WASHINGTON — Former Washington Redskins player Albert Haynesworth pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge Monday, averting a trial on a sexual assault charge stemming from a February incident at a downtown hotel lounge.
The trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday. Haynesworth, 30, agreed to undergo alcohol-abuse and psychological-social assessments and to perform 160 hours of community service as well as to stay away from the victim — a cocktail waitress at the W Hotel whom he admitted to groping after a party — for 18 months.
If Haynesworth fulfills those terms, according to the deal, his record will be cleared. If he does not, he could face as much as 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The prosecution agreed to drop the sexual assault charge during Monday’s hearing in D.C. Superior Court at the insistence of Haynesworth’s attorney, Scott Bolden.
Haynesworth stood with his hands in his pockets during the hearing before Senior Judge Geoffrey Alprin. Bolden nudged Haynesworth to remove his hands as he addressed the judge.
Under the nolo contendere plea, Haynesworth agreed that prosecutors had enough evidence to win a conviction. “I do not contest the government’s proffer of facts,” Haynesworth said softly after the prosecution read the details of what happened at the hotel.
Haynesworth had been charged with fondling a waitress as he slipped his credit card inside her blouse to pay his bill early Feb. 13.
Alprin accepted Haynesworth’s plea. “I find that he is guilty of simple assault,” Alprin said. He set a Feb. 21 hearing to review Haynesworth’s status and ordered him to pay a $250 fine.
Haynesworth arrived in Washington on Sunday in preparation for Tuesday’s trial. Sources familiar with the case said both sides worked feverishly over the weekend to reach an agreement.
In the run-up to the trial, both sides had accused the other of offering money to influence the outcome. And the victim, then a student at Howard University, was loath to testify, according to sources familiar with the case. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said the victim was reluctant to testify but was cooperating with prosecutors. The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Attorneys and officials familiar with D.C. law said the combination of a no-contest plea and a deferred sentencing agreement was uncommon.
The Redskins traded the defensive lineman to the New England Patriots in July. The NFL will review Haynesworth’s case under its personal conduct policy, according to a league spokesman. The policy enables NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to fine or suspend players for off-field misconduct.
There were some light moments in Monday’s hearing, which took approximately 40 minutes. When the judge asked Haynesworth whether he was satisfied with his attorney’s service, Haynesworth said, “Yeah,” and lightly punched Bolden’s arm. And when Alprin asked about a potential date for the February hearing, Bolden said he hoped to avoid potential conflicts with the Super Bowl – but also that did not want to be “presumptuous” in assuming that his client’s team would be playing in it.
Arriving at the courthouse minutes before the hearing, Haynesworth emerged with Bolden from a black Cadillac Escalade, smiled and said, ”Go Patriots,” to the gathering of reporters.
Haynesworth climbed back into the SUV while Bolden held a brief news conference after the hearing with the Cadillac idling behind him.
Bolden said his client was “pleased to have the case over so he can move on with his life.” Then the SUV pulled away, leaving Bolden to track it down on foot.