PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu was sentenced Thursday to 18 months of probation after pleading guilty to reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and drunken driving stemming from a series of crashes and a police chase last fall.
He'll also have to spend four days in a program that's an alternative to jail, sometimes known as a DUI hotel.
Ta'amu crashed into several cars on the city's South Side, a neighbourhood known for bars and night clubs, then ran from officers who responded, police said. Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani found Ta'amu not guilty Thursday of fleeing from police after Ta'amu explained that he thought an officer in an unmarked car was an angry motorist chasing him.
"I was a rookie and I was scared. I was a Steeler and I was drunk driving," Ta'amu told the judge. "I wrecked my car and I panicked."
The Steelers released the 22-year-old fourth-round draft pick a few weeks after he was arrested Oct. 14 but later re-signed him to the practice squad.
Ta'amu was sentenced after pleading guilty to three counts of recklessly endangering another person, resisting arrest and drunken driving. He must also pay nearly $11,000 in damage he caused to the cars.
County prosecutors withdrew felony charges of aggravated assault with a vehicle, and Ta'amu apologized.
"I know what I've done is wrong," Ta'amu said. "I'd do anything to make it right. What I did affected my whole family. I've got to keep learning from my mistakes. So far, I think I've done a good job of staying away" from alcohol.
Ta'amu will take alcohol highway safety classes and group behaviourcounselling when he spends the four days in the DUI housing program. He must also complete 150 hours of community service.
"You shouldn't be treated any more harshly, but you shouldn't be dealt with a lighter hand because you're a Pittsburgh Steeler," the judge said.
Defence lawyer Robert DelGreco Jr. said Ta'amu enrolled in the NFL's substance abuse policy after his arrest, which subjects him to urine tests two to three times a week.
"He's said he was sorry and has expressed that sentiment ever since," DelGreco said. "He is dedicated to making things right."