Quinton “Rampage” Jackson accepts plea bargain

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is hoping to put closure on the most eventful six months of his life.

The former UFC light heavyweight champion accepted a plea bargain in Orange County court on Thursday in a case stemming from his arrest on July 15, 2008, in exchange for a reversal of his plea from not guilty to guilty.

The arrest came after Jackson allegedly led police on a chase through several towns that involved hitting other vehicles, running red lights, driving into oncoming traffic, before he surrendered in Newport Beach.

The incident occurred less than two weeks after he lost the UFC light heavyweight title to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86 in Las Vegas. Since then, he left trainer Junaito Ibarra; joined the United Kingdom’s Wolfslair camp, and returned to action to knock out longtime nemesis Wanderlei Silva.

He was originally charged with one felony count of evading while driving recklessly, one felony count of evading a peace officer and driving against traffic, three misdemeanor counts of hit and run with property damage, and one misdemeanor count of reckless driving. At his preliminary hearing on Thursday, he reversed his plea to guilty on one misdemeanor count of reckless driving and one felony count of evading a peace officer and driving against traffic.

With the acceptance of the plea bargain, Jackson’s sentencing will be deferred to Jan. 7, 2010. If he meets the requirements of the plea bargain, the felony count will be dismissed and he will only be sentenced for the misdemeanor. If he fails to meet the requirements of his plea bargain, he will be charged and sentenced on both counts. Based on the negotiated plea agreement, Jackson could still receive up to six months in jail and probation at his sentencing, according to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

“Today, Quinton entered into a plea agreement that was fashioned to place more time between the instance and the resolution,” said Jackson’s attorney, Carol Lavacot, in a prepared statement detailing the requirements of her client. “The agreement is analogous to a deferred entry of judgment in that the plea to count two, evading a peace officer and driving against traffic, will be withdrawn and dismissed at the end of one year if Quinton’s doctors are assured that he has maintained good physical and mental health and he has complied with the other terms of the agreement. He will be seeing his doctor’s regularly with bimonthly reports provided to the district attorney. He will also perform 200 hours of community service, which will be designed to reach as many young people as possible.”

It was also revealed during the hearing that Jackson has also agreed to pay restitution on all counts against him, including the felony that will be dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

“Quinton’s decompensation on July 15, 2008, was precipitated by multiple factors interacting with one another. None of these factors included drugs or alcohol. It is the opinion of his doctor’s that Quinton suffered a brief episode of delirium, which was reactive to situational and metabolic difficulties,” explained Lavacot in her statement. “He is learning to manage the stressors in his life and has been working with a nutritionist to maintain his physical as well as his mental health.

“Quinton, from the beginning, has wanted to take responsibility for his actions. He has learned a great deal about his physical body and about mental health. During this next year, Quinton has chosen to share his knowledge of how good nutrition, exercise, and sufficient sleep leads to success. He will be speaking to groups of young people in the hope that his unfortunate incident can be turned into something positive for others.”

As long as he meets the terms of his agreement, the plea bargain will potentially keep Jackson out of jail and in the octagon. Having defeated Silva at UFC 92 on Dec. 27, it is speculated he could return to competition again as soon as June or July.

“I think it’s very fair, considering the circumstances,” Jackson’s attorney, Carol Lavacot, told MMAWeekly.com.

Additional reporting by Tom Hamlin.

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    Updated Thursday, Jan 8, 2009