Ohio State quarterback Steve Bellisari has 44 days to dwell on his upcoming three days behind bars.
Bellisari, pulled over at 2:01 a.m. on Nov. 16 on the corner of 12th and Neil avenues for two traffic violations and subsequently arrested on two counts of drunken driving, yesterday pleaded no contest to one drunken driving charge. He was sentenced to three days in jail by Judge H. William Pollitt Jr. of the Franklin County Municipal Court. Prosecutors dismissed the other three charges.
“It was his call because he wanted to get it over with,” said Bellisari’s attorney, Sam Weiner.
Bellisari will serve his jail time on Jan. 11-13 – ten days after the Buckeyes conclude their 2001 football season at the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.
Under Ohio DUI law, the minimum penalties for a first offense are three consecutive days in jail or a three-day driver intervention program, a $200 fine and a six-month license suspension. Pollitt, who graduated from OSU in 1970 and played on OSU’s 1968 national championship football team, sentenced Bellisari to the three consecutive days in jail, three days in an alcohol diversion program, fined him $350 and suspended his license for six months.
Pollitt is no stranger to OSU football players in trouble. In 1997, then-freshman wide receiver Ken-Yon Rambo was arrested for resisting arrest and drug abuse outside the River Club in downtown Columbus. Pollitt handled the proceedings and gave Rambo a small fine.
“I do have an allegiance to the Ohio State University football program,” Pollitt said during a pretrial hearing in the Rambo case. “However, I have a higher allegiance to my profession as a judge.”
Five months later, 20-year-old OSU All-American linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer was arrested for recording a .133 blood-alcohol level on a Breathalyzer test. After his conviction, Pollitt placed Katzenmoyer on two years’ probation, gave him a $300 fine and suspended his license for six months. Katzenmoyer did not serve jail time.
In 1998, Ohio law did not stipulate mandatory jail time for a first-offense DUI. It wasn’t until May 17, 2000 that jail time became mandatory for such a conviction under Ohio Revised Code.
While Bellisari will only have to serve three days in jail and three days at an alcohol diversion program, Pollitt actually sentenced him to 180 days in jail, but suspended 174 of the days. If Bellisari should violate the parameters of his probation, he would have to serve the suspended days.
OSU coach Jim Tressel, who reinstated Bellisari on Nov. 19 after a three-day suspension from the team, was unavailable for comment on yesterday’s proceedings. He has not, though, ruled out the possibility of Bellisari starting in the bowl game.
On Monday, Tressel did not guarantee Craig Krenzel, OSU’s starting quarterback in the Buckeyes’ 26-20 win over Michigan on Saturday, would start the game on Jan. 1. Tressel said only that Krenzel was definitely in the plans for the Outback Bowl.
Bellisari last played on Nov. 10 in OSU’s 35-9 victory over Purdue. Last Saturday, Bellisari suited up but did not see action.