HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. » Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge and was placed on interim probation a year after he smashed his Cadillac SUV into a utility pole on eastern Long Island.
In exchange for the guilty plea, Kidd agreed to speak to Long Island high school students about the dangers of drunken driving. If he fulfills his community service, his plea will be reduced to a violation, driving while ability impaired, when he returns to court Sept. 30.
Kidd, who retired as an NBA player after last season, was recently hired to coach the Nets — the team he took to two NBA Finals as a player when the franchise played in New Jersey.
Kidd could have received three years’ probation, but a better alternative was reached, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said outside court.
"He’s a role model to kids and other people. And he’s going to have the opportunity to talk to them about the foolish mistake that he made and the fact he took responsibility for his actions," Spota said. "That is, for me, more important than three years’ probation."
Police said Kidd crashed his SUV into a telephone pole in the Hamptons community of Water Mill on July 15, 2012. He was treated at a hospital for minor injuries.
Kidd was returning from a charity function before the crash, defense attorney Ed Burke Jr. said. A Southampton Town Police report noted the 10-time NBA all-star and Olympic gold medalist was unsteady on his feet, smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot and glassy eyes.
The judge asked him at the plea hearing how much he’d consumed before his arrest. "A couple of drinks, three or four," Kidd replied in a soft voice.
"You could have killed yourself. You could have killed someone else," Town Court Judge Andrea Schiavoni said. "I hope you wake up every day happy to be here."
Kidd nodded in response.
"He took responsibility for that night," Burke said afterward. "Jason knows he was very, very lucky that night. He was very lucky no one was hurt."
Kidd did not speak when he left the courthouse. Burke said his client recently bought a vacation home in Water Mill and wants to become part of the community there.
While playing with Phoenix in 2001, Kidd was arrested on a domestic violence charge, acknowledging he struck his former wife.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving issued a statement expressing concern that Kidd was allowed to reach a plea agreement that will preclude him from being required to have an ignition interlock device installed on his vehicle. MADD noted that New York law does not require the use of such devices in cases like Kidd’s.
"MADD urges every state to demonstrate that they take drunk driving seriously by passing all-offender ignition interlock laws and prosecuting drunk driving to the full extent of the law," the statement said.