Byfuglien gets two days of community service for careless boating
JAMES TURNER, QMI Agency
|Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien pleaded guilty to careless boating in a Minnesota court Monday. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)
MINNEAPOLIS - Exactly what led Minnesota police and prosecutors to push ahead with impaired-boating charges against a star Winnipeg Jets defenceman won't ever be known.
But that's one of the major results of a last-minute plea deal Dustin Byfuglien reached with a Minnesota prosecutor on Monday morning.
The arrangement saw Byfuglien, 27, admit to a careless boating infraction, scuttling an imminent jury trial and leaving no clue as to what was behind what some dubbed "the mystery on Lake Minnetonka."
Byfuglien also faced two impaired-boating charges. They were dismissed.
Up until Monday's hearing, the state appeared willing to prosecute Byfuglien on the buzzed-boating allegations despite his blowing well under the legal limit on a breath test on the night of his Aug. 31, 2011 arrest on Lake Minnetonka.
"I said from the get-go Mr. Byfuglien was not under the influence of drugs, not under the influence of alcohol," defence lawyer Mitchell Robinson said Monday, moments after he and Byfuglien walked out of a Minneapolis courtroom. "It's a fair resolution of the case," he said.
Byfuglien was also accused of refusing to submit to a drug-screening exam, a crime carrying a potential one-year maximum jail term on conviction.
Robinson, however, was ready to fight to have the entire case against Byfuglien dismissed, claiming cops breached his rights by denying him access to a lawyer when initially refusing to submit to their drug test.
"He never refused to take a chemical test after he had a chance to speak to his attorney," Robinson said.
The Stanley Cup-winning Byfuglien, who hails from Roseau, MN, ultimately admitted he didn't have proper lighting on his boat and was careless and endangering other people's property as a result.
Hennepin County Judge Ronald Abrams sentenced Byfuglien to a $1,000 US fine and 30 days in the Minnesota "workhouse" — a community-based corrections program where offenders do community service work like collecting trash.
Abrams suspended 28 of the workhouse days for one year, meaning if Byfuglien stays out of trouble, he'll only have to serve two.
He rejected a request to allow Byfuglien to satisfy his workhouse time through hockey-related charitable work and signing autographs, saying the NHL fan favourite should be treated "like everybody else."
Byfuglien declined comment after court but admitted he was relieved to see his much-publicized legal woes conclude.
His agent, Ben Hankinson, said the conviction would have no impact on Byfuglien's hockey career.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff also expressed relief.
"After allowing the legal process to play out, we are thankful to see this matter resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved," he said in a statement.
"The Winnipeg Jets are happy this is behind Dustin and he can look forward to the upcoming hockey season, along with the rest of the team and their passionate fan base," Cheveldayoff said.