Lions’ Fairley back where he started

MOBILE, Ala. — Six months after pleading guilty in what he thought was a deal to bury a DUI charge, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley on Thursday found himself back where he

started.

Mobile County Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart said she could not determine that prosecutors had agreed to let him participate in a pretrial diversion program that would have resulted in the dismissal of the charge as long as he complied with the terms of the program.

The defense maintained it had a deal when Fairley entered his plea in September; the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office insisted it never signed off on the settlement. Stewart noted that the burden of proof was on Fairley.

“Tie goes to the runner,” said Stewart, using a sports analogy that surely was familiar to a man who makes a living playing football and once won a state high school championship in basketball.

Fairley declined to talk to reporters as he and his agent left the courtroom following Thursday’s brief hearing.

Stewart said she has no doubt that defense attorney Sid Harrell thought he had an agreement for his client to enter a diversion program that would result in the dismissal of the charge. But the judge said she also was convinced that Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Spiro Cheriogotis believed there was no deal.

“There is a tie here,” Stewart said, noting that the defense had the burden to prove that a deal existed.

Stewart allowed Fairley to withdraw his Sept. 26 guilty plea in Mobile County District Court and start fresh in the lower court.

He will be entitled to a nonjury trial and, if found guilty, could appeal to circuit court for a jury trial. He faces his original three misdemeanor charges of DUI, reckless driving and attempting to elude police stemming from his May 27 arrest.

“Contract law involves a meeting of the minds,” said another attorney for Fairley, Buzz Jordan.

“I think the judge took that at face value.”

Even though she declined to find a binding agreement in the case, Stewart said the prosecution’s hard line against Fairley “smacks of selective prosecution” because other defendants with similar or worse criminal records have been allowed to participate in the diversion

program.

Prosecutors had said they did not allow Fairley to participate in the diversion program because of an April arrest — a month before the DUI charge — on a marijuana-possession charge.

They maintained that the defendant did not qualify even though a Mobile Municipal Court judge ultimately dismissed the drug charge..

But Stewart cited one DUI division participant who previously had been arrested on marijuana-possession and -trafficking charges and who had a previous conviction for possession of cocaine.

Jordan said his client was not disappointed by today’s outcome. “He was satisfied. He relies on his attorneys,” he said.

Jordan said Fairley is fully prepared to contest the DUI charge if need be, but he added that he hopes the District Attorney’s Office will reconsider its position, especially considering that the drug charge has been dismissed.

“A lot of people are wrongly arrested,” he said.

The DUI stems from an incident on Interstate 10 just after 1 a.m. May 27, in which an Alabama state trooper reported that Fairley was driving at speeds up to 100 m.p.h.

“A lot of people speed, and it doesn’t have to do with impairment,” Jordan said.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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