Mid-afternoon on Friday, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Daniel Nishigaya sentenced a contrite Aldon Smith for his no contest pleas to drunk driving and possession of assault rifles. Judge Nishigaya sentenced Smith to three years probation, and minimal jail time that can be converted into a work detail. Smith had been scheduled for sentencing July 25, but the District Attorney's Office requested that the sentencing be moved up because of a family emergency with the prosecutor.
Back in May, Smith pleaded no-contest to two misdemeanor DUIs (one for DUI and second for being twice the legal limit) and three felony counts of possessing assault weapons. Under California law, a wobbler is an offense that can be charged and punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Possession of assault weapons, as defined under the California Penal Code, falls under this definition. As suspected, the judge reduced the felony gun charges to misdemeanors, which is within a judge's discretion under California Penal Code 17(b).
The judge explained his reasoning for reducing the gun charges from felonies to misdemeanors:
Smith showed "poor judgment," "irresponsible behavior" and "at times recklessness" but "no devious criminal plan." Smith has no criminal record of violence, the judge added.
The judge noted Smith purchased the guns legally in Arizona. The Santa Clara County police discovered them after a house party Smith and Delanie Walker hosted in June 2012. They were dispatched after uninvited gang members stabbed Smith and shot two others. Smith cooperated fully with the investigation, allowed police to search without a warrant and helped the DA to convict the man who stabbed him.
Prosecutor Brian Buckelew and Judge Nishigaya emphasized that Smith received no special treatment. As Tracey Kaplan pointed out, the conditions of probation are actually tougher than usual. During the three years of court probation, Smith is banned from possessing guns or ammunition, and is subject to search and seizure at any time by law enforcement.
Additionally, a specific condition of his three years of probation for the DUI (which will be served concurrently), Smith is prohibited from drinking alcohol or even going to a liquor store. It was noted that Smith spent five weeks in rehab, but Judge Nishigaya said that if he violates the conditions, he will be put in jail for an undetermined amount of time. Smith stated, "I would like to apologize for my actions and let you know I will follow any orders you give me."
Smith was sentenced to 12-days in jail, less one day of credit for time served following the DUI arrest. The law allows Smith may serve 11 days on a work crew (most likely cleaning up freeways), and the payment of a $2,000 fine.
There has been some statements Smith got off easy, or received light treatment from the judge, due to his celebrity status. However, from a legal standpoint, looking at the facts of the case, compliance with the probation requirements, criminal history and nature of the offense -- the sentence was consistent with the average defendant. In fact, if anything, it was a tad stronger because of the strict probation conditions.
At the age of 24, it seems the greatest concern with Smith is his continuing use and misuse of alcohol. Given the very specific conditions of his probation, it is now up to Aldon to follow through on his promises to become a stronger and better person.
Smith will report to the work crews on Mondays, beginning July 28. The judge indicated he would be willing to allow Smith to change that schedule (as he would any other defendant), if he gives the court notice. Mike Garafolo noted the 11-Monday work program ends one Monday before the 49ers' first Monday Night Football game in St. Louis on October 13. I do not believe this was some legal or NFL conspiracy to aid Smith in any way, so I am not sure what is being suggested here (besides coincidence).
The conditions of the probation appear reasonable and fair. Given that Smith agreed to the terms -- shows he is willing to show the 49ers support of him is not misplaced. Clearly, whatever support the 49ers have offered Smith has produced some positive results. With the good disposition from the court and lack of charges from the LAX airport incident, my belief is Smith sees between a 1-3 game suspension, maximum.
Smith has portrayed a positive public image in recent weeks, and hopefully this is a sign of things to come. He's engaged in events for the Boys & Girls Club, attended a SFGiants hitting derby with Bruce Miller at AT&T Park, a charity basketball game between 49ers and Raiders and attended Saturday's flag-football game at Candlestick Park between former 49ers and other NFL legends. Players from that event had positive comments about Aldon. Jesse Sapolu said he was confident Smith would be OK, and ready to go. More recently, Eric Davis said he had a talk with Smith, and thinks this is a turning point for him.
Hopefully for Smith and the 49ers, he continues to go in a positive direction.