- Associated Press - Thursday, March 1, 2012

COVINGTON, KY. (AP) - Cincinnati Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson could receive a 60-day jail sentence after pleading guilty Thursday to a drug-related felony charge as part of an agreement with prosecutors, further clouding his future in the NFL.

A judge will decide next month whether to accept the prosecutors’ recommendation or give him a more lenient sentence.

The four-year veteran is a free agent after completing his contract with the Bengals. His guilty plea could bring a suspension from the league, which would make him less attractive on the free agent market.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email on Thursday that the case will be reviewed under the league’s substance abuse policy.

Simpson wore a dark gray suit and stood with his hands in his pockets for a hearing Thursday in Kenton County Circuit Court aimed at concluding a case that has hung over him since September, when a package containing approximately 2 pounds of marijuana was delivered to his home in northern Kentucky.

The package had been tracked by agents from California. Authorities later searched Simpson’s home and found approximately another pound of marijuana, county Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders said after the hearing on Thursday.

He was indicted on a felony charge of marijuana trafficking. The agreement changes the charge _ still a Class D felony _ to a prohibited act relating to controlled substances.

“I don’t think Mr. Simpson deserves any special treatment one way or the other,” Sanders said after the hearing. “He doesn’t deserve any special breaks. He doesn’t deserve any harsher punishment.”

Judge Gregory Bartlett can accept the proposed 60-day jail term or reduce it at a sentencing hearing on April 5. Bartlett told Simpson that he wants a full disclosure of what happened in the case at the sentencing hearing.

Simpson and lawyer Burr Travis left the courtroom immediately after the hearing without any comment. Later, Travis said in a phone interview that he would present witnesses at the sentencing hearing.

“We’re going to give the court and the commonwealth a different side of Jerome Simpson,” Travis said. “The decision is strictly up to the judge.”

The plea agreement also calls for three years’ probation, 200 hours of community service and drug treatment. It allows for Simpson to be on a work-release program _ leave jail during the day to work _ but the judge will decide if that’s appropriate.

It’s unclear how a work-release program might apply to Simpson, who will officially become an unrestricted free agent later this month. If he hasn’t signed with a team, he wouldn’t have any football-related responsibilities to fulfill.

Sanders said a 60-day jail sentence would be appropriate.

“It’s very consistent with what the judges in Kenton County impose,” he said. “If anything, it might be a little stiffer than what most people get. A lot of folks that don’t have a prior record and get convicted of the same crime get a straight probated sentence. So the addition of the 60 days, I think, is probably on the high end of average.”

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