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Wednesday, July 17, 1996

Judge gives Michael Irvin strict guidelines, stern warning

By Steve Scott
The Dallas Morning News

(July 17, 1996)

DALLAS (KRT)- A day after pleading no contest to a cocaine-possession charge in exchange for four years' probation, Michael Irvin learned the full extent of the court's punishment Tuesday as a judge ordered him to serve 800 hours of community service.

State District Judge Manny Alvarez also ordered Irvin to participate in psychological counseling and to submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation to determine how often he should be tested for drug use.

The judge also decreed that one-third of Irvin's community service be devoted to volunteer work for local social service agencies.

"I want you to know and understand that this four years is not going to be a cakewalk," Judge Alvarez told Irvin. "It's something you're going to have to work at."

The judge told Irvin that for at least the first third of his community service, "you might be doing maintenance work. You might be doing landscaping. You're going to have to establish yourself like anyone else would - from the bottom."

Until then, the judge said, Irvin would not be allowed to speak to youth groups to discharge his service requirement.

"He's got to reach a point where he can be of some use talking to kids," the judge said afterward. "At this point, children don't want to talk to him. He's got to do something to get back in favor."

The judge warned Irvin that the penalty for failing to meet the terms of his probation could be a penitentiary sentence of up to 20 years - the maximum for the second-degree felony charge.

"If you do everything I expect out of you ... you and I won't have a problem," the judge said. "You understand that, don't you?

"Yes sir," Irvin replied quietly.

If Irvin successfully completes the four-year term, no conviction will appear on his record.

Judge Alvarez said Irvin could be released from probation after having served one-third to one-half of his term, provided that he is a model probationer.

Defense attorney Kevin Clancy noted that the 800-hour service requirement was the maximum that can be assessed by law. He and other defense attorneys said little else.

"The judge did what he thought was appropriate, and we respect that," defense attorney Don Godwin said.

Later, Irvin spoke to reporters at the Cowboys' Valley Ranch headquarters, apologizing to his family, fans and teammates. He admitted he was wrong and said he would not report Wednesday to training camp in Austin.

Instead, he said, he will spend time with his family in Miami.

Prosecutors said they were satisfied with the conditions imposed by the judge but expressed doubts about Irvin's ability to carry them out.

First Assistant District Attorney Norman Kinne said testimony about Irvin's repeated drug use suggests that "he's going to have to make a drastic change in his lifestyle if he's ever going to hope to live out this probation."

Topless dancer Rachelle Smith testified before Judge Alvarez last week that Irvin provided drugs for several all-night parties and had tried to intimidate her into recanting her testimony.

Smith's boyfriend, former Dallas police Officer Johnnie Hernandez, has been charged with trying to pay to have Irvin killed. Hernandez was released from Lew Sterrett Justice Center on Tuesday after posting bond on a charge of solicitation of capital murder.

The incident for which Irvin was charged took place March 4 at the Residence Inn by Marriott, an extended-stay motel on Walnut Hill Lane in Irving. Police responding to a disturbance call just after midnight found 10.3 grams of cocaine, more than an ounce of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in a room occupied by Irvin, former Cowboys tight end Alfredo Roberts and two topless dancers.

Irvin and the dancers, Angela Beck and Jasmine Nabwangu, were indicted on felony cocaine and misdemeanor marijuana possession charges. Roberts was not indicted.

Judge Alvarez said Tuesday that all parties to the case remain under a gag order that prohibits them from commenting about the facts or circumstances. The order remains in place because Beck and Nabwangu have yet to come to trial.

National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has begun an investigation and can suspend any player who violates a drug law.

Irvin already has submitted to the evaluation and testing phases in the league's substance-abuse program. He must take as many as 10 random drug tests a month for the next two years. Players not in the program are tested once annually.

If he fails a test or refuses to cooperate with the program, he could be suspended for one season, in addition to whatever penalty he faces from the legal system.

For the first time since his legal troubles began, Irvin was accompanied in court Tuesday by his wife, Sandi, who sat in the front row immediately behind her husband as the judge handed down the sentence.

Irvin brought the couple's two daughters, 6-year-old Myesha and 8-month-old Chelsea, to court.
Irvin carried the youngest girl in his arms as he left the courthouse Tuesday afternoon. Surrounded by television cameras as he prepared to climb into his car, he waved to inmates shouting his name from a jail tower overlooking the parking lot.

Kinne said that the plea agreement leaves Irvin "walking around with the keys to the penitentiary in his pocket."

"Nobody else is going to put him in the penitentiary at this point," Kinne said. "It's all up to him."
(c) 1996, Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

All content copyright 1996, AP, The Abilene Reporter-News and Reporter OnLine

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