Stallworth surrenders in court, football future in question

Cleveland Browns football player Dante Stallworth, left, leaves Dade County Pretrial Detention Center along with his mother Donna, center, and attorney Christopher Lyons after posting a $200,000 bond on Thursday, April 2, 2009 in Miami. Earlier in the day, Stallworth surrendered in court to face charges that he was driving drunk when he struck and killed a pedestrian on March 14 after a night of drinking at a ritzy Miami Beach hotel. He later was released and expressed condolences to the family of victim Mario Reyes.

Photo by Jeffrey M. Boan

Cleveland Browns football player Dante Stallworth, left, leaves Dade County Pretrial Detention Center along with his mother Donna, center, and attorney Christopher Lyons after posting a $200,000 bond on Thursday, April 2, 2009 in Miami. Earlier in the day, Stallworth surrendered in court to face charges that he was driving drunk when he struck and killed a pedestrian on March 14 after a night of drinking at a ritzy Miami Beach hotel. He later was released and expressed condolences to the family of victim Mario Reyes.

MIAMI — Free on bail but facing serious legal charges, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth will get ready for an upcoming NFL season not knowing if he’ll play.

The former University of Tennessee standout surrendered in court Thursday on charges that he was driving drunk when he struck and killed a pedestrian while returning from a night of partying in Miami Beach on March 14. The 28-year-old Stallworth was released by Miami authorities after posting $200,000 bail.

He was expected to fly back to Cleveland on Thursday night. Stallworth intends to resume voluntary workouts with the rebuilding Browns, who must now consider their options and the possibility they will not have the seven-year veteran on their roster next season.

Following a brief hearing Thursday before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy, Stallworth, dressed in a dark suit and holding his mother Donna’s hand, expressed his condolences and offered his prayers to victim Mario Reyes’ family. Stallworth added he has “full confidence and faith” in the legal process.

If convicted of DUI manslaughter, Stallworth faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

The judge set an April 23 arraignment date for Stallworth to enter a plea. Stallworth, who is allowed to travel between Ohio and Florida and must seek permission to go anywhere else, does not have to be present at that hearing. Stallworth is expected to plead not guilty and a trial date will be set.

The problem for the Browns is the legal case could drag into the 2009 season.

The team did not rush to Stallworth’s defense after the charges were announced Wednesday, releasing a statement saying “we are disappointed he has put himself in this position.” The Browns also said they had been in communication with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

As much as Stallworth’s life is in the hands of the legal system, it is Goodell who could decide his football future.

Stallworth, whose first season with Cleveland was marred by injuries, faces a possible suspension if the league deems he violated its conduct or substance abuse policies.

The penalty could be severe in the NFL deems Stallworth a repeat offender. In 2007 the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that he had been in the league’s substance abuse program before he signed with the New England Patriots as a free agent that year.

After signing with the Patriots, where he played for one season, Stallworth acknowledged his past misstep in an interview with The Associated Press. “All that stuff is in the past,” Stallworth said at the time. “There was a situation a couple years ago. There’s nothing now that’s going on that will affect me preparing for helping this team.”

League spokesman Greg Aiello had no update on Stallworth’s situation and referred to a statement released by the league on Wednesday.

Stallworth also could lose a $4.5 million roster bonus from the Browns that he earned one day before the fatal accident.

It is unclear whether that bonus has been paid. It’s also possible the Browns could recoup all or part of any bonus if it is proven that Stallworth broke any agreements stipulated in his contract. Most NFL contracts include forfeiture language to protect the team in such cases.

Stallworth has six years remaining on a $35 million contract he signed with the Browns before last season.

The Browns will likely wait for Goodell to act before making any decision on Stallworth. However, the somewhat terse tone of their statement Wednesday could indicate new coach Eric Mangini’s lack of patience with players who get into trouble off the field. Owner Randy Lerner hired Mangini to rebuild the Browns, including bringing needed discipline to the team, who were given plenty of freedom by former coach Romeo Crennel.

The Browns also hired a new general manager, George Kokinis, who already has demonstrated a willingness to shake up the team through personnel moves such as the trade of tight end Kellen Winslow, once considered a key piece of the team’s future.

There are other complications caused by the legal case against Stallworth. The Browns have little quality depth at wide receiver, a position once considered a team strength. The team recently released veteran Joe Jurevicius and there have been reports the team was shopping star Braylon Edwards, whose multiple drops cost the team last season.

The Browns last month signed receiver David Patten, a solid 12-year veteran who played most recently for New Orleans. With Stallworth’s status now uncertain, the club could use its No. 5 overall pick in the upcoming draft on a top wide receiver like Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree or Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin.

Stallworth’s attorney, Christopher Lyons, said he would “vigorously defend this case” and that the defense team already has begun its own probe into the March 14 crash that killed the 59-year-old Reyes.

