MIAMI - Donté Stallworth began serving a 30-day jail sentence yesterday for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk in Florida, a punishment made possible by his cooperation with investigators and the fervent wish by the victim's family to put the matter behind them.
Stallworth, 28, also reached a confidential financial settlement with the family of 59-year-old Mario Reyes, a construction worker struck and killed early March 14 by the NFL veteran, driving drunk in his black 2005 Bentley.
The former Eagles wide receiver could have faced 15 years in prison for his DUI manslaughter conviction. After his release from jail, he must serve two years of house arrest and spend eight years on probation. He will never be allowed to drive again.
The house-arrest provisions will allow him to resume his football career, his attorney said.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league was reviewing the matter for possible disciplinary action. Stallworth, who is a member of the Cleveland Browns, could face suspension without pay for some games this year.
Leonard Little of the Rams pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter after he hit and killed a woman while driving drunk in 1998 and served an eight-game suspension, though the punishment was doled out when the league was a bit more lenient.
Stallworth's attorney, Christopher Lyons, said the financial settlement was only one factor in the plea agreement. He said Stallworth stopped immediately after the accident, called 911, and submitted to roadside alcohol testing despite having spent most of the night drinking at a Miami Beach hotel.
"He acted like a man," Lyons said. "He remained at the scene. He cooperated fully."
Stallworth told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy that he hoped to get involved in drunken-driving education programs.
"I accept full responsibility for this horrible tragedy," said Stallworth, who was accompanied at the hearing by his parents, siblings, and other supporters. "I will bear this burden for the rest of my life."
Stallworth also must undergo drug and alcohol testing, and he must perform 1,000 hours of community service. Lyons said that after five years, Stallworth could win approval for limited driving such as for employment.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle echoed Lyons in citing Stallworth's lack of previous criminal record, cooperation and willingness to accept responsibility as factors in the plea deal. Rundle also said the Reyes family - particularly the victim's 15-year-old daughter - wanted the case resolved to avoid any more pain.
"For all of these reasons, a just resolution of this case has been reached," Rundle said.
None of the Reyes family attended the hearing. Their attorney, Rodolfo Suarez, read a statement saying the family wants to "bring closure to this emotional and tragic event." Suarez did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
After a night drinking at a bar in Miami Beach's Fountainebleau hotel, police said, Stallworth hit Reyes, a construction crane operator who was rushing to catch a bus after finishing his shift around 7:15 a.m. Stallworth told police he flashed his lights in an attempt to warn Reyes, who was not in a crosswalk when he was struck.