Bengals WR Jerome Simpson pleads guilty to drug charge

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COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson could receive a 60-day jail sentence after pleading guilty Thursday to a drug-related felony charge as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

The four-year NFL veteran also faces a suspension from the league for violating its personal conduct policy. He’s a free agent after completing his contract with the Bengals.

Simpson wore a dark gray suit and stood with his hands in his pockets for a hearing Thursday in Kenton County Circuit Court aimed at concluding a drug case that has hung over him since September, when a package containing approximately 2 pounds of marijuana was delivered to his home in northern Kentucky.

The package had been tracked by agents from California. Authorities later searched Simpson’s home and approximately another pound of marijuana, county Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders said after the hearing on Thursday. He was indicted on a felony charge of marijuana trafficking. The agreement changes the charge — still a Class D felony — to a prohibited act relating to controlled substances.

Judge Gregory Bartlett can accept the proposed 60-day jail term or reduce it at a sentencing hearing on April 5.

The agreement also calls for three years’ probation, 200 hours of community service and drug treatment. Sanders said Simpson got no special treatment. He said the 60-day jail sentence is “probably on the high end of average” for such a case.

The agreement stipulates that there is no evidence Simpson was dealing marijuana. Sanders said Simpson had the marijuana for personal use and was probably sharing it with friends.

Simpson and his attorney left the courtroom immediately after the hearing without comment.

The second-round draft pick from Coastal Carolina caught 53 passes for 758 yards and four touchdowns last season as a complement to rookie Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green. His grandest moment — a flip over a defender to score a touchdown — became a staple of NFL highlight films.

Simpson is one of four Bengals either arrested or indicted since last July, along with linebacker Rey Maualuga, running back Cedric Benson and cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones.

Maualuga has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge resulting from an altercation at a downtown Cincinnati bar on Feb. 5. It’s his second court case in two years. Maualuga pleaded guilty to drunken driving after police in northern Kentucky said he hit a parking meter and two parked cars in January 2010.

The NFL fined Maualuga two game checks and made him forfeit a two-week share of his signing bonus for violating its conduct policy with the drunken driving case. As a repeat offender under the policy, Maualuga could face a suspension next season, depending upon the outcome of his latest case.

Benson, who is a free agent and is unlikely to return to Cincinnati, was charged with misdemeanor assault last July for an altercation with a former roommate in Texas. He served five days in jail there before the start of the season, and was suspended for one game by the NFL.

Jones, who also is a free agent, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct for a disturbance at a downtown bar last July. He was sentenced to a year of probation and community service. Jones has repeatedly been suspended during his seven years with the league, and faces more discipline if he signs with a team.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.