San Jose Mercury

49er chooses jail over weekend work
February 07, 2003

By Dennis Georgatos
Mercury News

49ers return specialist Vinny Sutherland is serving a 30-day sentence at Santa Clara County Jail after voluntarily changing the weekend work furlough arrangement agreed to in October, when he pleaded no contest to charges arising from his drunken-driving case.

``If he wants to do straight jail time, I have no problem with it,'' Deputy District Attorney Leigh Frazier said. ``It's my understanding he felt this would interfere less with his work schedule.''

Sutherland's attorney, Dennis Lempert, said Thursday that Sutherland has been in jail since Jan. 22, when a judge agreed to his sentencing modification request. Lempert said because of the way custody time is calculated, Sutherland will be released after 20 days.

Lempert said the change will allow Sutherland to resume a normal schedule sooner than if he had taken part in weekend work details, which would have stretched the service time over several months.

``It just gets done quicker,'' Lempert said. ``He wants to return to his family and he chose to serve straight time.''

Sutherland, 24, was convicted Oct. 7 of three misdemeanor counts arising from a May 18 drunken-driving arrest after an accident in Saratoga. His sports-utility vehicle was wrecked and two rookie teammates suffered minor injuries.

Both sides originally endorsed a sentence calling for 75 days of custody time, the bulk of which was to be served on weekends as part of the Sheriff's Department work program. Sutherland also received credit for 30 days served in an alcohol-treatment program.

Sutherland finished the season as the 49ers' primary return man, appearing in both playoff games. Cut last August, Sutherland rejoined the team Jan. 2 after injuries sidelined Jimmy Williams and backup Jason Webster.

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