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Felony charge dropped for Falcons defender

Jonathan Babineaux

Jonathan Babineaux

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A key cog in the Atlanta Falcons defensive regime will avoid jail time thanks to a plea deal reached with Gwinnett prosecutors last week.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux pleaded no contest last Wednesday in Gwinnett Superior Court to three misdemeanor counts of marijuana possession. Prosecutors reduced a felony charge of marijuana possession in exchange for the plea, Foxsports.com reported.

Babineaux was sentenced to 12 months probation and a $1,500 fine for one count. The other two counts will remain suspended if Babineaux completes the terms of his probation without incident, the website reported.

Babineaux's attorney could not be reached for comment late Tuesday. He told the website his client, 28, wanted to put the charges behind him and focus on the upcoming season.

Falcons' training camp begins in Flowery Branch on July 30.

The NFL has yet to make a determination regarding discipline, which could include a suspension.

Gwinnett police arrested Babineaux, who lives in Braselton, and a passenger after pulling over the football player's 2005 Cadillac Escalade on Interstate 85 near Hamilton Mill Road on the night of Dec. 10 last year.

Police said they detected an odor of marijuana and called in a K-9 unit, which found 41 grams of marijuana in three bags in a back seat.

Charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute against Babineaux and his passenger, Aaron Robinson, 25, of Minneapolis, were later amended to possession charges.

Possessing more than an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana is a felony in Georgia. Prison terms range from one to 10 years.

Babineaux was also cited for driving without a valid driver's license, expired registration, non-working tag light and illegal window tint.

Robinson entered a similar guilty plea, according to court documents.

The case wasn't the first time Babineaux has drawn the attention of Gwinnett law enforcement.

Animal cruelty charges against Babineaux were dismissed in 2007 after an investigation by the Gwinnett District Attorney's Office found little evidence to support claims he'd caused fatal injuries to his girlfriend's dog, a pit bull mix.