NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Prosecutors charged Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay with two misdemeanor counts Friday stemming from his intoxicated driving arrest near his home in March.
Hamilton County prosecutors said Irsay was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite in the body, which carry maximum penalties of 60 days in jail and $500 fines for each count. A probable cause affidavit said Irsay was driving under the influence of oxycodone and/or hydrocodone, both powerful painkillers.
Irsay was arrested near his home at about 3 a.m. on March 16 with $29,000 in cash and bottles of prescription drugs in his vehicle. Police said Irsay denied being drunk and told an officer he had taken several prescription medications during the day. A police report said the 54-year-old billionaire was so disoriented that officers made him sit on the hood of a patrol car to keep him from falling, and that he had trouble reciting the alphabet.
Police had filed four preliminary felony counts of possession of a controlled substance, charges that each carried possible sentences of six months to three years in prison. Prosecutors took weeks before deciding to file the misdemeanor charges instead.
The Indianapolis law office representing Irsay, Voyles, Zahn & Paul, released a statement thanking the prosecutor’s office for its professionalism in handing the investigation and “for devoting the necessary care and attention to determine the facts in this matter did not warrant the filing of felony charges relative to Mr. Irsay’s prescription medications.”
Colts spokesman Avis Roper declined immediate comment. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is still reviewing the matter.
“The NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy applies to all league personnel and holds all of us accountable. We are reviewing the matter and will take appropriate action in accordance with the policy,” he said in an email.
There are few examples of the league punishing an owner like Irsay. Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand was suspended for 30 days and fined $100,000 in 2010 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy following his guilty plea to driving while impaired.
The police report said Irsay stumbled out of his SUV and failed field sobriety tests. After Irsay refused a blood draw, a judge approved a search warrant to draw his blood. Refusing the blood test means Irsay’s driver’s license will be automatically suspended for one year.
An initial hearing is scheduled for June 19. Irsay was supposed to have an initial hearing on March 25, but that hearing was postponed because he had been admitted to an out-of-state medical facility for inpatient treatment, the prosecutor’s office said. His family said at the time he was undergoing treatment “”to help him meet his challenges head-on.”
Irsay acknowledged in 2002 that he had become dependent on painkillers after several years of orthopedic operations but said he had overcome the problem.
Irsay resumed his duties with the Colts at the NFL draft earlier this month and earlier this week he made the unsuccessful personal pitch to his fellow owners on behalf of Indianapolis’ bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl.
Irsay became the Colts owner in 1997 after the death of his father, Robert Irsay, and a lengthy legal battle with his father’s second wife. Forbes magazine has estimated Irsay’s net worth at $1.6 billion. He has helped build the Colts into a top NFL team over the past decade behind quarterback Peyton Manning, now with Denver, and was a key player in the drive to bring the Super Bowl to Indianapolis two years ago. He is working with some success to rebuild the team behind young quarterback Andrew Luck while coping with a divorce that follows a decade-long separation from his wife of 33 years.