A Crescenta Valley Little League coach pleaded no contest and his girlfriend pleaded guilty Thursday to charges they were selling cocaine from their La Crescenta home, officials said.
Michael Joseph Benedetto, 38, and Shannon Burris, 31, entered their pleas before Pasadena Superior Court Judge Thomas W. Stoever as part of a plea bargain offered by the judge.
The two were charged June 3 with one felony count each of possessing cocaine for sale stemming from their arrest May 27. Glendale police had served a search warrant at the couple's home and found two ounces of cocaine, valued at $9,000, in a safe. Before the arrest, an unidentified informant also bought drugs from the residence using money supplied by police.
After reading 23 letters of support for the pair's involvement in the community, the judge agreed to suspend each of their three-year state prison terms and instead sentenced each to five years probation and 400 hours of community service, said Barry L. Greenhalgh, Benedetto's attorney. Stoever also ordered Benedetto to pay a $750 fine and fined Burris $250.
"The judge saw he does not represent a danger to the community and recognized his low degree of involvement," Greenhalgh said.
Burris' attorney, Stuart Goldfarb, said, "These people are not cocaine dealers."
Goldfarb did acknowledge that his client was a cocaine user, and that the cocaine seized by Glendale police May 27 belonged to her. He said Burris has voluntarily been enrolled in a drug treatment program since August.
The prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Nixon said he had originally offered a plea bargain in which the defendants would serve 180 days in County Jail and three years probation. "The judge had the power to do what he did . . . I'm not going to second-guess him," Nixon said.
Benedetto, who had coached a T-ball team for 7- and 8-year-old boys and girls and a softball team for 13- to 15-year-old girls, denied he ever sold drugs. But he added that it wasn't worth the risk to go to trial.
"I feel that I was somewhat set up" by the police informant, he said. "The people who know me know how hard I have worked over the last two years."