Jerseygate’s Hawkins pleads guilty
By Patrick Yost
Christopher Hawkins, 30, a former University of North Carolina football player and a man implicated in the purchase of a jersey from University of Georgia football player A.J. Green, pled guilty Monday to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute charges.
Hawkins, whose purchase of the jersey from the former UGA star wide receiver led to a four-game suspension in 2010, received a 10-year probated sentence with nine to 12 months of confinement in a state detention center and a $5,000 fine, according to Allison Burleson, Ocmulgee Judicial District assistant district attorney.
In October 2011 a Morgan County jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on cocaine trafficking charges against Hawkins. Monday's agreement reduced the charge from cocaine trafficking to possession with intent and was a compromise Hawkins' attorney, Page Pate, found agreeable.
"The state offered us something that was very reasonable and he wanted to put it behind him," Pate said.
Following the mistrial, Burleson said the state was prepared to try the case again. If convicted of cocaine trafficking, Hawkins could have faced a minimum 10-year sentence and $200,000 fine.
Hawkins was initially arrested by Georgia State Patrol troopers on April 23, 2009 in Morgan County while driving a U-Haul truck for former NFL running back Willie Parker from Florida to North Carolina. According to courtroom testimony during the October 2011 trial, Hawkins was given a key to the truck and told to deliver furniture to North Carolina.
"Nobody told him there were drugs in the back of the truck," Pate told jurors during the first trial.
However, GSP troopers located approximately 96 grams of crack-cocaine wrapped in duct tape, peanut butter and pepper in a Wendy's fast-food bag in the locked U-Haul.
Burleson said Monday's plea was a "straight guilty plea" where Hawkins admitted factual guilt on the record, she said. Pate said Hawkins was able to enter into the plea agreement under "first offender status" and that at the end of the 10 years of probation, the felony sentence would be cleared from his record.
During the first trial, the jury remained deadlocked at 8-4 to convict Hawkins of trafficking.
"In a case like this when you're offered a reasonable plea, it's a good idea to accept it," Pate said.
Burleson said the state was pleased with the agreement.
"It holds him accountable and resolves the case," she said.
Printed in the June 28, 2012 edition