USC’s Vehikite ordered to serve one year in jail

USC linebacker Simione Vehikite pleaded no contest to two felony counts and was ordered to serve one year in county jail Thursday for his involvement in a 2011 automobile accident.

Vehikite, 21, was remanded into custody after appearing before Commissioner John R. Johnnson in Inglewood Superior Court.

“He’s felt horrible about the whole thing,” said Michael Norris, Vehikite’s attorney, outside the courtroom. “He felt bad that it happened in the first place and he felt bad that somebody else at one point was felt to be responsible for it.

“Now that he has appeared in court, he’s taken full responsibility for everything that happened …. Whatever needs to be done to make the victims whole, he’s happy to do.”

Vehikite was arrested in February in connection with the July 2011 accident and faced four felony counts: leaving the scene of an accident; driving under the influence causing injury; driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol level and causing injury; and identity theft.

USC said it suspended Vehikite from all team activities after it became aware of the situation.

On Thursday, Vehikite pleaded no contest to leaving the scene of an accident and driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol and causing injury. He was sentenced to two years in prison, which was suspended. As a condition of three years of felony probation, he was ordered to serve a year in county jail. He also was ordered to pay restitution to the victim in the accident and he must complete a county morgue program and alcohol counseling.

Deputy Dist. Atty. David Cheng said the plea offer was in line with a recommendation in the probation department’s pre-plea report.

“We decided this was an appropriate offer to make to him at this time, that justice would be carried out by this particular agreement,” Cheng said.

Vehikite, 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds, played in 12 games and made six tackles last season as a third-year sophomore. He attended spring semester classes at USC but did not participate in spring practice.

Coach Lane Kiffin could not immediately be reached for comment.

“I can’t speak for the school and I don’t know what their position is going to be as far as what his standing with the team is after this particular case has been resolved,” Norris said. “But I know that the school is very insistent that he take full responsibility for everything. They’ve been very proactive about that.”

By Gary Klein