Former Dallas Cowboys football player Josh Brent, found guilty of intoxication manslaughter after a 100-mile-an-hour car crash killed a teammate, was sentenced to six months in jail and 10 year’s probation.
Dallas County Judge Robert Burns, who said the defensive lineman had brought shame to the team and the city, added the jail time to the the jury’s sentence of probation.
“With no driver’s license you shouldn’t have been driving a car, not to mention driving while intoxicated,” Burns told Brent yesterday before imposing the jail term.
Brent, 25, faced as long as 20 years in prison after jurors convicted him on a single count of intoxication manslaughter. The jury determined he was driving drunk on a December night in 2012 when his Mercedes struck a curb and flipped, killing teammate Jerry Brown.
In Texas, the punishment phase is conducted like a second trial in which both sides present witnesses and argue to the jury. Prosecutor Jason Hermus told the jurors during the trial that tests showed twice the legal amount of alcohol in Brent’s bloodstream, indicating he had the equivalent of at least 17 drinks the night of the accident, and that he failed a sobriety test.
Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, testified on Brent’s behalf, telling the jury the defendant and her son were like brothers.
“He is still responsible but you can’t go on in life holding a grudge,” she told jurors. “We all make mistakes. We all have to be forgiven.”
Brent, who was taken into custody after the jury’s guilty verdict, will start serving his jail term immediately, said one of his lawyers, George Milner.
“He’s a convicted felon,” Milner told reporters yesterday. “When he’s done playing football he will have to put ‘convicted felon’ on every job application he fills out.”
Brent, who played college football at the University of Illinois, was in his third season in the National Football League when the crash occurred. Brent had 31 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and one forced fumble in the 39 games he played, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Brown, who also attended Illinois, joined the Cowboys’ practice squad in 2012 and had yet to appear on the active roster.
Milner said he didn’t know whether Brent would resume his football career after he completes his jail time.
Bryan Wansley, the Cowboys director of player development, testified during the trial that Brent is no longer receiving a player salary and is currently employed in the team’s merchandise warehouse.
At the trial, prosecutors showed Brent was convicted in Illinois for driving under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to two-year’s probation.
Police witnesses said Brent lost his Illinois drivers license in 2007 when he failed to appear in court to defend a speeding ticket. He didn’t have a license when he was arrested in 2009 in Urbana, Illinois, and charged with driving while intoxicated, they testified. Brent didn’t have a valid license or insurance at the time of the fatal wreck in the Dallas suburb of Irving, a Texas officer said.
Jurors were also told that Brent had his pretrial bond revoked in July when he tested positive for marijuana in a urinalysis screening that was a condition of him being free pending trial. He later posted a new bond and was free until his conviction.
In his closing arguments, another defense lawyer, Kevin Brooks, asked jurors to sentence Brent to probation only. He said 34 people were currently on probation for intoxication manslaughter in Dallas County. Four of those, like Brent, had previous driving while intoxicated convictions, Brooks said.
Heath Harris, another prosecutor, told jurors they should start their deliberations by considering the maximum sentence of 20 years. “You start at the the top and work your way down,” he said in his closing argument.
“I still believe because he was a repeat offender that he deserves prison time,” Harris told reporters yesterday. Referring to the jury, he said, “Obviously they saw something in him that I didn’t see.”
Under Texas law, Burns was allowed to impose a maximum of six months in jail as a condition of Brent’s probation, Harris said. If Brent violates his probation, he can be sentenced to 10 years in prison, Harris said.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Jan. 22 in an e-mailed statement after Brent was found guilty, “We understand the very serious nature of this situation and express our concerns for all of the families and individuals that have been affected by the tragedy of Jerry Brown’s death.”
Former Dallas Cowboys defensive back Dwayne Goodrich was sentenced in 2003 to 7 1/2 years in prison and fined $20,000 in the hit-and-run deaths of two men who were trying to rescue a person from a burning car.
Goodrich was convicted of criminally negligent homicide after hitting two Plano, Texas, men with his BMW on an interstate. He fled the scene, but turned himself in to police hours later after speaking with his mother and attorney. In January 2006, five years was added to his sentence for failure to stop and render aid, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records.
Last November, ex-Cowboys receiver Sam Hurd, who also played for the Chicago Bears, was sentenced in federal court in Dallas to 15 years in prison for conspiring to traffic in marijuana and cocaine.
Another former Cowboy, Byron Frisch, faces charges in federal court in San Diego with three other people over an alleged $50 million insurance fraud scheme.
“You are not the first Dallas Cowboy to kill someone with a vehicle but I hope you’re the last,” Burns told Brent yesterday.
The case is State of Texas v. Price-Brent, Criminal District Court of Dallas County, Texas (Dallas).
To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Harris in federal court in Chicago at firstname.lastname@example.org; Tom Korosec in Dallas County Court at and email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at firstname.lastname@example.org