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Switzer pleads guilty to gun charge

December 3, 1997 GMT

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer is moving to put the gun incident at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport behind him.

He pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor for having a loaded, unlicensed .38-caliber handgun in his luggage on Aug. 4 as he prepared to fly to the team’s summer camp in Austin.

Carrying a weapon into an airport is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, but the offense generally is handled as a misdemeanor if there are no prior felonies or weapons charges.

Switzer was fined $3,500 and given one year deferred adjudication, meaning if he completes probation successfully the charge will be erased from his record.

He also agreed in a plea agreement with prosecutors to serve 80 hours of public service as a condition of his probation.

Switzer declined Criminal Court Judge Daryl Coffey’s invitation for a final statement.

``I have no comment. Enough has been said already,″ Switzer told Coffey.

Conviction of recklessly carrying a handgun without a permit is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Switzer said he put the gun in his bag to hide it from children visiting his home, then forgot to remove it before going to the airport.

Accompanied by Fort Worth attorney Bill Magnussen, Switzer entered court through a back entrance.

At end of the five-minute hearing, Switzer left through the same back door, evading reporters’ questions. The door is the same one Coffey uses to reach his chambers.

Asked why Switzer was allowed to use a special entrance, Coffey denied granting any permission for the coach to do so.

``I don’t know how he got back there. I didn’t let them back there,″ Coffey said.

Magnussen denied that Switzer received any preferential treatment.

``Overall, I believe he was treated fairly by the D.A.’s office. The system has been fair,″ he said. ``It was a larger fine than usual.″

Two days after his arrest, Switzer was fined $75,000 by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said he wanted to show he was serious about repairing the Cowboys’ tarnished image. Switzer earns about $1 million a year.

The fine was among the largest imposed on an NFL coach, surpassing the $30,000 that commissioner Paul Tagliabue fined then-Cincinnati coach Sam Wyche for failing to allow women reporters into the team’s locker room after a 1990 game.

``I hope that the actions that I’m taking will be a reinforcement to our fans and to everyone involved that we are working toward a long-term and not a short-term effort to ... create more awareness to our responsibility,″ Jones said at the time.

The NFL said Jones’ penalty was sufficient and it wouldn’t further penalize the coach.

Coffey said he had received many telephone calls from people with views ranging from those ``who wanted to hang him, to those who wanted to turn him loose.″

``Some people thought the case should be dismissed ... and others though he ought to go to the penitentiary,″ the judge said.

Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels said Tuesday the team had no comment.