Indianapolis Colts owner pleads guilty to intoxicated driving

Tue Sep 2, 2014 3:15pm EDT

James Irsay, owner of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters March 17, 2014. REUTERS/City of Carmel Police Department/Handout via Reuters

James Irsay, owner of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters March 17, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/City of Carmel Police Department/Handout via Reuters

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(Reuters) - James Irsay, owner of the National Football League's Indianapolis Colts, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in a deal with prosecutors to a misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and was suspended by the league for six games.

Irsay, 55, who was arrested in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel in March after a traffic stop, will be on probation for a year but will not go to jail under the plea agreement. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail with all but two days suspended and was given two days credit after his arrest, the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Following his guilty plea, the NFL suspended Irsay for the team’s first six regular-season games and fined him the maximum $500,000 for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.

In a letter to Irsay, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "I have stated on numerous occasions that owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players.

"We discussed this during our meeting and you expressed your support for that view, volunteering that owners should be held to the highest standard."

Irsay issued a statement saying the arrest had "opened my eyes to issues in my life that needed addressing and helped put me on the path to regain my health."

"I acknowledge the mistake I made last March and stand responsible for the consequences of that mistake, for which I sincerely apologize to our community and to Colts fans everywhere," he said.

"Please know I am firmly committed to staying on my path to good health and I look forward to a great season."

During the suspension, which begins at 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Irsay will not be allowed at the club's facility, may not attend practices or games and may not conduct media interviews or engage in social media regarding any NFL matters.

As part of his plea agreement, Irsay will be required to provide current prescriptions for medications he is prescribed upon request and to complete a rehabilitation program he has taken part in since March, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the plea agreement was typical for a first-time offense in the county for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Laboratory tests had detected the pain killers hydrocodone and oxycodone in Irsay's blood, prosecutors said.

In March, police stopped Irsay for driving at a slow pace, stopping in the roadway and failing to signal a turn and arrested him after he failed roadside field-sobriety tests.

He was charged preliminarily with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and four counts of possession of a controlled substance. Irsay checked himself into a healthcare facility after he was released following his arrest.

Irsay, whose net worth is about $1.7 billion, according to Forbes magazine, was charged formally in May with one count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and one count of operating a vehicle with a Schedule I or II controlled substance or metabolite in the body, both misdemeanors.

The second count was dropped under the plea agreement.

The announcement of the suspension of a team owner came less than a week after the NFL, stung by a public uproar from critics who said it was too lenient on a player accused of assaulting his fiancee, announced stricter penalties for domestic violence. Players now will receive a six-game ban for a first-time violation of the league's policy and an indefinite ban for a second violation.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Additional reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)

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