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George Jones Pleads Guilty to DWI

May 12, 1999

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) _ Country star George Jones pleaded guilty Wednesday to drunken driving for an accident that nearly killed him, and he promised to get help for his drinking problem.

``I’ll get my mind straight,″ Jones vowed after Judge Donald P. Harris approved a plea bargain calling for a $550 fine but no jail time. ``I think there will be no more problems at all out of me.″

Jones, 67, pleaded guilty to driving while impaired and violating the open container law. A reckless driving charge will be dismissed in a year if he completes alcohol counseling and stays out of trouble. He keeps his license.

The country singer nearly died after his sport utility vehicle slammed into a bridge near his home outside Nashville on March 6. His liver was severely cut and his right lung was punctured, but he made a remarkable recovery and went home from the hospital after 13 days.

``I don’t remember much about the day of the accident, but I do know that I was drinking and obviously my driving was impaired,″ Jones said after the court session. ``I did wrong that day and I take full responsibility for what happened.″

Jones has a well-documented history of alcohol and drug abuse. He pleaded guilty to two drunken driving charges in 1982. He was ordered to perform a benefit concert.

Jones said he had been sober for 12 years before the accident, having only an occasional glass of wine with dinner.

``Truthfully, the struggle never ends and I will get treatment to help me cope better,″ he said. ``I came very close to death and I know the Lord works in mysterious ways and he spared me. I can only believe that he still has work for me to do here.″

District Attorney General Ron Davis said prosecutors struck a plea bargain because it would have been hard to convict Jones. He said the star got no preferential treatment.

``It was a very difficult case factually because the investigation from the Highway Patrol contained a lot of contradictory evidence and information,″ Davis said.

A half-empty pint of vodka was found in Jones’ vehicle, but Trooper Michael Sprawling said there was no indication alcohol played a role. Sprawling said Jones crashed because he was talking on a cellular phone and not paying attention to the road.

Also, Davis said, Jones stopped to help a motorist at a rest area minutes before the crash, and the motorist noticed no sign of intoxication. Several emergency workers who responded to the crash also said they did not detect alcohol on Jones, Davis said.

Jones, whose new album is due out in June, said he is eager to get back to singing and may take the stage again next month.

Jones has had more than 140 records on the charts during his nearly 40-year career, including classics like ``He Stopped Loving Her Today″ and ``A Good Year for the Roses.″

He was married to Tammy Wynette for six years, and the pair were known as ``The King and Queen of Country Music.″ She died last year.

Jones has been married to Nancy Jones since 1983.

Update hourly