Jets’ Richardson avoids jail time in police chase

A St. Charles County judge sentenced Richardson Tuesday to two years of probation and community service after his July arrest for driving a Bentley Silver Spur at 143 mph on an interstate highway near his off-season home. (Duane Burleson/AP)

ST. CHARLES, Mo. — New York Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson avoided jail time Tuesday after pleading guilty to reduced charges connected to a high-speed police chase in suburban St. Louis.

A St. Charles County judge sentenced the former University of Missouri star to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service after his July arrest for driving a 2014 Bentley Silver Spur at speeds up to 143 mph on an interstate highway near his off-season home. The five misdemeanour charges included one for resisting arrest, for which Richardson could have spent up to one year in jail.

Richardson’s guilty plea to the most serious offence will be wiped from his record if he successfully completes probation. He also pleaded guilty to speeding and running a red light and must pay $1,050 in fines. Two other traffic offences were reduced to muffler violations to which the 25-year-old St. Louis native also pleaded guilty.

Leslie Knight, a spokeswoman for county prosecutor Tim Lohmar, called the plea bargain a "typical" offer that wasn’t influenced by Richardson’s status.

"That’s what we would do for anybody," she said after the brief hearing.

Richardson was accompanied by a 12-year-old relative and two male passengers when he was stopped. Police say they found a loaded semi-automatic handgun under a floor mat and detected a strong marijuana odor.

Richardson’s car went through a traffic light before the Jets player turned off all of its lights and pulled into someone else’s driveway. Police pulled behind the car and ordered Richardson and the adult passengers out of the car at gunpoint — an officer said he saw Richardson reach for something between his feet.

He was not charged for the gun possession or marijuana, nor were his passengers charged. He declined comment after the sentencing hearing.

Richardson served a four-game, early season suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Defence attorney Scott Rosenblum said he doesn’t expect Richardson to face more discipline related to the Missouri case under the league’s personal conduct policy. Three previous hearings were postponed until after the 2015 NFL regular season.

Rosenblum said his client was remorseful and has since sold the luxury car, preferring instead to drive a Chevy Tahoe SUV.

"He absolutely understands that his behaviour was not responsible," he said.