Bouwmeester pleads guilty

TONY BLAIS, COURT BUREAU

, Last Updated: 2:19 PM ET

Edmonton NHL hockey player Jay Bouwmeester – an All-Star defenceman with the Florida Panthers – pleaded guilty to drunk driving this morning.

Bouwmeester, 23, appeared in Edmonton’s provincial court in a suit and tie, chewing gum, but did not say anything. He also refused comment later as he walked out of the building with his agent, local lawyer Bryon Baltimore.

The star defenceman, who has also played for Team Canada, was fined $1,150 and prohibited from driving in Canada for 12 months.

The judge said he didn’t know if the driving ban would be in effect in Florida and ruled he could apply to drive with an ignition interlock system in his vehicle after three months.

“You made a very bad decision on this occasion,” said Judge Michael Allen, telling Bouwmeester he was fortunate to be able to play professional hockey and that many people, especially young children, look up to him.

“Hopefully this will be the last time we see you in a courtroom,” said Allen.

The judge also told Bouwmeester he was lucky someone spotted him driving drunk and he was pulled over before a more serious incident had happened.

Court heard Bouwmeester was arrested Aug. 12, 2006, on 63 Avenue near 108 Street after an off-duty city police officer began following him after Bouwmeester swerved out of his lane and nearly collided with the officer’s vehicle.

“Const Fraser had to swerve out of the way to avoid a collision,” said Crown prosecutor Robert Palser.

Bouwmeester was also spotted making an illegal turn across two lanes of traffic, court heard. When Bouwmeester was pulled over about 4 a.m. he immediately told police “he was sorry,” court heard.

“When asked why, (Bouwmeester) answered ‘Because I was driving and I had too much to drink’,” said Palser.

“It was a situation where he was impaired and he knew it,” said Palser.

Prominent defence lawyer Alex Pringle told court Bouwmeester had no prior criminal record and said he doesn’t have a drinking problem and it was an isolated incident.

“Mr. Bouwmeester has told me that this will not occur again,” said Pringle. “It was an error in judgment and he regrets what occurred.”

After the guilty plea, a charge of operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of more than .08 was withdrawn.

The smooth-skating, six-foot-four, 210-pound blueliner, a former Medicine Hat Tigers star, was chosen third overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and was awarded a two-year, $4.35-million US contract in July.


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