PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell waived his right to a preliminary hearing on marijuana possession and driving under the influence charges Wednesday morning.
The 22-year-old Bell and his 27-year-old teammate, LeGarrette Blount, were arrested Aug. 20 after a motorcycle officer in Ross Township smelled marijuana coming from their vehicle.
After practice Wednesday afternoon, Bell apologized for the case that’s generated so much attention.
“I obviously made a mistake,” he said. “Something I definitely regret doing, but I already apologized to my teammates for it and it’s a mistake that I obviously can’t do again.”
Earlier, he appeared with his attorneys and his agent at District Judge Richard Opiela’s court in West View to face charges he drove under the influence of marijuana and marijuana possession. He waived his right to the preliminary hearing.
While in court, the judge required Gateway Rehabilitation to conduct a drug and alcohol interview to analyze a proposed treatment plan, which could be satisfied by the NFL’s own treatment plan, depending on the outcome of the case.
“We didn’t challenge those charges at this preliminary stage. We didn’t think it would be very fruitful to do that and so the matter has now been referred to the Court of Common Pleas to the trial level for further disposition. The likely outcome of this case is that we are hopeful that Le’Veon will be admitted to the ARD program, a program for first time offenders of non-violent crime. He’s certainly eligible as the charges are constituted,” attorney Robert Del Greco said.
“If he’s admitted into that program and successfully completes the conditions, satisfies the conditions, he can earn a dismissal and an expungement,” Del Greco added. “In all likelihood, he’ll get a year probation contingent on certain conditions, which would include evaluation, attendance at drunk driving school, an assessment, a hearing, things of that nature.”
Meanwhile, the judge produced a warrant for his arrest for failure to pay a parking ticket from Oakdale. The total cost was $153.32, which was paid before he left court.
Prosecutors also added one count of general impairment as part of the DUI case.
“For Le’Veon’s part, I can tell you that he recognizes that he’s made a mistake. I think he understands painfully that he will suffer legal consequences and that there will be an administrative sanction in all probability in the offing,” Del Greco said.
Police say the players acknowledged buying and smoking some of the pot, though Bell told police he wasn’t high at the time of the 1:30 p.m. traffic stop.
The officer asked if any of the passengers smoked marijuana that day. According to the criminal complaint, Bell replied, “It was about a minute ago.” When asked to explain what he meant, Bell said, “We smoked within the last two hours.”
The criminal complaint reports Bell then admitted the marijuana, about 20 grams, was inside the glove box. Bell said they had just purchased the pot and everyone pitched in to buy it.
Investigators say the officer told Bell because he was smoking; he could not operate the vehicle and could possibly be DUI.
According to the criminal complaint, Bell replied, “I didn’t know you could get a DUI from being high. I smoked two hours ago, I am not high anymore. I am perfectly fine. Why would I be getting high if I had to get on a plane to make it to my game?”
When the officer asked what game, Bell told him, “I have to be on my plane at 3. I play for the Steelers.”
After he administered a field sobriety test, the officer said he believed Bell could not safely operate a motor vehicle. Bell was placed in handcuffs and taken to the hospital for a blood draw.
Police say Bell was driving; Blount was in the passenger seat and a woman, identified as 21-year-old Mercedes Dollson, was in the back seat.
Bell’s lawyer says all of this has been a learning experience for his client.
“I think he’s dedicated to becoming a better person, a better player and a better teammate,” said Del Greco. “Essentially, Le’Veon is a vastly talented 22-year-old with a huge and promising future, and I think he’s now committed to understanding that that future can only be realized if he doesn’t implicate the criminal justice system.”
The Steelers and the NFL would then act pending the outcome of the case.
“I understand that the policy as it’s presently constituted sanctions an individual who is involved in a driving under the influence for two games,” says Del Greco.
As for the Steelers take on what happens once this case is resolved, they said they would have no comment.
Del Greco expects the case to be resolved sometime next year.
Blount’s attorney, Casey White, has postponed his client’s preliminary hearing on a marijuana possession charge until Dec. 10.
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