Marcell Dareus reaches plea agreement on car-racing charges

HAMBURG, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus reached a plea agreement to have misdemeanor charges dropped for crashing his Jaguar into a tree near a busy suburban Buffalo intersection last year.

Dareus pleaded guilty to two traffic violations -- failure to keep right and imprudent speed -- in a deal approved by Judge Gerald Gorman in Hamburg Town Court on Tuesday. Dareus was charged the maximum fine of $150 for each violation, which he paid before leaving the courthouse.

Dareus also pledged to host a free football camp for Erie County high school players this summer. The plea discussions with the district attorney's office were held over the past month and resolved in writing last week.

The two-time Pro Bowl player faced several charges, including reckless endangerment, for crashing his car while allegedly racing teammate Jerry Hughes near Ralph Wilson Stadium following practice in May.

"It was just a very unfortunate incident, and I just really didn't mean to be a distraction to the team and to the community," Dareus said, in a brief statement afterward. "I'm just really looking forward to being a very positive influence in Western New York for many years to come."

Dareus declined to take questions before leaving the courthouse.

Dareus' attorney Michael Caffery called it a fair deal, saying there was never proof presented that his client was racing Hughes at the time of the crash. Hughes was not charged after being interviewed by police and prosecutors.

The deal also means Dareus won't have to stand trial next month after he rejected the district attorney's previous offer to plead guilty to reckless driving.

Had Dareus pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor, he faced NFL disciplinary action for violating the league's player code of conduct policy. The league is expected to review the plea agreement, and could still punish Dareus with a fine, suspension or both.

Dareus spoke barely above a whisper -- saying "Yes, sir," twice to each ticket -- while pleading guilty in front of Gorman.

In issuing his verdict, Gorman told Dareus, "Good luck."

Upon arriving, Dareus had a brief chat with a Bills fan who recognized the player inside the courtroom.

In wishing Dareus well, the person hoped he will re-sign with the Bills before the final year of his contract expires after next season.

"Let's see if I can stay in Buffalo," Dareus responded. "I want to."

The football camp will be open to one player from each high school in the county. Each player will be selected by their coach.

The plea deal closes what had been a troubling stretch for Buffalo's 2011 first-round draft pick out Alabama.

Four weeks before the accident, Dareus was arrested for possession of synthetic marijuana following a traffic stop in his native Alabama. Dareus resolved those charges last summer by agreeing to enter into an NFL substance abuse program.

The legal troubles led to then-Bills coach Doug Marrone to have Dareus take two weeks off from the team's voluntary minicamps before returning for a series of mandatory practices.

The off-field troubles didn't affect Dareus' performance.

A key fixture on one of the NFL's top defensive fronts, Dareus finished the season with a career-best 10 sacks to earn his first All-Pro selection and second Pro Bowl nod.

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