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Former P'burgh Steeler pleads guilty to Wrightsville DUI
Former Pittsburgh Steeler and York County native Jon Witman has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of controlled substances in relation to a one-vehicle crash in Wrightsville eight months ago.
His preliminary hearing on a second separate DUI case is set for later this month.
Witman, 44, of Woodsview Lane in Hellam Township, wasn't seriously hurt in the Feb. 4 crash to which he pleaded guilty, Lower Windsor Township Police Chief Tim Caldwell told The York Dispatch.
The former fullback appeared in York County Court on Thursday morning for a scheduled non-jury trial before Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn.
But instead of moving forward with trial, Witman entered a guilty plea to first-offense DUI.
Renn set sentencing for 2 p.m. Feb. 1 and ordered a pre-sentence investigation be done in the case. Witman remains free on his own recognizance, but he is being regularly tested for controlled substances and alcohol.
"Mr. Witman, you have an opportunity here," the judge said. "It can either help you, or you can screw up again. Make the best of it."
NFL 'supportive': The former NFL player's defense attorney, Chris Ferro, said Witman is accepting responsibility for his actions.
"All people make mistakes, but very few can learn from them and persevere, and I think Jon is going to be one of those people," he said. "He's one of the nicest, warmest, most humble people you'll ever meet. You can't help but like him."
A plan has been put in place "to get Jon well and keep Jon well," Ferro said. "The NFL has been incredibly supportive of what we're trying to do and going to be instrumental in making this a successful project."
A preliminary hearing on Witman's second DUI case is scheduled for Oct. 26, according to court records.
"Anyone who's been touched by these issues (of addiction) knows recovery is not a straight line," Ferro said. "It's filled with ups and downs, just like real life."
Witman has been candid in the past with media regarding his struggles with painkillers. On Thursday, he declined comment through his attorney.
The first crash: Lower Windsor Township Police filed charges against Witman for the incident on Abels Road near Circle Drive in Wrightsville about 5:20 p.m. Feb. 4, according to court records.
Caldwell said Witman's vehicle hit a guard rail and became stuck on it.
Lower Windsor Police Cpl. James Thomas was on his way home from work when he drove past the crash scene and alerted on-duty Patrolman Kevin Leach, who responded to the scene and investigated, Caldwell said.
A blood test found the opiate morphine and the muscle relaxant carisoprodol, brand name Soma, in Witman's system, court documents state.
In court, Witman said he was driving from the home of a family member when the crash happened.
"I was actually texting," he told the judge. "I went around the corner — it was the day after we had snow — and went straight into the guard rail."
Second crash: On the night of Sept. 10, Witman's wife called 911 to report that he was intoxicated and had crashed his vehicle into a pole or a tree, according to charging documents.
Hellam Township Police Sgt. Drew Heistand responded and found the front of Witman's Dodge Ram smashed in, documents state.
"It appeared he hit an evergreen tree very hard," the sergeant wrote in charging documents. "The right rear tire was also flat and appeared to be driven on for a distance."
Heistand told The York Dispatch that bits of branches and pine needles were stuck in the truck's grill. He also said he later located the tree that Witman struck.
Ran into tree: The sergeant noted in charging documents that Witman's speech was slurred.
Witman said he was driving on Schmuck Road, missed the stop sign, traveled across Mount Pisgah Road and ran into a pine tree, documents state.
He subsequently failed field-sobriety tests, and his wife said she thought he was using methadone, according to charging documents.
Witman was arrested and consented to having his blood drawn for testing, documents state. On Tuesday, Heistand said he has not yet learned the results of Witman's blood test.
Wrightsville native: Witman was raised in Wrightsville and was a star football player for Eastern York High School.
He then played football at Penn State and was on the Nittany Lions' 1994 Rose Bowl championship team.
Witman was drafted by the Steelers in 1996 and played for them for six seasons.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.