COVINGTON, Ky. – Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in jail and three years' probation on a drug-related charge.
A judge in Covington reduced the jail time from the 60 days recommended by prosecutors in their plea agreement with Simpson, now an unrestricted free agent after four seasons with the Bengals.
Simpson pleaded guilty March 1 to the felony charge resulting from about 2 pounds of marijuana shipped to his northern Kentucky home in September. He was indicted on a felony charge of marijuana trafficking, but the plea agreement changed the charge to a prohibited act relating to controlled substances, also a felony.
Simpson, clad in a dark suit, took the stand briefly and apologized to his family, the community and his team.
"I take full responsibility for my actions," he said. He also told the judge that he thinks that "because of this I am a better person."
Simpson told the judge that he would try through community service to help others not to make the same mistake.
Several people testified at the hearing on his behalf, including his agent and a woman who works with him as a volunteer at a church in Covington that feeds the homeless and needy. They praised Simpson for his community service, a point that the judge noted in his remarks before sentencing.
Judge Gregory Bartlett of Kenton County Circuit Court said that he was impressed with the testimony and letters sent to him on Simpson's behalf. He said Simpson appears to be "a good person" who made a "serious lapse in judgment."
But despite the community service Simpson was doing long before he was charged, he still committed a felony, the judge said.
'We can't ignore that," the judge said.
Both the prosecutor and the judge said that they don't believe Simpson was trafficking in marijuana but that it was for the use of him and probably his friends.
"I don't think that Mr. Simpson was selling drugs on the street," said Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders, who added that was satisfied with the sentence, noting that Simpson had no prior criminal record.
The judge agreed to the defense request to allow Simpson to wait until 6 p.m. to turn himself in at the jail. Simpson also will have to serve 200 hours of community service, undergo drug testing and pay a $7,500 fine plus court costs.
He had been under investigation since agents from California tracked the package shipped to his home. They said it contained 2 1/2 pounds of marijuana. Authorities said a search of Simpson's home turned up one more pound of marijuana.
Simpson did not comment after the hearing. His attorney, Burr Travis said that they were disappointed that he got any jail time at all, "but that was the judge's call."
"It's fair overall," said Travis.
Simpson was a second-round draft pick from Coastal Carolina. He caught 53 passes for 758 yards and four touchdowns last season. A heels-over-head flip over a defender to score a touchdown became a staple of NFL highlight films.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who sent a letter in support of Simpson to the judge, said last month that the team is open to offering Simpson another contract despite his legal problems.
The Bengals said in a statement after the hearing that they believe Simpson "has, and will continue to, deal accountably with the consequences of his actions.
"Jerome is presently a free agent, and the Club will continue to review his status," the Bengals said.
Simpson's attorney and agent say he faces discipline from the NFL that could include suspension from multiple games for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Some of Simpson's teammates, including Adam "Pacman" Jones attended the hearing. Along with Simpson, Jones is one of four Bengals either arrested or indicted since last July. The others were linebacker Rey Maualuga and running back Cedric Benson.
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay contributed to this report.