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George Jones Won’t Do Jail Time

May 12, 1999

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) _ Saying ``I did wrong,″ country singer George Jones pleaded guilty today to a drunken driving charge for an accident that nearly killed him in March. He will not have to do jail time.

Jones, who was indicted Monday, pleaded guilty to charges of driving while impaired and violating the state’s open container law. A reckless driving charge will be dismissed in a year if he completes alcohol counseling and is not arrested again.

Jones was fined $500 on the DWI charge and $50 for the open container violation. The driving while impaired charge, which in Tennessee is a less serious charge than ``driving under the influence,″ does not carry any jail time. Jones will keep his driver’s license.

``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 at a news conference after the court hearing. ``I did wrong that day and I take full responsibility for what happened.″

Jones was alone when he smashed his sport utility vehicle into a concrete bridge a mile from his Franklin home March 6. It took emergency workers about two hours to free him from the vehicle.

His liver was severely lacerated and his right lung was punctured, but he made a remarkable recovery and went home from Vanderbilt University Medical Center after 13 days.

Williamson County District Attorney General Ron Davis said prosecutors negotiated a plea agreement because it would have been difficult to get a conviction at trial. The grand jury had a choice between bringing a driving while impaired charge or driving under the influence and chose the less serious count, Davis said.

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

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

Also, Davis said, Jones stopped to assist 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, including a flight nurse, also said they did not detect alcohol on Jones, Davis said.

Jones, who has a well-documented history of alcohol and drug abuse, pleading guilty to two drunken driving charges in 1982. He was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence on one charge and ordered to perform a benefit concert for the other.

Jones said he had been sober for 12 years prior to the March 6 accident.

``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,″ Jones said. ``I can only believe that he still has work for me to do here.″ He said he was eager to get back to singing.

Among the evidence considered by grand jurors was the blood-alcohol test done on Jones at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The results of the test were not disclosed. Under Tennessee law, a driving under the influence charge can be brought when a motorist’s blood-alcohol level is above 0.10 percent. A DWI charge is for drivers with a blood-alcohol level between 0.08 and 0.10 percent.

Jones is considered one of the greatest singers in country music history. He has charted more than 140 records 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 duet partner Tammy Wynette for six years, and the pair were known as ``The King and Queen of Country Music.″ Wynette died last year.

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