Nov 14th 2013
By Teresa Ambord
When Freddie Mitchell entered his plea deal last March, he'd live to regret it, he now says. The former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver thought the plea deal was the best way to go after an investigation showed he was neck deep in tax fraud. Mitchell had been charged with helping a former IRS agent entice another pro athlete to file a bogus tax return (see "NFL's Freddie Mitchell Pleads Guilty in Tax Fraud Case").
At the time of the plea deal, Mitchell was looking at up to ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. He returned to a Florida court in late October to hear his fate. Naturally he was hoping to get no prison time and just get by with probation, or at least a minimum sentence. Ultimately, he was sentenced to thirty-seven months in prison.
So while he did get a much-reduced sentence, he's not a happy man. He took a plea deal to avoid a trial, he told FOX Sports. The problem is, he seemed to think he had a story that was compelling enough to secure him a "get-out-of-jail-free" card.
Mitchell told the judge he didn't have criminal tendencies, in spite of his involvement in the fraud; rather, it was all those concussions he's suffered on the football field that led him down the wrong path.
The Head Bangs Made Me Do It
He told reporters he'd gotten four or five concussions while playing at UCLA. Later, as a professional, he suffered more head injuries but didn't always report them for fear of being labeled "damaged goods."
When asked about medical documentation of his concussions, Mitchell said he does indeed have a document that explains, thanks to the injuries, he's "extremely gullible and naïve to a lot of things that are happening." Still, he's not exactly claiming the concussions made him commit the crime. His theory is, the head bangs made him an easy target for other people with criminal intent. "The truth of the fact is this brain injury allowed me to be victimized by being lured into a failed attempt by an IRS agent."
Mitchell says he does plan to appeal and is hoping to talk to Attorney General Eric Holder.
When asked if he had a statement for the public, he wanted to make one thing clear. "I can't say I am sorry for committing a crime that I didn't even know I committed." Every player gets scammed, he said. "Everybody has made a bad investment but I am getting punished for being scammed by an IRS agent. That's the situation," Mitchell said. The fact that he made it to age thirty-four without a criminal record should count for something, he said, especially when there were opportunities everywhere. "Growing up with many temptations, I can proudly say I did not choose that route. I'm not that guy."