George Starke, the former tackle for the Washington Redskins and a counselor to troubled youth, was sentenced yesterday to a year of probation for cocaine possession.
Before imposing the sentence, D.C. Superior Court Judge Zinora Mitchell-Rankin admonished Starke, 55, for comments he made to the media in which he suggested he was innocent of possessing crack cocaine and required him to affirm his guilty plea.
"Prudence and good judgment would have dictated that you kept your mouth shut," Mitchell-Rankin told Starke.
In addition to probation, Starke will have to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings three times a week, obtain a sponsor, continue to undergo drug testing and pay $50 in court costs. Starke could have faced up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Starke shifted uncomfortably as he appealed to the judge for a favorable sentence.
"If you want me to test, to pee in cups, I don't mind," Starke said. "It doesn't bother me. . . . I think it's important that the message be sent that that's not appropriate behavior."
Starke pleaded guilty June 15 to possession of crack cocaine. In statements he made to reporters outside the courthouse that day, Starke, one of the original Redskin "Hogs" during the 1970s, said he had pleaded guilty only to spare his family the ordeal and expense of going to trial.
"I never told the judge I did drugs," Starke told reporters at the time. "She didn't ask me that, and I did not say that. I was charged with possession of cocaine."
As a result of the comments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Kelly filed a motion questioning the validity of Starke's guilty plea. Yesterday, Starke's attorneys, Ted J. Williams and Gregory Lattimer, contested the accuracy of the media reports.
Starke was stopped by police May 14 in Northeast Washington for not wearing a seat belt. According to his attorneys, a check of his driver's license mistakenly found that it was invalid. A subsequent search of his vehicle found seven grams of cocaine.
Starke tested positive for an illegal drug, though it is unclear which, according a transcript of the June 15 hearing. Starke and his attorneys stressed then that the vehicle he was driving was not his and that others had access to it.
At yesterday's sentencing, the judge disclosed that Starke tested negative for drugs in the last eight tests he completed.
"Stand up and be honest to those you need to be honest with," she told him. "That'll be sufficient for me."
Starke heads Excel Institute, a city-based technical academy that instructs troubled youth in auto mechanics. He and his attorneys declined to comment after the sentencing.