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By ASHLEY GIBSON, Associated Press
February 17, 2006
STILLWATER, Okla. Oklahoma State University basketball coach Eddie Sutton was charged today with misdemeanor aggravated drunk driving after tests showed his blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit after an accident last week.
A blood sample taken from Sutton after a two-car crash on Feb. 10 revealed a blood-alcohol content of .22, according to a court affidavit. The threshold for drunk driving in Oklahoma is .08. The formal charge is aggravated operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol-personal injury accident.
Sutton, 69, also was charged with speeding and driving left of center in the accident in which his sports utility vehicle swerved across all four lanes of a four-lane roadway, slammed into the back of another SUV, then crashed into a tree.
The driver of the other vehicle, Teresa Barnard of Perry, received minor injuries and was released at the scene.
Stillwater police officer Stephan Hall, who signed the affidavit, wrote that after responding to the crash he entered Sutton’s vehicle and “could smell the odor of an intoxicating beverage coming from Sutton.”
The affidavit states emergency responders also discovered a bottle of the prescription pain medication hydrocodone inside Sutton’s vehicle, but Payne County District Attorney Rob Hudson said no traces of the drug were detected in Sutton’s blood.
The test did reveal traces of venlafaxine, an antidepressant, but Stillwater Police Chief Norman McNickle said the drug would not have impaired Sutton’s driving ability.
The aggravated DUI charge is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a $2,500 fine, but Hudson said it’s routine to offer probation to first-time offenders.
“When this is his or her first offense, it is normal and customary to recommend probation, drug and alcohol counseling, treatment and community service,” Hudson said.
Sutton’s attorney contacted Hudson and notified him that Sutton would enter a treatment facility as early as next week, Hudson said.
Hudson said Sutton likely will be arraigned after he is released from treatment, which is customary in such cases.
“Mr. Sutton is not receiving any special or preferential treatment whatsoever,” Hudson said. “This case will be handled in the same way we handle any other case with similar circumstances.”
Sutton’s driver’s license was automatically suspended because
he initially refused to submit to a blood test after being taken to a hospital following the crash, Hudson said.
Sutton released a statement Friday apologizing for his actions and commending the Stillwater Police Department and the Payne County District Attorneys office for their work on the case.
“I made a serious mistake,” he said. “I recognize it and I accept the consequences. In an attempt to get relief from the pain I was experiencing with my back and hip I made a poor choice and now I must address those consequences.”
The university also released a statement Friday that said no decision has been made on Sutton’s future at OSU.
“After a careful and thorough review of the police and DA reports, we will determine the appropriate approach we should take as it relates to an internal review,” the statement read. “Coach Sutton has taken the right steps to address his problem. Once he has completed treatment, we will meet with him to discuss his future, but right now the most important thing is for him to get healthy.”
Sutton announced Monday that he was taking a medical leave of absence for the rest of the season.
During a late-night news conference Wednesday, Sutton addressed reporters by telephone, acknowledged drinking before the accident and said he planned to seek treatment.
“I have a problem with alcohol,” Sutton said Wednesday. “That said, I make no excuses for what has happened. I recognize it and I will be seeking treatment for it. I know I have let many people down.”
Sutton coached at Creighton, Arkansas and Kentucky before taking over at his alma mater for the 1990-91 season. He’s fifth on the NCAA Division I career coaching wins list with 794. He trails only Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876), Bob Knight (867) and Jim Phelan (830).
When he became the coach at OSU in 1990, he openly spoke of his struggle with alcoholism.
Sutton underwent treatment at the Betty Ford Center in 1987 while he was coach at Kentucky. When discussing the issue three years later, he said, “I’ve dealt with it.”