Ex-NFL player sentenced on tax charge

A former NFL defensive back was sentenced Thursday to seven months in prison for failing to file a federal income tax return for 2005, when he was a member of the New York Giants.

William James, formerly William J. Peterson, had already spent four months in a federal detention center so he will only need to serve three more months for failing to pay taxes on $5.5 million in income, a federal judge said at his sentencing. The judge also ordered James to file back returns and pay back taxes and penalties totaling $470,000.

James, 33, was a third-round draft pick of the Giants in 2001. He spent his first five seasons in New York and also played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers.

James had been accused of not filing returns from 2005 to 2009. He pleaded guilty to a single count in May.

James, of Brownsville, Pa., was also ordered to serve one year of probation following his release, which will include mental health treatment. His attorney said a medical report found James suffered from post-concussion syndrome that left him mentally impaired, affecting both his memory and behavior.

U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle said that while the post-concussion syndrome was not an excuse for the crime, it is ”something that will probably be with Mr. James for a long time.”

The judge asked James if he had joined a class-action lawsuit accusing the NFL of negligence and concealing the severity of concussions and brain injuries. James said he had not.

”I played the game because I love the game and I know (what) comes with the game,” James said.

Prosecutors said James, formerly of Woodland Park, N.J., ignored advisers who repeatedly told him he was obligated to file income tax returns.

The government said that between March 2008 and August 2009, the IRS visited his New Jersey home several times to deliver notices. James did not respond to them, prosecutors said.