SALT LAKE CITY -- Former Philadelphia Eagles running back Reno Mahe pleaded no contest Monday to accusations that he stole thousands of dollars in gasoline -- a deal that means no jail time and possibly having the case dismissed.
Mahe maintained his innocence throughout the case, saying he thought the gasoline was a gift from a friend. But he and his attorney said the plea deal avoids the risks that come with a jury trial. He could have been sentenced to up to five years if convicted of the felony theft charge he had faced.
"I would never plead guilty to this. That would be me lying about it," Mahe said.
Mahe's case can be dismissed in 18 months if he stays out of trouble and pays $2,973 in restitution. He also has to pay other court fees.
"This way, I put it on me. In 18 months, this will be dismissed," said Mahe, who was smiling and appeared in good spirits before his case was called in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City.
Authorities accused Mahe and four others of stealing more than $15,000 in gasoline during a three-month period in 2010 from a suburban Salt Lake City construction company called A-Core Concrete Cutting.
An investigation was opened after the company contacted police, claiming that an internal audit found that an employee -- and friend of Mahe -- had been using a code to steal gasoline from them over a four-year period. The firm calculated a loss of more than $55,000 between June 18, 2006, and Oct. 17, 2010.
Police said investigators had surveillance video showing the defendants filling their personal vehicles with gas after business hours using the code.
Mahe's attorney, Rudy Bautista, said he had a recording of the employee saying he had authorization to give away the gasoline because it was an employment perk.
"From the very beginning, he has said that he was under the mistaken belief that this gas was given to him," Bautista said.
Mahe, a BYU standout, played five seasons for the Eagles before retiring after the 2007 season. His playing time as running back was limited -- he had 47 career carries -- but he was more prevalent in special teams as a kick and punt returner.
Mahe, 32, said he understands some people would have a hard time believing that someone would give him gasoline as a gift.
"But they don't know my life, and the free things that people offer us," he said, referring to his professional career. "It's ridiculous."
Mahe said outside the courtroom after the plea that, "for 18 months I'm not going to trust anyone." But he quickly took back the statement.
"You know what, though, at the end of the day I'm still going to trust people. I'm not going to live a life where I can't trust people," he said.