Updated information on Eteuati's sentence posted in green towards the bottom of the post.
The decision by Weber State University to suspend star player Bryant Eteuati (pictured at left) was vindicated once again when on Thursday November 20th, 2008, Eteuati reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to three separate misdemeanors. This way, he'll be punished, but not have a felony collar hung around his neck for the rest of his life. Full stories published by KSL Channel 5 and the Ogden Standard-Examiner. See previous posts from November 7th and November 8th for more background.
The 21-year-old Eteuati pleaded guilty in 2nd District Court to reckless endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident, both class A misdemeanors. Eteuati was part of a large group of people watching a fight at a park on July 1st when he was attacked. He swerved his car into a group of people while leaving the scene, injuring one.
In a separate case, Eteuati also pleaded guilty to class A misdemeanor communications fraud. Eteuati helped his friends shoplift from a store where he worked. But the defense attorney had threatened in an earlier hearing to file a motion that the 2006 fraud charge was too old and would violate his client's right to a speedy trial. The potential for a speedy trial challenge provoked the offer of a plea deal by the prosecution.
Eteuati had also been charged with felony aggravated assault, but that charge goes away with the plea deal. In addition, prosecutors also agreed that sentences for the three misdemeanors may be served concurrently rather than consecutively. His attorney, Deven Coggins, said the reckless endangerment misdemeanor was more appropriate because he said there was no evidence that Eteuati hit anyone with his car intentionally. "He was trying to get out of the situation," Coggins said. "He had to be told by others later that he hit somebody. ... It was a panicked situation. He was afraid for his safety." During the hearing, Eteuati expressed remorse over his actions.
Eteuati, a receiver/returner, was suspended indefinitely from the team in October. Since that time, the Wildcats have been unbeaten (up through this post) and are guaranteed the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) regular season championship. Eteuati's replacement, Tim Toone, has played superbly. And Weber State has already responded to this latest development, saying that it is working to verify what happened in court. "If it is determined that Bryant Eteuati is no longer facing felony charges or convictions we will assemble a committee to review what has occurred in the courts and to hear from the football player himself," the statement said. "After gathering all the information available, and reviewing it, we will determine the appropriate penalty for his situation." Eteuati hopes to be reinstated to the team this season.
Eteuati's sentencing is set for January 8th. Class A misdemeanor convictions carry a maximum one-year jail penalty but can end in nothing more than probation, depending on a judge's determination. The Adult Probation and Parole Division has been asked to prepare a presentence investigation regarding Eteuati's background and past criminal history to aid in determining sentencing.
Update posted November 28th: It was revealed in very low-key fashion that Eteuati was re-instated to the football team on November 21st, just in time for the game against Eastern Washington. By the way, Weber State lost to Eastern Washington 33-27. Just as virtue has its own reward, the lack of virtue also has its own reward.
Update January 9th: The Ogden Standard-Examiner reports that Eteuati was sentenced to 60 days in jail and to pay $300,000 in restitution. The judge refused a request to defer jail until the end of the college semester and ordered Eteuati to begin his sentence immediately.
Analysis: Whether Eteuati should actually serve any jail time is better determined by the interested parties. However, any sentence must include restitution - particularly to the store where he committed "communications fraud". There's also the matter of his seriously-injured victim.
It's just as well he will have no felony following him around. But he should not be reinstated on the football team this season.