Former UFC champ Jon Jones avoids jail, sentenced to probation and community service
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones avoided jail time after pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident in a New Mexico court on Tuesday and was granted a conditional release with up to 18 months of supervised probation.
New Mexico Second District Court Judge Charles Brown ruled on the case with Jones and his attorney in the courtroom for the plea hearing.
Jones made a formal statement where he took responsibility for the charges and the judge ultimately ruled that he would not be convicted of a felony charge for his role in the April hit-and-run crash in Albuquerque that injured a pregnant woman. Jones was arrested after leaving the scene and the woman, Vanessa Sonnenberg, left injured with a fractured wrist.
"I want to apologize to Ms. Sonnenberg’s team, all the officers who were involved that day, all the people who support me who I’ve embarrassed, my family, my supporters, mainly Vanessa Sonnenberg and her family for all the heartache I must have put them through," Jones said.
"I am here to accept full responsibility for what happened, for my actions, and I’m just really hoping you guys can give me the opportunity to redeem myself."
Jones’ attorney stated at the hearing that Ms. Sonnenberg recovered and sustained no serious injuries as a result of the accident.
"Ever since he walked away from that car, he’s done everything he can to make amends," defense attorney Vincent Ward told the judge.
Ward said in court that Jones had reached out to make amends with the woman and also noted that Jones turned himself in to authorities to comply with an arrest warrant after the accident.
The judge handed Jones supervised probation for up to 18 months, but left the terms up to the probation division. Becuase Jones avoided a felony conviction, he will have no travel restrictions based on his personal work schedule.
Jones was also sentenced to make 72 appearances for community service where the judge ordered him to speak at local Boys and Girls clubs as well as schools in Bernalillo County, New Mexico.
Jones made further comments through his PR team in a statement just after he left the courtroom in New Mexico.
"With regards to today’s decision made by the court, I am very happy to now be able to put this incident behind me," Jones said. "My actions have caused pain and inconvenience in the lives of others and for that I am truly sorry and I accept full responsibility. I have been working hard during this time away from my sport to grow and mature as a man and to ensure that nothing like this happens again. I have learned a great deal from this situation and I am determined to emerge a better person because of it.
"I apologize to those who were affected by my actions in this incident and I am hopeful that I will be given the opportunity to redeem myself in the eyes of the public, my family and friends as well as my supporters. I am not sure what the future holds for me but I plan to continue to do the work needed to be productive and successful in every aspect of my life. “
The UFC stripped Jones of his light heavyweight title days after the accident and his arrest and placed him on an indefinite suspension. UFC president Dana White was in attendance at the hearing on Tuesday along with Jones’ manager, Malki Kawa.
UFC officials released a statement following the hearing regarding Jones’ status with the promotion.
"The UFC organization is aware that Jon Jones reached a plea agreement with authorities in Albuquerque, New Mexico this morning stemming from charges associated with a motor vehicle accident earlier this year," the statement said. "As a result, UFC, through Las Vegas-based law firm Campbell & Williams, will thoroughly review the agreement before discussing Jones’ possible reinstatement to return to competition."
Jones (21-1) has endured legal problems during much of his championship tenure. In 2012, he was arrested after crashing his Bentley into a telephone pole in Binghamton, New York. He had his driver’s license suspended after being charged with DWI. He did no jail time.
Last year, Jones and fighter Daniel Cormier were involved in a brawl in the lobby of the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas while appearing at a promotional event. Jones was fined $50,000 and ordered to do community service by the Nevada Athletic Commission.
After the crash in April, officers found a pipe with marijuana in the SUV as well as MMA documents in Jones’ name, according to a police report.
"I think this has been a huge wake-up call for Mr. Jones," Ward said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.