Preliminary hearings for Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, as well as the 22-year-old Elk Grove, Calif., woman who was with them when police in Ross found marijuana in their car Wednesday afternoon, are set for Oct. 15.
According to a criminal complaint filed Thursday, a police officer on a motorcycle stopped the Chevrolet Camaro Mr. Bell was driving after the officer pulled up alongside the car at a stop light at McKnight and Braunlich roads and noticed a “strong odor of marijuana” coming from the partially open driver’s side window.
“Bell’s eyes were red and glassy, and his pupils were dilated,” Officer Sean Stafiej wrote in the complaint. “I asked him if he or any of his passengers smoked marijuana today, and he replied, ‘It was about a minute ago.’ ”
Mr. Bell, 22, told the police there was marijuana in the glove box, but a police dog alerted to the center console, where officers found a plastic baggie that he; Mr. Blount, 27; and Mercedes Dolson, who was riding in the backseat, told police they had just all “pitched in to buy.”
“I didn’t know that you could get a DUI for being high. I smoked two hours ago,” Mr. Bell said, according to the complaint. “I am not high anymore. I am perfectly fine. Why would I be getting high if I had to get on a plane to make it to my game?”
Officer Stafiej asked Mr. Bell where he was headed.
“I have to be on my plane at three to be in Philadelphia,” he said. “I play for the Steelers.”
The three were cited for misdemeanor possession of 30 or fewer grams of marijuana. Mr. Bell is also charged with DUI after a blood test at UPMC Passavant.
Mr. Bell and Mr. Blount played in Thursday night’s pre-season loss to the Eagles. They declined to discuss the arrest.
Mr. Bell apologized for being a “distraction” to the team.
They had at least one supporter Thursday afternoon.
State. Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, a proponent of marijuana legalization who said last month that pot prohibition is “insanity” and is on its way to the “ash-heap of history” came to their defense in a KDKA interview.
“If these guys were out for a beer, no one would care, but they are out for a more benign … evening with a more benign, less dangerous drug. I think we need a more rational drug policy like they have in Colorado, Washington and soon in many more states,” Mr. Leach said, though he deplored the DUI aspect of the incident.
“You can’t drive. It’s dangerous. You can’t drive intoxicated on alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, anything like that.”
Both players will be subject to the NFL discipline policy for substance abuse if they are convicted of or admit to a violation of law, which calls for suspension of as many as four games for a first violation.
The Steelers organizatioin has said it will allow the NFL to handle any disciplinary action. In similar cases, Commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended players one game during the season after they are charged.
“Obviously that conduct is detrimental to our efforts. They’ll be dealt with appropriately,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Thursday night, but he refused to blame the arrest, which happened between the end of mid-day practice Wednesday and the team’s flight to Philadelphia later that day, for contributing to the team’s lackluster 31-21 showing.
“We’re not going to make an excuse for that performance. We’re going to own that. What happened [Wednesday] or whatever had nothing to do with how we performed [Thursday night].”
Staff Writer Ed Bouchette contributed. Robert Zullo: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @rczullo. First Published August 22, 2014 12:06 PM