Sergio Kindle avoided jail time after pleading guilty to drunken-driving charges Tuesday, but the Ravens linebacker still faces an uncertain future on the football field.
Judge Neil Edward Axel sentenced the 23-year-old rookie to two years of probation because he thought Kindle had taken "positive steps" in getting treatment for alcohol abuse — including spending five days in a private Owings Mills facility last week.
During the hearing, Kindle apologized, saying, "I'm very remorseful for my actions. I am held to a higher standard and people look up to me. I see that it's a problem and I'm here to get it treated. I want to continue to address this as long as need be."
Kindle left court in a hurry, dodging reporters waiting outside the Howard County District Courthouse, and sprinting toward a waiting vehicle.
"He's delighted with the judge's sentence," Kindle's attorney, Warren Alperstein, said after the hearing. "He is eager to put this behind him, but he certainly recognizes the need to continue addressing the issues that caused him to be here today."
Along with two years of unsupervised probation, Kindle was ordered to continue to get treatment, attend one or two self-help meetings a week and abstain from alcohol. If he violates the terms of his probation, Kindle faces up to 360 days in jail.
The drunken-driving incident occurred in December 2010. According to charging documents, Kindle was arrested when a patrol officer noticed his Cadillac speeding and swerving on Route 1 near Laurel a little past 4 a.m. the day after Christmas. After stopping Kindle near the entrance to Interstate 95, the officer said he smelled alcohol on Kindle's breath and said that Kindle's eyes were bloodshot and glassy, according to the documents.
Kindle told police that he had "a few drinks" at a club in Washington earlier that night. Kindle failed his field sobriety test, and at one point after telling police that he played for the Ravens, said that his head injury had caused him to "lose his equilibrium." Kindle was given a breathalyzer test at the county's detention center and registered 0.17, more than twice the legal limit in Maryland.
Assistant State's Attorney Meghan Skaggs had argued that Kindle's three-day jail sentence after a DUI arrest as a sophomore at the University of Texas in 2007 had not been a deterrent. That he spent five days at the Right Turn of Maryland alcohol rehabilitation facility was not enough, Skaggs said.
"I'm disappointed that the judge did not follow our recommendation," State's Attorney Dario Broccolino said outside the courtroom. "I thought our recommendation was appropriate in all regards. But the final decision was the judge's."
Though the judge rejected the prosecutor's request that Kindle serve jail time, the timetable for Kindle's return to the field is still in question.
Along with the continuing lockout of all NFL players by the league, there is the question of Kindle's rehabilitation from a skull fracture he sustained before training camp last summer. Kindle, who was a second-round draft choice and the top pick of the Ravens in the 2010 draft, had spent last season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
He now also faces the possibility of suspension by the league for violating its personal behavior policy. Before the lockout, Kindle had been characterized as a Stage 2 offender under the NFL's drug abuse policy and was subject to 10 random drug and alcohol tests a month.
According to league spokesman Greg Aiello, the league's drug programs are suspended during the lockout. Under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, first-time offenders are typically fined their salary for half a game up to a maximum of $50,000, unless there are "aggravating circumstances."
"Once the players are back, we will review for discipline any violations of law that took place during the work stoppage," Aiello said.
Meanwhile, Kindle was to return to Texas to continue to work out and get treatment for alcohol abuse.
"He's working very hard to get back on the football field," said Alperstein, Kindle's lawyer. "He's doing very well with respect to that. … We're very optimistic based on what we know and what we've heard, he'll be able to play professional football again."