San Francisco 49ers star pass rusher Aldon Smith pleaded “no contest” Wednesday to six felony charges. Three were for possession of illegal assault weapons, stemming from an ill-fated 2012 house party. The other three are a result of Smith’s DUI–and .15 BAC–in September. Smith will be sentenced on July 25.
It is important to note that Smith did not strike a plea deal as originally reported by many news sources. He pleaded no contest. There is also an important distinction to note between pleading “no contest” and pleading “guilty.” Both would eliminate court battle, but the “no contest” plea will also prevent this plea from being used against Smith in any potential criminal or civil case that may arise in the future.
Brian Buckelew, the state prosecutor, discussed the sentencing with the Mercury News, telling the paper that it will come at the sole discretion of the judge. It will definitely help Aldon Smith that the state is not actively seeking lots of prison time. Said Buckelew:
It’s from zero days to four years and four months . . . There is an acceptance of responsibility here that is factored in by the sentencing judge
The “acceptance of responsibility” likely refers to Smith’s plea, but more directly to Smith’s decision last fall to enter into a rehab facility and begin to take responsibility for his actions, accept the likely repercussions, and, apart from a strange incident at LAX a couple of months ago, stay out of trouble.
Speaking of the LAX incident, the LA District Attorney’s office is still contemplating whether or not to bring misdemeanor charges against Aldon Smith. Smith apparently told the 49ers that he never said the word “bomb.” The whole incident is quite peculiar, anyway, as he was let through security before being apprehended at the gate. I am not sure anyone but Aldon and the security personnel know the complete story, if anyone does.
There is also the issue of a potential suspension from Roger Goodell. If Smith gets serious jail time, expect a “suspension” to last at least as long as his sentence does. Otherwise, I would be surprised to see a suspension longer than 4-8 weeks. It must be remembered that Smith voluntarily took 5 weeks off while he was in rehab last season. Goodell has also been very patient in allotting punishment recently, waiting for the legal system to play out. This seems appropriate, especially with the NFLPA’s many frustrations with Goodell. Putting that aside, even, it is best to see the whole picture before condemning an individual.
What should we expect from Aldon Smith? Expect him to enter into the 49ers’ lineup midseason with hunger and something to prove–both on and off the field.