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Jay Mariotti pleads no contest in stalking, assault case

September 13, 2011 | 12:36 pm

Jay Mariotti pleads no contest
Former ESPN sports personality Jay Mariotti pleaded no contest Tuesday to stalking and assault-related charges in exchange for community service and probation, authorities said Tuesday.

Mariotti, who faced up to five years in state prison if he had gone to trial and been convicted on all counts, will not spend any time behind bars. Under the plea before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Dabney, all five counts -- including three felonies -- faced by Mariotti will be reduced to misdemeanors, officials said.

At a preliminary hearing in July, Mariotti was held to answer on charges that included felony stalking, corporal injury on a spouse or domestic partner, assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, and two misdemeanor counts of disobeying a court order.

Mariotti, a former sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, appeared frequently on ESPN's "Around the Horn." He has not contributed to ESPN since his initial arrest in the summer of 2010. With the plea deal, Mariotti must undergo a year of counseling and 90 days of community service. He was sentenced to five years probation but is eligible to have that time reduced beginning three years from now.

Shawn Holley, the attorney representing Mariotti, said that despite the no-contest plea, her client maintained his innocence and that the decision to accept the court's offer was not an acknowledgement of guilt but rather a "practical consideration in light of the expense and unpredictability of trial."

"Although Mr. Mariotti would have liked to have told his side of the story at trial, the fact that he is an accomplished writer provided him another avenue, in this case a book, to tell his side in an unconventional but progressive manner."

In July, Holley brought two witnesses to court who were prepared to testify that the allegations against her client were "meritless and inconsistent with the physical evidence in the case," but those witnesses were not allowed to appear.

Prosecutors accused Mariotti of confronting his ex-girlfriend last September on the same day the court had ordered him to stay away from her in connection with an August 2010 incident that led to his arrest and a separate no-contest plea.

In that case, a judge dismissed six separate other misdemeanor counts -- four domestic-violence-related counts as well as charges of grand theft and false imprisonment -- in exchange for counseling and community service.

In addition, prosecutors alleged he argued with his former girlfriend again outside a Venice restaurant April 15, 2011. He allegedly pulled a chunk of her hair out and grabbed her cellphone while shouting at her, prosecutors said.

During the preliminary hearing, Mariotti's ex-girlfriend was questioned about her claim that her hair had been pulled out. On cross-examination by Holley, she acknowledged it was hair extensions that had been pulled out.


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Photo: Jay Mariotti (right) is seen on ESPN's "Around the Horn." Credit: ESPN