Former New Orleans Saints running back Mike Strachan pleaded guilty today to selling cocaine. Named as customers were NFL rookie of the year George Rogers, San Diego Chargers star Chuck Muncie and Saints defensive end Frank Warren.
The names were revealed by prosecutors as they listed acts in support of a conspiracy to sell cocaine, another count to which Strachan pleaded guilty. The three are not charged. The government said the three players cooperated fully in the investigation, which is continuing.
Strachan faces a maximum total sentence of 20 years in jail, a fine of $35,000 and three years of probation. U.S. District Judge Veronica Wicker delayed sentencing until possible mitigating circumstances could be investigated.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Fanning said that if the case had gone to trial, he would have called Muncie, Rogers and Warren as witnesses. He also introduced four checks signed by Muncie and three signed by Rogers, allegedly written in payment for cocaine.
Strachan pleaded guilty to one transaction with Muncie, and his attorney objected when other names and dates were listed by prosecutors to show that a conspiracy did exist.
"Enough fodder has been given to the press, your honor," defense lawyer Dennis Dannel interjected.
"The litany the government went through, I am not prepared to handle at this point," he said. "I would ask that we be allowed to give our version at a presentence investigation."
U.S. Attorney John Volz said at a press conference after the half-hour in court that the names were listed and the transactions cited in order to give a true picture of the scope of Strachan's dealings.
Volz said that other Saints players may have been involved and for that reason the investigation is to be continued. He refused to name the other players.
He said he would be talking to former defensive end Don Reese soon. Reese, who played for the Miami Dolphins, the Saints and San Diego, said in an article in Sports Illustrated in June that as many as half the Saints players were using cocaine in 1980.
Volz would not say whether his investigation supported Reese's allegations.
Strachan had been scheduled to go to trial Monday on 12 counts of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute it. The bill of information to which Strachan pleaded guilty today took the place of those charges, to which he had pleaded innocent.
Volz said his plea bargain with Strachan does not require the former running back to testify in the continuing investigation. He also said no charges are contemplated against Muncie, Rogers or Warren as a result of their involvement in the Strachan case.
Strachan was in his sixth season with the Saints when he was cut after the ninth game of the 1980 season.
A ninth-round draft choice out of Iowa State in 1975, he rushed for 668 yards in his rookie season before breaking his ankle in the 11th game of the season.
The Saints drafted Muncie in the first round of 1976, and Strachan became a backup. Muncie was traded to San Diego in 1980, and Rogers was the first player taken in the 1981 draft.
Strachan said it was not cocaine that ended his career.
"I don't think I was involved with cocaine so deeply that it had an effect on my career," Strachan said after his appearance in court.
He was released on his original $50,000 property bond.