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Irvin Trial Ends With Plea Deal

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Michael Irvin was able to cut a deal to end his cocaine-possession trial in Dallas on Monday, but the Cowboys’ receiver still has to face the possibility of punishment by the NFL.

Irvin, 30, will get no jail time after pleading no contest to second-degree felony cocaine possession in exchange for four years’ deferred probation, a $10,000 fine and dismissal of misdemeanor marijuana possession charges.

He will be formally sentenced today, after which he can join the Cowboys’ training camp, which opens Wednesday in Austin, Texas.

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But under the NFL’s drug policy, he could receive up to a four-game suspension during the regular season and be subjected to counseling and periodic random drug testing as a first-time offender.

The NFL suspended running back Bam Morris for four games on Monday. Morris, who pleaded guilty in Texas on June 27 to marijuana possession, was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers last month and is a free agent.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Irvin’s status under the terms of the league’s substance abuse policy will be reviewed and a ruling is expected “soon.”

Ending a trial that began July 3, Irvin stood alongside his attorneys Monday with his hands clasped behind his back as State District Judge Manny Alvarez read the terms of the plea arrangement. Irvin answered “Yes, sir” to most questions but would not comment further because of a gag order.

Under the plea, prosecutors agree to defer a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. If Irvin stays out of trouble for the four years of his probation, the sentence is cleared. If he violates probation, he faces the full sentence.

“Michael is glad to get this behind him and get back on with his life,” attorney Don Godwin said. “He intends to get down to Austin to be part of the training camp and to help the Dallas Cowboys. He wants to get back to contribute to the Cowboys and their goal of getting back to a Super Bowl.”

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Defense attorneys denied the plea bargain was orchestrated to coincide with the beginning of training camp. Prosecutor Mike Gillett said lawyers have been discussing a possible plea “from indictment to today.”

“I think the important thing is it’s been disposed of in what I see as a positive manner for our office and for Mr. Irvin,” Gillett said.

Today’s sentencing will mark the end of a four-month roller coaster ride for Irvin, who was arrested in a suburban Dallas motel room on March 4 after a police raid turned up more than 10 grams of cocaine and a small quantity of marijuana.

The night of his arrest, Irvin was celebrating his 30th birthday with former teammate Alfredo Roberts and two topless dancers. Roberts wasn’t indicted.

Another topless dancer, Rachelle Smith, testified Friday that she witnessed Irvin using drugs at the same motel less than a month before his arrest. A plea bargain was put into the works shortly after that testimony.

Defense attorneys had been expected to attack the credibility of Smith, whose boyfriend, a former Dallas police officer, awaits trial on charges of trying to hire a hit man to kill Irvin.

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Smith, 24, also testified under a grant of immunity that Irvin threatened and strip-searched her twice after she testified before the Dallas County grand jury that indicted him in April.

Fullback Daryl Johnston said the trial appeared to have taken its toll when he saw Irvin on Sunday.

“You could see it in his face. He looked thin, he looked tired,” Johnston said. “Maybe this is the best thing for him because it will give him some closure now. He can get on with his life.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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