By South Florida Sun Sentinel
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla — After he playfully swatted his male lawyer on the butt to thank him for a job well done, a common practice in football, former NFL star Chad Johnson was slapped with a 30-day jail term by a Broward judge who did not think he was taking his court appearance seriously enough.
Johnson, 35, was seconds away from walking out of the Broward courthouse Monday after working out a plea deal for probation violation in a 2012 domestic violence case. But when Broward County Judge Kathleen McHugh complimented his lawyer, Johnson saluted the attorney as though he were a teammate after a good play – with a pat on the behind.
The gesture drew chuckles from audience members in the courtroom, but McHugh fumed.
“Mr. Johnson, I don’t know that you’re taking this whole thing seriously,” McHugh said. “I’m not going to accept these plea negotiations. This isn’t a joke.”
After a 15-minute break, Johnson apologized: “I had no intent to make this a joke. It’s not funny.”
McHugh, who was elected to her first term on the bench last summer, noted that Monday was not the first time Johnson patted his lawyer’s butt – she said he did the same thing at a prior hearing, and Johnson didn’t deny it.
Johnson told the judge: “My life is in a shambles right now, and I try my best to laugh and to keep a smile on my face.”
Defense attorney Adam Swickle urged the judge to reconsider accepting the plea negotiations, but McHugh wouldn’t budge. Johnson pleaded guilty to violating his probation without a deal, throwing himself at McHugh’s mercy.
McHugh sentenced Johnson to 30 days in the Broward County Jail and extended his probation from Sept. 21 to Dec. 21.
The judge also ordered Johnson to perform 25 hours of community service and to undergo two counseling sessions per week — conditions that were part of the original plea negotiation.
Johnson was immediately handcuffed and taken into custody.
Before becoming a judge, McHugh was in private practice for 15 years. Before that, she briefly served as a public defender.
Johnson, who was signed up as a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins last season, pleaded no contest last year to a battery charge after his wife, reality TV star Evelyn Lozada, accused him of head-butting her during an argument in their Davie home last August. The charge signaled the end of their 11-week marriage, as well as Johnson’s football career.
McHugh had withheld adjudication for Johnson, meaning his conviction would not go on his criminal record as long as he stayed out of legal trouble.But after he failed to report to his probation officer for three months, McHugh issued a warrant for Johnson’s arrest May 7.
Johnson spent several hours in jail on May 20, posting a $1,000 bond to remain free until Monday’s hearing.
A Miami native who started his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001, Johnson played professionally through the 2011 season. In 2008, he legally changed his name to Chad Ochocinco, reflecting his uniform number, 85, with the Bengals (“ocho” is Spanish for “eight,” and “cinco” for “five”).
He changed his name back to Johnson last year.
A six-time Pro-Bowl player, Johnson was traded to the New England Patriots in 2011 and signed with the Dolphins for the 2012 season. But the Dolphins dropped him as soon as the criminal charge was filed, before the NFL season began.