Bears' Johnson Gets 4 Months in Prison

Friday, March 16th 2007, 8:07 am
By: News On 6

SKOKIE, Ill. (AP) _ Chicago Bears defensive lineman Tank Johnson was sentenced Thursday to four months in jail for violating probation in a 2005 gun case.

Johnson was taken into custody and will spend the next 120 days in the Cook County Jail. He could have been sentenced to up to a year behind bars. He also must pay a $2,500 fine after pleading guilty to violating his probation.

Johnson was arrested on misdemeanor weapons charges Dec. 14 after police raided his home in the Lake County town of Gurnee, about 40 miles northwest of Chicago, and found six unregistered firearms.

At the time, he was on probation in a November 2005 Cook County case. In that case, he'd pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from an arrest in which a nightclub valet reported seeing Johnson with a handgun in his sport utility vehicle.

Before he was sentenced Johnson pleaded with Cook County Circuit Judge John Moran for leniency.

``Your honor, I don't believe I'm a man who belongs in jail,'' he said.

But prosecutor Rick Cenar said jail time was appropriate.

``Just because he's a professional football player and plays for the Chicago Bears, doesn't put him above the law,'' Cenar said.

Johnson's lawyers said they had not yet decided whether to appeal the sentence, but suggested the football player's celebrity influenced the sentence.

``This sentence was unnecessarily harsh,'' defense attorney Lorna Propes said. ``It's pretty unheard of for these circumstances.''

Cenar called the sentence ``fair and appropriate.''

Dressed in a gray suit, Johnson arrived at the courtroom Thursday with coach Lovie Smith and All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher, who testified on Johnson's behalf.

``Tank knows he's in a situation where he can't get into any other trouble,'' Smith said, adding jail time would be ``devastating'' for the player's career. ``And he's let me know there won't be any more.''

Moran also sentenced Johnson to 84 days in-home confinement, which he already has served.

Johnson's bodyguard, Willie B. Posey, was arrested on felony drug charges after the raid on Johnson's home. Posey was shot and killed two days later during an early morning fight while he and Johnson were at a nightclub in Chicago.

The Bears suspended Johnson for one game for being out at the club.

He has been under house arrest since the raid, but was permitted to attend practice and travel to Miami for the Super Bowl, where the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17.

Just days after returning from Miami, Johnson pleaded guilty to violating his probation in the 2005 case. He has pleaded not guilty to the Lake County charges in the latest arrest.