Football star pleads guilty, avoids prison


POSTED: Saturday, June 20, 2009

Former Leilehua High School football standout Rico Newman, who confessed to police that he kidnapped and sexually assaulted his estranged girlfriend in February, avoided going to prison yesterday by pleading guilty to reduced charges.

“;We reached this plea agreement,”; said Deputy Prosecutor Leilani Tan, “;because it allows Mr. Newman to preserve his football scholarship, to go to college and to hopefully get himself a college degree and get a good job and be able to support (girlfriend) Ashley and their soon-to-be two children.”;

Newman, 19, was charged with first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping, both class A felonies that carry mandatory 20-year prison terms.

In a plea agreement with the state, Newman pleaded guilty to abuse of a family or household member, a misdemeanor, and unlawful imprisonment, a class C felony.

Circuit Judge Richard Pollack accepted the plea deal, which requires him to sentence Newman to two years probation for the abuse count and leaves open the possibility that Newman can get the imprisonment count dropped.

At sentencing in December, Newman will be free to ask Pollack for a deferral of his guilty plea to the imprisonment charge. The state promises to ask Pollack to sentence Newman to five years probation with no jail time.

Shortly after Newman's arrest, the victim went to police and recanted her statement and tried to withdraw her complaint, Tan said. She also told the state she is not going to cooperate in Newman's prosecution.

And two months after the incident, she and Newman got married and are expecting their second child, Tan said.

The victim told police Newman assaulted her on Feb. 2 when she went to his Wahiawa apartment to pick up their 2-year-old son. She later went to Wahiawa General Hospital for treatment.

Newman was the punter on the 2007 Leilehua team that defeated Saint Louis School for the state Division 1 football championship. He played running back and punter for last year's Mules team that lost to Punahou in the championship game.

Newman has a scholarship to play football at Victor Valley Community College in California. His lawyer Jerry Villanueva asked Pollack to sentence Newman in December, after he completes the fall semester.