MIAMI — The backside pat former NFL star Chad Johnson gave his lawyer in court was not meant as disrespect to a judge and certainly wasn’t something that warrants a 30-day jail sentence, the attorney said Tuesday in a motion seeking another chance.
Adam Swickle asked Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen McHugh to reconsider the sentence she imposed Monday. Johnson had reached a deal with prosecutors for community service and counseling to resolve a probation violation from his no-contest plea last year to battery on his then-wife, TV star Evelyn Lozada.
McHugh, just elected last August to her first term on the bench, seemed poised to approve the plea deal until Johnson’s backside pat of Swickle triggered a wave of laughter in the court. The judge then angrily said she wouldn’t sign off and tossed the six-time Pro Bowler formerly known as Chad Ochocinco in jail.
“This isn’t a joke,” the judge said, raising questions about his sincerity.
Swickle said the backside pat was merely Johnson’s way of showing appreciation for his attorney’s work on the case. Moments before it had meant he wouldn’t do any jail time despite skipping out on meetings with his probation officer for three months.
“Mr. Johnson has been a professional football player in the National Football League for 11 years and patting another individual on the backside is viewed as a sign of respect and gratitude,” he said in the motion. “It is clear that the court misinterpreted Mr. Johnson’s interaction with his attorney.”
As for the courtroom laughter, Swickle added, “this is not Mr. Johnson’s fault and he should not be punished for the actions of third parties.”
Prosecutors say they’ll leave Johnson’s sentence up to McHugh, who presides over Broward County domestic violence cases. A hearing has been set for next Monday.
Johnson, 35, spent most of his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals, catching 766 passes for more than 11,000 yards and 67 touchdowns. He played one year with the New England Patriots and then was in training camp last year with the Miami Dolphins, who cut him after he head-butted Lozada during a domestic altercation. Lozada, a star on VH-1′s “Basketball Wives” show, quickly filed for divorce.
Johnson, a Miami native, said in court he still hopes resurrect his football career. Under the plea deal that had been reached, Johnson would do 25 hours of community service and attend counseling sessions twice a week during his probation. In addition, the probation would be extended three months into December.