A police affidavit said Stallworth’s blood-alcohol level after he hit Reyes with his Bentley GT was .126, well above Florida’s legal limit of .08. Stallworth had been drinking at a club in the swank Fontainebleau hotel in the hours before he got behind the wheel.

Reyes, a construction crane operator just getting off work, was rushing across the causeway shortly after 7 a.m. to catch a bus home. He was not in the crosswalk when he was struck, and Stallworth told police he flashed his lights and honked his horn in an attempt to warn Reyes.

Stallworth will be prohibited from driving while on bail and not allowed to drink alcohol, according to court documents. He also must observe a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew and submit to random alcohol and drug testing through the NFL’s substance abuse program.

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Comments » 30

memphis_vol_fan writes:

This is sad in every possible way. Don't drink and drive.
I am glad that Donte cooperated with the police and didn't drag this thing out.

thevoice writes:

When you're DUI and kill someone, you don't get off scott free. Good luck with the defense. You're either behind bars or guilty by public perception for the rest of your life... just ask OJ. Your choice.

hookkick writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sorry 4life, but no way do you share the blame in this incident.

BigOrangeVol29 writes:

When I first heard this story, the day it broke I was truly saddened, bad things happen when people lose their better judgment due to external influences. Thankfully, Donte has at least done the right thing and cooperate fully with the authorities, and I hope his remorse is truly sincere. The fact that his blood alcohol was over the legal limit puts him at fault no matter what the other person has done. Unfortunately, this probably also puts to end a career that had a good deal of promise if not for injuries. It pretty well seems to be a given that Donte will do years in prison and not months, thus likely ending his football dreams. Truly sad.

AustinTX_Vol writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The blame is on both. Stallworth was definitely in the wrong for drinking and driving, but what was the guy doing running around in the middle of a busy highway. Sad for all but both could have prevented it.

hookkick writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Simple. If he had time
to honk his horn and flash his lights, but couldnt stop? Come on.
Crossing any street should not be a death warrant. This wasnt late at night. 7am.

hookkick writes:

in response to AustinTX_Vol:

The blame is on both. Stallworth was definitely in the wrong for drinking and driving, but what was the guy doing running around in the middle of a busy highway. Sad for all but both could have prevented it.

It will be proven a reasonable person that was sober sould had stopped in time.
People cross streets in this area all the time. This guy was drunk at 7am. Hopefully he rots in jail.

UTandETSUfan writes:

in response to hookkick:

It will be proven a reasonable person that was sober sould had stopped in time.
People cross streets in this area all the time. This guy was drunk at 7am. Hopefully he rots in jail.

and the end of the story is, whether or not DS was DUI, Reyes would have never got hit had he not illegally crossed the road. Blame lies with both parties, but at the end of the day, he wouldn't have got ran over had he not broke the law himself.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to hiresanders:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

well we would come back and talk trash about a kentucky player....but can't recall any of them doing anything, anywhere.

stupid comment, just like your name

UTandETSUfan writes:

in response to VFear:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He wasn't in a crosswalk, thus he was illegally crossing the road. Round these parts its called jay-walking... but what ever you call it, its illegal.

hookkick writes:

in response to UTandETSUfan:

and the end of the story is, whether or not DS was DUI, Reyes would have never got hit had he not illegally crossed the road. Blame lies with both parties, but at the end of the day, he wouldn't have got ran over had he not broke the law himself.

This punk will get off. The other man is dead. Blame on both parties. BS. Which one got the worst sentence.

UTandETSUfan writes:

in response to hookkick:

This punk will get off. The other man is dead. Blame on both parties. BS. Which one got the worst sentence.

And that's a lesson, if you run across a busy roadway, not in a crosswalk, with traffic, horrible things can happen... and did happen in this case. I'm sick and tired of listening to people crying and whining about how its never their fault and always blaming another... TAKE RESPONSIBILITY, don't run in traffic... you know, that rule we teach all the kindergarteners.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to 99aintagator:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

50-40, might be legaly speeding, but like who hasn't gone 10 over

either way, he is facing the music, came forward, let the legal system do its thing

UTandETSUfan writes:

in response to 99aintagator:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Busy or not, there were cars on it (or atleast one) and where I'm from, 1) jaywalking is illegal and 2) if you do jaywalk, wait for the traffic to pass, don't run out in front of it hoping it will stop.

UTandETSUfan writes:

in response to 99aintagator:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Keep making excuses for the other law breaker

AustinTX_Vol writes:

I'm not making excuses for Donte, he's an idiot for what he did and should be punished. But if a Bentley is heading for you at 50 mph, you don't walk out in front of it. Everyone keeps saying it was broad daylight, so how did he not see the car?

hookkick writes:

in response to UTandETSUfan:

Keep making excuses for the other law breaker

Im sure if it was your Dad you wouldnt have this attitude

UTandETSUfan writes:

in response to hookkick:

Im sure if it was your Dad you wouldnt have this attitude

My dad isn't stupid enough to run in front of a Bentley going 50mph.

jcherrie#219531 (Inactive) writes:

in response to UTandETSUfan:

He wasn't in a crosswalk, thus he was illegally crossing the road. Round these parts its called jay-walking... but what ever you call it, its illegal.

