Leaf pleads guilty to stealing painkillers

Associated Press Modified: May 8, 2012 at 9:02 pm •  Published: May 8, 2012
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GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he broke into a Montana home and illegally possessed painkillers, part of a deal with prosecutors that recommends he spend nine months in a secure drug treatment facility.

The former San Diego Chargers quarterback and Washington State standout was shackled hand and foot and wore a black-and-white prison stripes as he told Cascade County District Judge Kenneth Neill that he needed treatment.

"I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity presented," Leaf said. "An intensive nine-month rehab facility is presently needed."

It was one of the few statements Leaf made in the hearing under questioning by his attorney, Kenneth Olson. Leaf admitted that he broke into a home in Cascade County on April 1. He then admitted that a few days earlier, on March 28, he illegally possessed oxycodone that was not prescribed to him.

Leaf pleaded guilty to one count each of felony burglary and criminal possession of a dangerous drug. Under the agreement, County Attorney John Parker agreed to dismiss two other counts of burglary and drug possession.

Neill set sentencing for June 19. Parker and Olson are recommending a five-year sentence in the custody of the Montana Department of Corrections for the burglary charge.

Olson said that recommendation will include a nine-month program at the Nexus Treatment Center in Lewistown, a center affiliated with the DOC, where Leaf would be locked down and unable to leave. That would be followed by time in a pre-release program in which Leaf's movements would be restricted.

The agreement recommends a separate five-year sentence for the possession charge, but all of it would be suspended, Olson said.

Neill is not bound by the sentencing recommendation, but indicated he may look favorably on it.

"There is no question he needs treatment," Neill said.

Olson said he and Parker also will recommend that the sentence run together with whatever sentence Leaf is given for a probation violation in Texas.

A prosecutor there, James Farren, filed to revoke the former quarterback's 10-year probation from a 2010 plea deal. Leaf was charged with stealing prescription pain medicine from a player's home while he was a coach at West Texas A&M. An investigation also found he obtained nearly 1,000 pain pills from area pharmacies in an eight-month span.

Olson said he has received no sentencing commitment from Texas prosecutors, but he hopes to have one when Leaf goes to Texas to face the probation violation accusation.

"We all agree that Ryan needs treatment. He needs that more than he needs to go to prison," Olson said.

Farren said if the Montana judge approves the deal there, Leaf could return to Texas for a hearing to revoke his probation, either before or after the treatment program. He said he would like Leaf back in Texas as soon as is feasible to face "extensive" prison time that Farren will recommend to a judge in Amarillo.



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