Jefferson Parish prosecutors on Tuesday dismissed a drunken-driving charge against New Orleans Saintswide receiver Joe Morgan, who has accepted entry into the district attorney's office diversion program.The prosecutors could resurrect the charges in the future if Morgan does not complete the program.
Morgan, a free agent who turns 26 on Sunday, was arrested May 25. State Police troopers found him sleeping in the driver's seat of his sport-utility vehicle, parked on the Earhart Expressway shoulder near Causeway Boulevard.
His trial on charges of DWI and driving without a license was scheduled to begin Tuesday before 1st Parish Court Judge Rebecca Olivier in Metairie. But his attorneys, Anita McCrossen and Donald "Chick" Foret, and prosecutors jointly asked the judge to delay the trial while they explore Morgan's entry into the diversion program.
Olivier would not agree. So prosecutors dismissed the charges, effectively avoiding a trial. Morgan's was one of a handful of cases that were handled similarly on Olivier's docket.
"The diversion has to be completed," Olivier told Morgan's attorneys. "Otherwise, the DA's office is going to refile the bill of information," or re-institute the prosecution.
Morgan would not speak with reporters after leaving the courtroom.
Diversion is an alternate to criminal prosecution for low-risk, first-time offenders.If he completes the program, Morgan could see his DWI charge reduced to reckless driving, McCrossen said.
"It's a very rigorous program," Foret said. "It's not an easy program to complete."
The attorneys said they've accepted the diversion offer, but Morgan still must attend an orientation program to determine whether he can complete the program's requirements, Foret said. The program can last as long as one year, and in addition to paying fees, participants must regularly report for therapy sessions and submit to random drug screens. Morgan's driver's license could be suspended for the duration of the program.
However, Morgan's football career, which includes Saints games away from New Orleans, could hinder his ability to participate in the program, the attorneys said. Morgan reportedly has met with the Kansas City Chiefs, and Foret said playing for another team also could hurt Morgan's ability to participate in the diversion program.
Morgan was arrested after a state trooper had him step out of his vehicle and found him unsteady and smelling of alcohol, according to the arrest report. His blood-alcohol content measured 0.218 percent, more than twice the 0.08 percent maximum to drive, police said.
He pleaded not guilty in September, a month after prosecutors filed the charges. Upon conviction, the misdemeanor first-offense DWI charge carries a punishment of 10 days to six months in jail and a fine of $750 to $1,000.
Morgan missed the Saints' 2013 season because he injured a knee last year during the Black and Gold Scrimmage. He's a free agent now, but the Saints reportedly hope to resign him. In 2012, Morgan had 10 receptions for 379 yards and three touchdowns.