Not being in a crosswalk is not necessarily jaywalking.

Following the Uniform Vehicle Code, state codes often do not prohibit a pedestrian to cross a roadway between intersections if at least one of the two adjacent intersections is not controlled by a signal, but stipulate that a pedestrian not at a crosswalk must yield the right of way to approaching drivers.

Here is the thing, he may have been crossing safely and yielding to automobiles traveling at the speed limit.

We don't know whether or not he broke any law.

It's readily apparent that Stallworth broke several laws and will probably be convicted.

Anyway, Stallworth was no longer a Vol when he decided to introduce himself on television based on his high school rather than his University.

TxFatBoy writes:

I can't believe this conversation has taken a turn in this direction. I think we're ALL in agreement that Donte was at fault, if he is truely proven to have been intoxicated then he should pay the penalty for that. What shocks me are the statements about the VICTIM here. Regardless of whether he crossed at a crosswalk or not, he didn't deserve to be killed for it. If he had darted out into traffic without giving Donte time to slow, swerve or stop then HE would be to blame. But IF Donte was drunk and speeding then HE is 100% to blame.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

The high $$$$ talking heads will handle this.

Get a couple of postponments-highlite poor guy running across multiple lanes, etc.,etc.

Right or worng, $$$ talk.

Wait for the final wash-out in the real world.

belayvol writes:

Here is my take on it.
1. The guy had been working all night and was on his way home.He would not have been drinking, only tired.
2. Buses run on schedules. He probably was a few minutes late getting to the bus stop, saw his bus and was dashing to reach it so he would not have to wait for the next. Done it myself a few times. He was not thinking about crosswalks, he wanted to get home. Yeah, he should have looked both ways.
3. Stallworth was speeding, under the influence. 2 strikes right there. What is our commercial here in TN.? You drink, you drive, you get caught?
4. He should spend time in jail. He caused a death, not a fender-bender. If it was me or you, the door would slam loudly.
5. Rock star, football player,or movie queen, it does not absolve you of common sense and community obligations. This did not have to happen. Good luck Donte, hope you learn this lesson. Condolences to the victim's family.

blitzshoot writes:

in response to UTandETSUfan:

My dad isn't stupid enough to run in front of a Bentley going 50mph.

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

chazoid1#255970 writes:

BOTTOM LINE: My condolences to the family of Mr. Reyes. I hope they find peace. Mr. Stallworth will enter a plea to Manslaughter and receive a jail sentence of one [1] year and will be released in nine [9] months, after which he will be on probation for 2-3 years. He will not play this year but go on and begin serving his sentence. He will pay a settlement to the Reyes family as a part of the transaction. He will resume his career after the '09/'10 season. I have driven drunk -- 25 years ago-- causing a one car wreck, and am grateful I did not harm anyone but myself. So, I stopped drinking and have had a much better life. I think that there are next to zero drinkers who have never driven drunk, though no one may know it, including them. I suspect many of the respondents to this article have done the same. Since I am not fit to judge anyone, I won't.

spacificislander writes:

4life, dude was running to catch a bus home after a midnight shift working a crane. yes jwalking is illegal, but the punishment isn't the same as for vehicular homicide.

VolQB writes:

Sad case, .1 driver and a worker on a FL highway. Charges should have never been filed.

UTandETSUfan writes:

in response to blitzshoot:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

teampenny#658108 writes:

in response to chazoid1#255970:

BOTTOM LINE: My condolences to the family of Mr. Reyes. I hope they find peace. Mr. Stallworth will enter a plea to Manslaughter and receive a jail sentence of one [1] year and will be released in nine [9] months, after which he will be on probation for 2-3 years. He will not play this year but go on and begin serving his sentence. He will pay a settlement to the Reyes family as a part of the transaction. He will resume his career after the '09/'10 season. I have driven drunk -- 25 years ago-- causing a one car wreck, and am grateful I did not harm anyone but myself. So, I stopped drinking and have had a much better life. I think that there are next to zero drinkers who have never driven drunk, though no one may know it, including them. I suspect many of the respondents to this article have done the same. Since I am not fit to judge anyone, I won't.

Amen! The real question which there may not be an answer to is why three former VOLS have done this. I can think of no other school that has its former football have these problems. It casts a shadow on us and all pro athletes.

hookkick writes:

in response to UTandETSUfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Im in Kissimmee,FL
Feel free to hitch hike down and take a shot yourself.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

in response to hookkick:

Im in Kissimmee,FL
Feel free to hitch hike down and take a shot yourself.

that guy has proven time and again he is an idiot. ignore him.

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