Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth surrendered in court Thursday to face charges that he was driving drunk when he struck and killed a pedestrian after a night of drinking at a ritzy Miami Beach hotel.
Stallworth, 28, was led away in handcuffs after a short hearing before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy. He was expected to be released on $200,000 bail later in the day.
Stallworth attorney Christopher Lyons said he would “vigorously defend this case” and that the defense team has already begun its own probe into the March 14 crash that killed 59-year-old Mario Reyes. Lyons also expressed sympathy for the Reyes family.
“We want to stress there are no winners here. It was a tragic accident,” Lyons said.
Stallworth, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie with white polka dots, said little at the hearing and did not speak with reporters outside the courtroom. He was accompanied by his mother, Donna, in the courtroom.
If convicted of DUI manslaughter, Stallworth faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. The NFL and the Browns are also reviewing the charges, and the Browns issued a statement saying the team is “disappointed” with Stallworth’s actions.
The judge set an April 23 arraignment date for Stallworth to enter a plea.
A police affidavit said Stallworth’s blood-alcohol level after the crash was .126, well above Florida’s legal limit of .08. Stallworth had been drinking at a club in the swank Fountainebleau hotel in the hours before he got behind the wheel of his black 2005 Bentley GT and headed out on the MacArthur Causeway that links Miami and Miami Beach, authorities said.
Reyes, a construction crane operator just getting off work, was rushing across the causeway shortly after 7 a.m. to catch a bus home. He was not in the crosswalk when he was struck, and Stallworth told officers he flashed his lights and honked his horn in an attempt to warn Reyes.
Stallworth remained at the crash scene and told police “I’m the driver of that car” and “I hit the man lying in the road,” according to the affidavit. The car’s speed was estimated at 50 mph in a 40 mph zone.
Stallworth, who played in college for Tennessee, signed a seven-year, $35 million contract with the Browns before last season but was injured much of the year. He previously played for New England, Philadelphia and New Orleans.
“We are saddened by the circumstances that have taken place and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Mario Reyes,” the Browns said in their statement. “We have been in communication with the commissioner, who is reviewing the situation under league policies, and we will withhold further comment at this time.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league would review the case under its conduct and substance abuse policies.
Stallworth will be prohibited from driving while on bail and not allowed to drink alcohol, according to court documents. He also must observe a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew and submit to random alcohol and drug testing through the NFL’s substance abuse program. He is allowed to travel between Cleveland and Miami and must seek permission for any additional travel.