HARTFORD, Conn. -- Former pro football player and ex-ESPN analyst Hugh Douglas pleaded no contest and avoided jail on Monday in a Connecticut case alleging he assaulted his now-former girlfriend, who said she wasn't happy with the plea bargain.
The former defensive end for the New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor breach of peace charge, after having been arrested on felony assault and strangulation allegations.
Prosecutor Mirella Giambalvo said the case would have been difficult to prove at trial because it was the woman's word against Douglas' word, and it was better to get a breach of peace conviction than risk going to trial.
Judge Laura Baldini sentenced Douglas, 42, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., to a six-month suspended jail sentence and two years of conditional discharge, a probation-like program. She also issued a protective order barring Douglas from having contact with the woman for the rest of his life. If Douglas violates the order, he would face a felony charge carrying up to five years in prison upon conviction.
Douglas' ex-girlfriend, Hope Davila, 33, said in court Monday that Douglas assaulted her at the Hartford Marriott Downtown hotel in September. She said she was trying to leave him because she believed he was sending text messages to another woman, but she alleged Douglas picked her up by her throat and slammed her into the walls in a hallway while carrying her back to their room.
Douglas, who played in the NFL from 1995 to 2004, denies the allegations and said he took a plea deal to put the matter behind him. Douglas told officers on the night of the alleged assault that injuries on Davila's neck were from "rough sex," according to a police report.
Davila said she and Douglas dated for about eight months. She said she suffered neck injuries and a hematoma the size of a baseball on the back of her head and lost consciousness.
Davila expressed frustration in court that Douglas was pleading to breach of peace instead of assault.
"I just want accountability," Davila said. "That man assaulted me and sent me to the hospital. ... That wasn't a breach of peace. I was assaulted that night."
Douglas' lawyer, Corey Brinson, said that the prosecution's case was weak because Davila gave conflicting statements about what she alleged happened and that TV personalities can become targets for false charges by people seeking money. He said Davila was upset with Douglas because he refused to pay for breast enhancements for her, and said she has hired a lawyer for a potential civil case against Douglas.
Davila acknowledged that she had talked with Douglas about breast implants, but she said the case wasn't about that.
Douglas said after the court hearing that he looked forward to seeking employment.
He was a football analyst with ESPN from 2011 to last year. He declined to say why he left the sports network, but media reports say he left after allegedly having an argument with a co-host. "As a man, you never want allegations like this hanging over your head," Douglas said. "Right now, we look forward to putting the word out ... that this was a breach of peace, so I can move on with my life."