For Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, a Pro Bowl-caliber season has many essential components.
A good quarterback is key. So is staying healthy.
It also helps to have a good attorney.
Jackson likely was headed for an NFL suspension this season after being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving last January, his second DUI arrest since 2006. But he avoided league discipline all year in large part by having his case delayed with legal procedures, including two continuances since November. The latest continuance came Tuesday in San Diego Superior Court.
“I don’t want him concentrating on anything else except catching footballs right now, and it’s pretty obvious that’s what he’s concentrating on,” said Cole Casey, Jackson’s attorney.
The maneuverings helped him stay on the field, where he helped lead the Chargers on a playoff run with 68 catches for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns. Tomorrow he faces the New York Jets in a playoff game at Qualcomm Stadium.
His ultimate price, besides possible jail time, could be an NFL suspension — possibly a few games this fall. To have his case delayed again this week, an attorney for Jackson indicated to the judge there would be a plea deal in place or a trial date set the next time they appeared in court in March. If Jackson pleads guilty to an alcohol-related offense, it would be his second such conviction since 2006, when he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drunken driving and received five years of probation.
“Discipline for a second or subsequent offense is likely to be a suspension,” says the NFL’s substance-abuse policy for alcohol-related offenses.
Jackson was not suspended by the league after his first conviction, which came about four months after his June 2006 arrest. He was on probation at the time of his second DUI arrest on Jan. 6, 2009. His blood-alcohol content then registered at 0.17 percent, double the state limit.
Casey argued in court last June that Jackson’s blood test results should be tossed out because his blood was drawn against his will, in violation of his rights against illegal searches and seizures.
Casey said Jackson repeatedly requested a breath test instead, as was his right. But the breath machine didn’t immediately accept his sample, and Jackson moved slowly while removing personal items to be inventoried, according to the testimony of a California Highway Patrol officer.
Because of this, the officer considered Jackson to be refusing the breath test. As a result, Jackson’s blood was drawn from his arm while his arms were handcuffed behind a chair.
A Superior Court judge rejected Casey’s argument, leading Casey to attempt an appeal in July.
That put the case on hold until October, when a judge determined the appeal attempt to be premature. On Nov. 3, Casey said, “I’m just going to continue it (the case) until after the season.”
A first continuance in such a case is generally granted almost automatically, said Randy Grossman, a local attorney and adjunct faculty member at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
For a second continuance, “good cause” is required, he said.
On Tuesday, Jackson received a second continuance because his attorney represented that there would be a “guaranteed disposition,” according to the city attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case. A “guaranteed disposition” generally means a plea deal, but Casey said that’s not certain to happen.
Casey said Jackson is not trying to get off on a technicality or delay justice but instead is exercising his constitutional rights. He said it’s not uncommon for a trial to take place a year after an arrest.
Jackson said before the 2009 season the off-field issues were “something that’s unfortunate.”
“But I definitely have a positive outlook about it,” he said then. “My teammates have confidence in me, so I don’t worry that much about it.”
That’s his attorney’s job.
“It’s ultimately going to be up to Vince and I what we do, and we will wait until football season is over until we make that decision,” Casey said.
Brent Schrotenboer: (619) 293-1368; email@example.com