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Phillips Faces Probation Violation Charge

Jurisprudence: Drunk driving in California could land St. Louis running back in jail in Nebraska.

September 05, 1996|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Raising the prospect that Lawrence Phillips may yet do jail time, the chief county prosecutor in Lincoln, Neb., said Wednesday he intends to charge the St. Louis Ram running back with violating probation for allegedly driving drunk in California.

Lancaster County Atty. Gary Lacey said he intends to file the charge "sometime before" Phillips' one-year probation in Nebraska is due to expire, on Dec. 5. The precise timing, Lacey said, remains uncertain.

If Phillips is ultimately convicted in Rio Hondo Municipal Court of drunk driving, Lacey said that would violate one of the terms of probation the former Nebraska standout received last year for an assault on a former girlfriend: refraining from "unlawful conduct."

Phillips, 21, who played football at Baldwin Park High, was arrested June 13 on the Pomona Freeway while driving a Mercedes-Benz at 78 mph in a 65-mph zone with a flat left tire. His blood-alcohol level was about twice California's legal limit of 0.08, according to authorities.

A pretrial hearing is set for Sept. 30.

Last Dec. 5, Phillips was sentenced to a year's probation in Nebraska after reportedly pulling his former girlfriend by her hair down a flight of stairs. He had pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and trespass charges.

If Phillips is found by "clear and convincing" evidence to have violated probation, he could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and fined $500 in Nebraska, Lacey said.

"Clear and convincing" evidence is a lesser standard than the "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" required to obtain a conviction in the California drunk driving case.

Even so, Lacey noted, prosecutors must offer compelling evidence to prove a probation violation--such as a conviction.

Because the California case may not be resolved before Dec. 5, Lacey said it "may be necessary to bring witnesses back from California to Nebraska to prove the case."

Though that would be expensive, Lacey said Phillips is not being singled out for special treatment:

"Like any number of people in such a situation, if they don't complete the terms of their probation, we file a revocation. In my view, he has been, is being and will be treated just like anyone else."

Phillips' Los Angeles attorney, Karen Filipi, and his lawyer in Nebraska, Hal Anderson, could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

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