Unfinished business for Bell

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- The Maple Leafs have finished their business in California for this season, but not Mark Bell.

The winger was not on the week-long road trip as he recovers from a broken orbital bone, but his legal issues persist, with two court dates in Santa Clara County in March and April and ultimately, the start of a six-month jail sentence for an alcohol-related car crash 17 months ago.

Bell, through his California lawyer Ken Robinson, must pay restitution by April 7 to victim Jose Luis Villafana. Bell pleaded no contest to driving under the influence of alcohol and a charge of hit and run. His speeding Camry hit Villafana's pick-up truck at a stop sign in the San Jose suburb of Milpitas on Labour Day weekend 2006. The police report said the impact pushed the truck 15 metres up a hill and that Bell walked away from the scene.

"I don't think there will be a lot in dispute as far as restitution goes," said deputy district attorney Cindy Seeley Hendrickson.

Villafana brought a civil suit against Bell last year, that will go to mediation in April in Santa Clara superior court, according to the victim's lawyer, Samuel Samaniego.

"We're still in a discovery period," Samaniego said. "It was either mediation or arbitration and it was decided mediation will not waste the court's time."

Samaniego was quoted in the summer as seeking 'unlimited damages' after his client suffered head, back and leg injuries, but would not get into a specific amount.

"(Villafana) has improved, but still has a lot of issues that won't go away for a while," Samaniego said.

Robinson did not return calls. Leafs general manager John Ferguson said: "Mark will take care of his own problems."

Bell might ultimately serve no more than four months of his sentence if he gets time off for good behaviour. Hendrickson said it's common in California for those in Bell's circumstance to be allowed to delay serving their sentence so as not to endanger their livelihood. If the Leafs make the playoffs, it's possible Bell could serve his sentence over two summers to allow him to attend 2008 training camp.

"Ultimately, he must pay his debt to society," Hendrickson said.


Videos

Photos