Thursday, January 08, 2009 - by Ken Pishna - MMAWeekly.com (Reporting by Tom Hamlin)
It has been an eventful six months since Quinton "Rampage" Jackson lost his UFC light heavyweight title to Forrest Griffin in July of 2008. He has since been involved in a very public legal episode that involved leading police on a chase that ended in Newport Beach, Calif.; left longtime trainer Juanito Ibarra for the U.K.'s Wolfslair; successfully returned to the Octagon to gain revenge on his nemesis, Wanderlei Silva; and, on Thursday morning, he began what he hopes will be the closure process to his legal troubles.
In an Orange County court on Thursday, Quinton Jackson accepted a plea bargain in a case stemming from his arrest on July 15, 2008, in exchange for a reversal of his plea from not guilty to guilty. The arrest came following Jackson allegedly leading police on a chase that involved hitting other vehicles, running red traffic lights, driving into oncoming traffic, and ended in Newport Beach.
He was originally charged with one felony count of evading while driving recklessly, one felony count of evading a peace officer and driving against traffic, three misdemeanor counts of hit and run with property damage, and one misdemeanor count of reckless driving. At his preliminary hearing on Thursday, he reversed his plea to guilty on one misdemeanor count of reckless driving and one felony count of evading a peace officer and driving against traffic.
With the acceptance of the plea bargain, Jackson's sentencing will be deferred to Jan. 7, 2010. If he meets the requirements of the plea bargain, the felony count will be dismissed and he will only be sentenced for the misdemeanor. If he fails to meet the requirements of his plea bargain, he will be charged and sentenced on both counts.
Based on the negotiated plea agreement, Jackson could still receive up to six months in jail and probation at his sentencing, according to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney's office.
"Today, Quinton entered into a plea agreement that was fashioned to place more time between the instance and the resolution. The agreement is analogous to a deferred entry of judgment in that the plea to count two, evading a peace officer and driving against traffic, will be withdrawn and dismissed at the end of one year if Quinton's doctors are assured that he has maintained good physical and mental health and he has complied with the other terms of the agreement. He will be seeing his doctor's regularly with bimonthly reports provided to the district attorney. He will also perform 200 hours of community service, which will be designed to reach as many young people as possible," said Jackson's attorney, Carol Lavacot, in a prepared statement detailing the requirements of her client.
It was also revealed during the hearing that Quinton Jackson has also agreed to pay restitution on all counts against him, including the felony that will be dismissed as part of his plea agreement.
"Quinton's decompensation on July 15, 2008, was precipitated by multiple factors interacting with one another. None of these factors included drugs or alcohol. It is the opinion of his doctor's that Quinton suffered a brief episode of delirium, which was reactive to situational and metabolic difficulties," explained Lavacot in her statement. "He is learning to manage the stressors in his life and has been working with a nutritionist to maintain his physical as well as his mental health.
"Quinton, from the beginning, has wanted to take responsibility for his actions. He has learned a great deal about his physical body and about mental health. During this next year, Quinton has chosen to share his knowledge of how good nutrition, exercise, and sufficient sleep leads to success. He will be speaking to groups of young people in the hope that his unfortunate incident can be turned into something positive for others."
As long as he meets the terms of his agreement, the plea bargain will keep Jackson out of jail for the next year and in the Octagon. Having defeated Silva at UFC 92 on Dec. 27, it is speculated he could return to competition again as soon as June or July.
"I think it's very fair, considering the circumstances," Jackson's attorney, Carol Lavacot, told MMAWeekly.com.