Aldon Smith began resolving his sizable stack of legal issues Wednesday when he pleaded no contest to three felony weapons charges and a misdemeanor DUI charge in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
The 49ers’ linebacker must appear July 25, when he will be sentenced. The rest of the 49ers will report for training camp earlier that week.
The case against Smith, 24, had two parts: DUI charges involving a September incident in which he drove his pickup truck into the front yard of a San Jose residence, and weapons charges relating to three semi-automatic rifles found in his bedroom following an out-of-control party in 2012. Smith allegedly purchased some of the guns legally during a 49ers trip to Arizona but did not register or modify them when he brought them into California.
Smith’s sentence will range from probation to four years and four months in prison, the maximum sentence for the weapons charges.
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“We are aware that Aldon entered a plea today in a case that we have closely monitored,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “Today was an important step towards bringing that situation to a resolution. Any further questions concerning today’s hearing should be directed to his attorney.”
Still unresolved is an April incident at Los Angeles International Airport in which Smith allegedly said he had a bomb as he went through security. Witnesses said Smith was acting strange at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter before security, and police suspected he had been drinking. The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office is considering the case but has not filed charges.
Smith, who has 42 sacks in 43 games with the 49ers, could be suspended by the NFL. That suspension, however, may not be decided until after the LAX case is resolved. In October, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the six weeks Smith spent in an alcohol rehabilitation facility following the recent DUI arrest would factor into any punishment by the league.
The 49ers recently vowed to stick with Smith, the No. 7 pick in the 2011 draft. “We’re a family,” Baalke said in April. “You just don’t open the door and toss people out of it. You continue to work until they leave you no choice.”
The team backed up Baalke’s words by picking up an option in Smith’s contract that will pay him $9.75 million next season if he is on the roster in March.
Smith missed five games last season while attending the alcohol rehabilitation facility that was recommended by the National Football League Players Association. The 49ers won all five contests – albeit mostly against teams with losing records – with Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier filling in at right outside linebacker. Both players are back this year. The 49ers also added draft pick Aaron Lynch at the position.
Smith has had a number of run-ins with the law and near misses since January 2012, when he was arrested for DUI in Miami Beach and registered blood-alcohol levels of .194 and .176. Those charges were reduced to reckless driving.
Later that year, Smith was stabbed at the same house party at which the rifles were found. In 2013, he said he was the passenger in a car that flipped on a windy road near his home in unincorporated Santa Clara County, and he suffered a cut above his eye. Another man in the vehicle suffered more serious injuries and had to be taken to an area trauma center.