Vikings’ Simpson to appeal his three-game suspension
By Brian Murphy
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Simpson missed practice at Winter Park to attend a hearing at league headquarters in New York and argue that he should not be suspended for the second time in three seasons as a repeat offender under the collectively bargained Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.
David Valentini, his Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer, appeared before hearing officer Harold Henderson. He maintains the NFL should not punish Simpson because his client ultimately was convicted of misdemeanor charges of careless driving and refusing to submit to a chemical test.
“We made our case and believe Jerome should not be suspended under the totality of the evidence,” Valentini said. “Our argument was that if he had taken the test he would have passed it.”
NFL spokesman Randall Liu declined to comment via email “on any meetings that are intended to be confidential.”
The Vikings declined to comment.
The team throughout the offseason has been vague about Simpson’s status with the league and whether it was planning to open the regular season Sept. 7 at St. Louis with or without its second-most productive receiver in 2013.
Simpson pleaded guilty Jan. 2 to careless driving and refusing to submit a chemical test following a plea deal with the Minneapolis attorney. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the DUI count and a Hennepin County judge sentenced him to two years’ probation.
Simpson was charged following an incident Nov. 9 on Interstate 394 just outside downtown Minneapolis.
His Dodge Challenger had broken down on the freeway and was blocking a lane. When a Minnesota State Patrol trooper arrived and spoke to the seven-year NFL veteran, he claimed Simpson had bloodshot, watery eyes and reeked of alcohol, according to the criminal complaint.
Simpson already has served a three-game suspension in 2012 with Minnesota after being convicted of a felony for mailing 2 pounds of marijuana to his Kentucky home while he was playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.
In April 2012, Kenton County Judge Gregory Bartlett sentenced Simpson to 15 days in jail, fined him $7,500 and placed him on three years’ probation. Sanctions barred him from drinking alcohol and required Simpson to submit to random drug tests.
The NFL suspended him in May 2012 and the Vikings signed him as a free agent knowing they would be without his services for a period. He returned in Week 4 of that season and missed another game because of a foot injury.
Simpson denied drinking after his Nov. 9 arrest and only acknowledged refusing a chemical test in his plea bargain with Minneapolis prosecutors.
According to a Feb. 21 ruling in Kentucky, Bartlett subjected Simpson to “graduated sanctions” to be enforced by Hennepin County, which assumed jurisdiction.
Simpson additionally was ordered to undergo alcohol counseling and perform at least 90 hours of community service obligations lecturing Minneapolis public school students about the dangers of alcohol.
Simpson fulfilled those terms in April and is “in good standing and in compliance” with his court-ordered sanctions, according to Brian Kopperud, adult field services division manager for Hennepin County’s Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation.
His Kentucky probation expires in April 2015; Hennepin County in January 2016, Kopperud said.
Simpson risks having his probation revoked if he is convicted of any traffic offenses over the next two years, according to court records.
Simpson ranked second on the team in 2013, his sixth season in the NFL, with 48 receptions and with 726 yards.
His second brush with the law in two years contributed to his salary being cut from $2.1 million last year to $1 million, with a $500,000 signing bonus but no guaranteed money in his latest deal.
Simpson had two receptions for 25 yards in Minnesota’s two preseason victories.
Last week, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was asked whether Simpson faced additional NFL discipline.
“I’m not going to go down that road — yet,” he said cryptically.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service