Relatives of ex-Cowboys player Josh Brent cried in relief after he avoided a long prison sentence Friday for killing his best friend and teammate, Jerry Brown Jr., while driving drunk in a 2012 car crash.
Brent, 25, was sentenced to 10 years of probation and 180 days in jail, the maximum time the law allows for a probationary term. Brent was also assessed a $10,000 fine for the destruction he caused in Irving that Dec. 8 morning.
“You chose the path of irresponsibility,” state District Judge Robert Burns said. “You had no driver’s license, you had no insurance, you should not have been driving at all.” He said Brent was a disappointment to the city of Dallas and the Dallas Cowboys.
Prosecutors said they respected the jury’s decision.
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Brent will have to serve the 180-day jail sentence with no time off for good behavior and no credit for time served, Dallas County prosecutor Heath Harris said.
“The only thing we can hope is that he gets the help he needs so that he never does this again,” Harris said. “Apparently the jury saw something in him that could be rehabilitated. But if he lives his life the way that he has been, the court can send him to prison for the full 10 years.”
Dallas County officials testified this week that Brent had two drug tests that showed he had used marijuana while he was free on bond.
The maximum sentence Brent could have received was 20 years in prison.
Harris said he believed the testimony of Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, had an impact on the 10-woman, two-man jury’s decision.
Jackson testified this week that she has forgiven Brent.
He and Brown were teammates when they played for the University of Illinois. Brown was picked up by the Indianapolis Colts and played on that team’s practice squad while Brent went to the Dallas Cowboys, Jackson said. The Colts released Brown and then the Cowboys signed him to their practice squad, Jackson said.
“Jerry was happy because he felt that he and Josh would be back together now,” Jackson testified. “He felt that Josh would show him the ropes about the defense.”
Jackson said she still talks to Brent on the telephone almost every week.
“I know that he agonizes over what happened,” Jackson said.
Defense lawyers blamed Brent’s actions on a difficult upbringing.
After the sentencing, Brent’s mother LaTosha Brent said, “I was a kid raising a kid. Josh had to grow up fast and be independent. Josh never got a chance to be a kid. I did the best I knew how to do. This is my only child. I know he made some mistakes.”
Brown was killed after Brent lost control of his Mercedes on a Texas 114 service road in Irving. The car rolled and caught fire.
They were on their way home from a Dallas nightclub about 2:20 a.m. after partying with other Cowboys.
Brent was driving as fast as 110 mph, prosecutors said, and his blood-alcohol content was 0.18, more than twice the legal limit for driving in Texas.
Brent retired from football last year and is working in a warehouse packing boxes, his uncle, Roland Brent, testified Thursday. It is unclear whether Brent will pursue a life of football in the future, his lawyers said.
“There have been cases of people who have come back,” said Kevin Brooks, one of Brent’s attorneys. “Michael Vick came back after serving time in federal prison. That road is not foreclosed to him.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, headquartered in Irving, released a statement saying that members are “shocked and appalled with the sentence,” adding that the organization views it as a message the drinking and driving is all right.