Friday, October 3, 2008
Former NFL running back Phillips sentenced in L.A. to prison
LOS ANGELES -- Former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison, two years after he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.
The sentencing was repeatedly delayed while Phillips fought to withdraw a guilty plea in a domestic abuse case that could have led to a stiffer sentence.
Phillips was convicted in 2006 of seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
The 33-year-old former Nebraska running back has been jailed since August 2005, when he drove onto a field near Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and his car struck three boys, ages 14 and 15, and a 19-year-old man, who suffered cuts and bruises. The car narrowly missed four other people, prosecutor Todd Hicks.
Phillips was allegedly upset after losing a pickup football game to the youths and accused them of stealing some of his possessions.
"When he gets angry and he feels disrespected, he acts out with blind rage," Hicks said in a telephone interview after the sentencing.
In court, Phillips tearfully apologized to one of the victims.
"I'm sorry that your leg is messed up," Phillips told Rodney Flores, after hearing the young man tell the court that he was unable to pursue his dream of playing high school sports as a result of being hit when he was 16.
"I'm sorry you have to come in here like this," Phillips said, adding that he "wanted the chance to say I didn't mean to hurt people."
Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli said Phillips should have thought about what he did.
A call to Phillips' attorney Leslie Ringold was not immediately returned.
Sentencing was delayed while Phillips tried to withdraw a 2000 guilty plea to hitting a woman he had been dating during a confrontation at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the prosecutor said.
The plea stands as a strike against Phillips under California's "three-strikes" law, which mandates tougher sentences for repeat offenders.
Phillips contended he was coerced into pleading guilty to domestic abuse and making a criminal threat, resulting in a brief prison term and three years of probation.
His attempts to withdraw the plea are continuing, Hicks said.
That crime would be considered a first strike under California's "three strikes" law. If the guilty plea stood, it means the car assault would be a second strike carrying a potential sentence of 20 years, prosecutors said.
The St. Louis Rams released Phillips for insubordination in 1997. He signed with the Miami Dolphins, but was later released. In 1999 in NFL Europe, he set league records for rushing and touchdowns with the Barcelona Dragons.
He signed with the San Francisco 49ers later that year, but was released for missing a practice. He also has played in the Canadian Football League.