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Olympic champ bobsledder Steve Holcomb pleads guilty in DUI case

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. bobsledder Steve Holcomb has pleaded guilty to impaired driving but will avoid a 180-day jail sentence if he completes 48 hours of community service.

Summit County Justice Court Judge Shauna Kerr also ordered Holcomb to pay a $1,430 fine and to undergo substance abuse screening and assessment.

Impaired driving is a Class B misdemeanor, as was the original charge against Holcomb of driving under the influence. But it carries lesser penalties.

The 30-year-old Park City resident was stopped in October 2009 for making an illegal U-turn on state Route 224, the main highway leading to Park City. His DUI trial was set for March 17. His attorney entered the plea in court Monday. Holcomb was not present.

“Mr. Holcomb has now been held accountable for his driving pattern and decision to drink and drive,” Summit County Attorney David Brickey said Wednesday. “It’s a fair resolution, one that is provided to anyone with a first offense. Hopefully he’ll learn from this. If not, we’ll have the ability to enhance the effect.”

A second offense in Utah carries a stiffer jail sentence.

Kerr ordered a 180-day jail sentence but stayed all but two days of that. Holcomb can avoid serving any jail time if he completes 48 hours of community service.

Brickey said it was a standard sentence for first-time offenders.

“I told the judge the community service ‘Better not be giving free rides down ice tracks,’ ” Brickey said.

Kerr indicated she would not accept frivolous community service and it must be completed within 180 days.

Whether this affects Holcomb’s ability to compete around the world is unclear.

Defense attorney Jason Schatz could not be reached immediately for comment Wednesday.

The charge against Holcomb was tossed out a month after the traffic stop because a sheriff’s deputy failed to sign a DUI citation correctly, but Brickey said he refiled the case and denied any leniency because Holcomb was a decorated athlete.

Holcomb had a pretrial hearing set for next week.

Schatz, however, was in justice court Monday on several other matters and told the judge afterward that Holcomb was ready to enter a plea. Brickey asked that the matter be scheduled for next week. The judge instead allowed the plea and imposed sentence.

Summit County sheriff’s Detective Ron Bridge said Holcomb registered 0.19 on a breath test — more than twice Utah’s legal intoxication limit of 0.08 — after he was stopped in 2009.

Holcomb is the pilot for the U.S. champion four-man team. The team captured a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, America’s first gold in the sport since 1948.

Schatz has indicated previously that Canada, where Holcomb often competes, won’t issue visas to people with drunken-driving convictions or pending charges.

He said at the time that he was trying to negotiate an exception from Canadian immigration officials for Holcomb.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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