The Michigan football program may not have given former quarterback Justin Feagin a second chance when he was kicked off the team last year, but the Washtenaw County courts did when Feagin appeared for his sentencing yesterday.
Washtenaw Circuit Court Judge Archie Brown sentenced the former Michigan player to two years of probation after Feagin, 21, pled guilty to the charge of delivering less than 50 grams of cocaine.
Feagin’s guilty plea did not result in a criminal conviction, however, because he was able to qualify for the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act — a provision in Michigan’s Criminal Code, which erases the defendant’s criminal record if they complete their sentence.
Feagin was first charged with conspiracy to deliver less than 50 grams of cocaine, conspiracy to possess 25 to 50 grams of cocaine and conspiracy to possess less than 25 grams of cocaine in March 2009 after a drug deal went awry between him and University student Timothy Burke. Burke attempted to set fire to a hallway in West Quad after Feagin did not deliver cocaine to Burke.
Feagin was later dismissed from the football team in July, for what Michigan Football coach Rich Rodriguez called at the time “a violation of team rules.”
At his sentencing, Feagin apologized to his mother, his family and the University of Michigan for the disruption his offense caused. Resolving not to let this mistake interfere with his future, Feagin told the court he is “just trying to make it in life, just trying to learn from all this.”
As he prepared to deliver the formal sentence, Brown explicitly told Feagin that he was being given a second chance to “get it right.” Brown explained that the youthful trainee status is reserved for defendants the court believes to have potential to change their ways and that he could benefit from the forgiving provisions of the Holmes Act.
While presiding over the court, Brown encouraged Feagin to make the best of his opportunity to erase the serious drug charges from his record through the youthful trainee process.
“The last thing I want to see is you to fail here,” Brown told Feagin.
In a set of interviews Feagin, his mother Linda and his attorney Nicholas Leydorf said they were satisfied with the outcome of the sentencing proceeding.
Leydorf said his main concern coming into the sentencing was ensuring that Feagin would be able to leave the state of Michigan.
In order for Feagin — who now plays football at Texas Southern University — to be able to leave Michigan, his probation must be transferred to the jurisdiction he moves to. But according to Leydorf, Washtenaw County’s probation division has been uncooperative at times in the probation transfer procedure.
During the sentencing, Leydorf asked Brown to accelerate the transfer process. Brown agreed to do so, saying Feagin would be free to leave the state upon payment of a few fees and filing of requisite paperwork.
Leydorf said Feagin’s lack of support in Michigan would have made an elongated stay in the state difficult.
“He has no family up here (in Michigan), no place to live. I would have let him stay at my place,” Leydorf joked in an interview. “But things worked out here today.”
Aside from his advocacy, Leydorf credited an understanding judge and cooperative prosecutors with the favorable sentencing outcome.
Linda Feagin was similarly relieved that this chapter of her son’s life could now be put behind him. Her mother and sister passed away this past Friday and Monday respectively, and she said the favorable outcome of her son’s case provided some much-appreciated relief.
“It’s been a tough period, but at least this is behind us now,” she said in an interview.
Feagin said he also looks forward to moving ahead with his life.
While cautious about discussing specific long-term plans, he said he will continue to stay “loyal” to his new team at Texas Southern University.
“There might be other crossroads,” he said in an interview. “But I’ll deal with them when they come.”