Friday, January 21, 2011
Judge sets Chris Simms trial date
NEW YORK -- Tennessee Titans backup quarterback Chris Simms rejected a plea deal Friday after being charged with driving while under the influence of marijuana, putting the case on track for a trial as soon as March.
Simms would have been spared jail and a criminal record if he took what prosecutors said was a last-chance offer to plead guilty to driving while his ability was impaired, a traffic infraction. His punishment would have included a $500 fine, five days of community service and a 90-day driver's license suspension.
Defense lawyer Kim Richman told a judge Simms "will respectfully decline that offer."
That leaves the 30-year-old son of former New York Giants QB Phil Simms facing a trial on charges that could net him up to a year in jail if he's convicted. The judge set a March 1 trial date.
Simms and his lawyer declined to comment on the case afterward.
"See you March 1," Simms, dressed in a crisp gray suit, told reporters cordially.
Simms was pulled over around 1 a.m. on July 1 after making an erratic turn near a police sobriety checkpoint in a nightlife-oriented part of Manhattan, police said. His passengers included his then-pregnant wife, Danielle.
With the smell of marijuana oozing from his Mercedes-Benz, a "zombie"-like Simms told an officer he had been smoking the drug in the car earlier, according to court documents and the officer's testimony at a hearing in October.
Simms, however, told The Tennessean newspaper in August he "definitely didn't say" he had been smoking marijuana. He wasn't tested for drugs, and alcohol tests came back negative.
His lawyers challenged the legality of the checkpoint and the basis for his arrest, among other arguments. A judge rejected all of them earlier this month, saying police were justified in stopping and arresting him and that his statements were obtained legally.
The top charge against Simms is a misdemeanor, driving while impaired by drugs.
Besides the legal consequences, a conviction or any guilty plea that entailed admitting to smoking marijuana could get Simms in career trouble. Under the league's substance-abuse policy, he could be subject to a suspension. The league also has a personal-conduct policy that could result in a suspension.
Simms has a 7-9 record in 16 NFL career starts. A third-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003, he ruptured his spleen in a 2006 game against the Carolina Panthers and had to undergo emergency surgery.
After Tampa Bay released him, he went to Tennessee in 2008, played for the Denver Broncos in 2009 as an unrestricted free agent and then returned to the Titans. The Titans released him in September but then re-signed him in November. He didn't play in any games this season.
Simms' father played 14 seasons with the Giants, leading them to two Super Bowls. He is now a CBS Sports announcer and analyst.