Former Steeler sentenced on two DUIs involving medications
Former Pittsburgh Steeler and York County native Jon Witman told a York County judge Wednesday that a Michigan-based treatment program, along with the efforts of his wife, have helped free him of his dependence on prescription medication.
"My wife has been a savior from day one," Witman, 44, of Hellam Township, said. "I should be dead by now."
The former fullback also told Judge Richard K. Renn it was the treatment he received at the Eisenhower Center's rural Manchester, Michigan, location that finally made a significant difference for him, by dealing with all facets of his issues.
Witman was in York County Court on Wednesday to be sentenced in one DUI case and to plead guilty and be sentenced on a second.
Court documents indicate Witman wasn't drinking in either case. He was impaired by a morphine painkiller and the muscle relaxant Soma — "the stuff that was prescribed to me," he said.
As a professional football player, Witman suffered injuries that continue to cause him chronic pain.
But defense attorney Chris Ferro told the judge that Witman has made it clear he would do it all over again, even if he knew as a younger man what the consequences would be.
Witman has been candid in the past with the media regarding his struggles with painkillers.
The first crash: Lower Windsor Township Police filed charges against Witman after he crashed on Abels Road near Circle Drive in Wrightsville about 5:20 p.m. Feb. 4, 2016, according to court records.
Police Chief Tim Caldwell has 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 later found morphine and Soma in Witman's system, court documents state.
As part of a negotiated plea agreement, Witman was sentenced to six months of intensive probation, with the first three days on electronically monitored house arrest.
Renn also ordered Witman to remain on the Avertest controlled-substance monitoring program throughout that six months and required the retired football player to pay a $1,000 fine and court costs.
No prison: Also Wednesday, Witman pleaded guilty to second-offense DUI for a Hellam Township incident last fall and avoided a month in prison.
In that case, Renn ordered Witman to serve 30 days to six months in York County Prison.
However, the judge noted the 30-plus days Witman spent at the Eisenhower Center will count toward his 30 days in prison, effectively giving him a time-served sentence.
Renn imposed a $750 fine and court costs and ordered the sentence run consecutive to Witman's first sentence.
The second crash: On the night of Sept. 10, Witman's wife called 911 to report that her husband was intoxicated and had crashed his vehicle into a tree, according to court 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 court 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.
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.
"I'm actually thankful my wife called (911)," Witman said in court on Wednesday.
Pain issues: He told Renn he'd gone through treatment before, but it hadn't worked.
"I got off my meds, but nobody dealt with my pain issues," Witman said, adding his stint in the Eisenhower Center addressed all his issues.
It was the NFL that found the center and helped fund Witman's visit, according to Ferro, who said the organization "has really been wonderful" in helping Witman deal with his issues.
"He asked for help, and he got it," the attorney said, calling it a success story.
Renn noted that 10 years ago, the NFL's response could have been quite different.
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 email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.