OSU Quarterback Convicted Of Drunken Driving

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio State quarterback Steve Bellisari (pictured, right) pleaded no contest Wednesday and was convicted of a drunken driving charge.

Judge H. William Pollitt Jr. sentenced him to three days in jail and three days in an alcohol diversion program. Bellisari chose to serve the jail time in January, after the Buckeyes play in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss a second, less severe, drunken driving charge and two traffic misdemeanors.

"It was his call because he wanted to get it over with," said defense attorney Sam Weiner.

Bellisari, 21, was arrested Nov. 16 by Ohio State campus police. They said he failed three roadside sobriety tests and then took a breath test in which he tested 0.22 on the blood-alcohol scale, more than twice the 0.10 level to legally be considered drunk in Ohio.

Coach Jim Tressel suspended him for one game, against Illinois.

Bellisari was reinstated in time for the game Saturday against archrival Michigan, but did not play. Ohio State won 26-20. Steve Snapp, Ohio State's spokesman, said Tressel will decide whether Bellisari plays in the bowl game. Snapp declined to comment on the plea.

Bellisari, who barely spoke during the hearing in Franklin County Municipal Court and declined to make a statement, said as he left the courtroom that he would now focus on his football career.

Before Pollitt sentenced Bellisari, Weiner said that his client is a quintessential student-athlete who did "one stupid unthinkable thing and it has cost him dearly." Weiner assured Pollitt that Bellisari would never again appear before the court.

Scott Schiff, another of Bellisari's attorneys, said legal arguments could have been made about the reliability and the accuracy of breathalyzer tests.

But, Schiff said, Bellisari chose to take responsibility for his actions so he could focus on the Outback Bowl game.

Pollitt sentenced Bellisari to 180 days in jail, but suspended all but six of those days.

"If you violate your probation, you have 174 days on the shelf that you must serve," Pollitt said.

He also fined Bellisari $350 and suspended his driver's license for six months.

Bellisari, of Boca Raton, Fla., is to serve his jail time over a weekend, Jan. 11-13, after Ohio State (7-4, 5-3) plays in the bowl game.

The three-year starter and senior co-captain frequently has been booed by crowds of more than 100,000 at Ohio Stadium because of his erratic passing and the Buckeyes' inconsistent offense.

He struggled early in the season, but played at his best in the two games before the arrest, wins over Minnesota and Purdue. In nine games, Bellisari went 98-of-185 passing for 1,599 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions.

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