Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth will serve five days in jail after pleading guilty Thursday to a reckless driving charge in Fairfax County. It is rare for an active professional athlete to serve jail time during his or her career.
Under the terms of an agreement reached with prosecutors at Fairfax County Circuit Court, Werth, 35, admitted to driving his Porsche GT3 RS more than 100 mph on the Beltway in July 2014. In addition to the jail sentence, Werth’s Virginia driver’s license will be suspended for 30 days.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ryan Bredemeier told the court a Virginia State Police trooper paced Werth driving at least 105 mph on an on-ramp to Interstate 495 from Route 193 in Fairfax County. The trooper followed the player for a half-mile, and Werth’s Porsche continued to pull away from the police cruiser. The speed limit on the stretch is 55 mph.
Bredemeier said Werth was cordial when he was pulled over, telling the trooper he was “pressing his luck” by driving so fast. The prosecutor said Werth did not have a previous criminal record in Virginia.
Werth was convicted of the same charge following a trial in Fairfax County General District Court in December. He appealed that conviction to the circuit court and was scheduled to go to trial next week before reaching the plea deal.
Werth, who attended Thursday’s hearing, will serve his sentence on weekends so he can continue rehabilitation following shoulder surgery during the week and training for the upcoming season. Circuit Court Judge Randy L. Bellows said such latitude was unusual for someone caught driving more than 100 mph on the Beltway but ultimately agreed to it.
“He is very involved in the community,” Werth’s attorney, Michael Pritchard, told the judge. “This was an aberration.”
Werth declined to comment after the hearing. His agent, Scott Boras, also declined to comment. The Nationals released the following statement:
“We are aware of the agreement reached today. It is clear that Jayson has taken this matter seriously and with great personal reflection. We do not condone reckless behavior, and we expect all members of the Washington Nationals organization to act in a responsible manner. We support Jayson, who is an integral part of the community and of the Washington Nationals family.”
A Major League Baseball spokesman said Werth does not face any additional punishment from the league.
Werth has been one of the Nationals’ most high-profile and productive players since he signed with the team in the winter of 2010. He is entering the fifth season of his seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals. He has three seasons and $63 million remaining on the deal. Werth, who will move from right field to left this season, hit .292 with 16 home runs and 82 RBI in 147 games in 2014 and led the Nationals with an .849 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
The veteran outfielder underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean up a joint in his right shoulder Jan. 9 and was given a two- to three-month recovery timetable. Position players are expected to report to spring training in Viera, Fla., on Feb. 24.
Few active professional athletes have served jail time during their playing careers. As opposed to prison, jail is reserved for shorter sentences, typically less than a year and misdemeanors. In 1990, Washington Redskins lineman Mark May was sentenced in Fairfax County General District Court to two days in jail and a three-year driver’s license suspension for his second drunk driving conviction in five years. Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin spent 15 days in jail for a drunk driving conviction in 2011. Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. served two months of a three-month sentence in a misdemeanor domestic battery case in 2012.