driving without his headlights on. The police, according to his attorneys, waited less than eight minutes to issue the follow-up test, when they should have waited 20 minutes. By not waiting long enough, attorney David Putzi said, Padgett’s mouth did not have proper time to dissipate all alcohol.

“He easily could have been considered sober under Maryland law,” Putzi said.

Once Padgett completes his probation, the guilty plea will be stricken from public record.

During the trial, Padgett’s attorneys emphasized his first-offender status and “model citizen” nature. Only when Wright asked if he was a college athlete did the attorneys mention his basketball captaincy and leadership qualities among fellow Terps.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · October 19, 2012