UFC featherweight Jeremy Stephens can continue with his MMA career after making a plea bargain on charges of felony assault and burglary.
Today in a Polk County (Iowa) courtroom, Stephens pleaded guilty to lesser charges of fourth degree criminal mischief and disorderly conduct in exchange for dropping the charges of felony assault and burglary, according to the fighter's manager and the county's assistant district attorney. He was given a sentence of 15 days in jail, which already had been served, in addition to a $315 fine.
Stephens also agreed to pay restitution to the victims of the assault, whom he is forbidden from contacting for five years, Assistant Polk Country Attorney Celene Gogerty told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
According to Stephens' manager, Ryan Hass, prosecutors dropped the more serious charges because "they had zero evidence showing he had anything to do with it. He had around 10 eye witnesses proving he had no part in it and was inside the whole time when the fight took place outside. His only fault was it being at his party and his then friend committing a crime involving his name."
Police said the fighter, whose name is "Lil Heathen," participated in the October 2011 assault of a man and his girlfriend outside a club in his native Des Moines. He was arrested one year later just prior to a fight with Yves Edwards at UFC on FX 5 and then extradited to Iowa, where he sat in jail before being bailed out by Hass.
Prosecutors later charged the fighter with felony assault and burglary, which Hass said could have put Stephens in jail for a minimum of seven years and a maximum of 10.
In previous statements to the media, Hass and Stephens denied any involvement in the assault. UFC President Dana White, who tried in vain to bail the fighter out prior to the event, said the fighter told him that a former friend, Dustin Bachman, was the person that committed the crime. He added that the victim's accusation of Stephens' involvement was a shakedown.
"He's a good kid," White then said of the fighter. "I've known him for years, and if that's what he tells me, I take grown men for their word."
Hass today accused Bachman of getting Stephens involved to lessen the punishment for his role in the assault. The manager also said a deposition showed the victim's intent to involve Stephens in a civil suit, which would have further strained the fighter's finances after defending himself in criminal court.
"[Stephens] told [White] everything, and that's why Dana backed him up," he told MMAjunkie.com. "It was just a matter of proving his innocence, which isn't easy for a UFC fighter in Polk County."
Stephens was offered a plea bargain to accept the assault charge with no jail time served and probation, Hass said, but elected to have a jury decide his case.
"It would have been the easy way out (to plead to the more serious charges), especially for a guy that's had financial struggles due to all of this, but instead went for broke and went to trial," Hass said.
Gogerty said Stephens' reps approached her with a plea agreement before jury selection was set to take place.
"I contacted the victims, and they were in agreement to it," she said.
Gogerty said Bachman currently is on probation as the result of the charges. MMAjunkie.com was unable to verify the details of his case.
Hass said Stephens (21-9 MMA, 8-8 UFC) is relieved to be through with the ordeal and is looking forward to competing again when he is next booked for a fight. He most recently appeared in the octagon at UFC 160, where he dropped to the featherweight class and earned a unanimous decision over Estevan Payan.