CLARENCE CENTER, N.Y. – With his voice cracking and hands shaking, former NHL player Matthew Barnaby apologized for his “bad decisions” after pleading guilty to four violations connected to a drunken-driving arrest that got him fired from ESPN.
“I’m going to do my best, take the proper measures to make sure this does not happen again,” Barnaby said Tuesday evening, following an hour-long appearance in the town court in Clarence in suburban Buffalo. “I take full responsibility for everything that I’ve done.”
Barnaby then took a deep breath before issuing a vow to do better.
“I promise—my kids, my family, my friends. I promise I’ll make them proud, this community proud,” he said, as his eyes welled with tears while making a brief statement to reporters outside the courthouse.
“That’s all,” he said, before walking toward his attorney’s SUV and being driven away.
The former hockey analyst pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, refusing a breath test, driving with unsafe tires and failing to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of his address change.
Judge Michael Powers sentenced Barnaby to 100 hours of community service speaking to local school children, alcohol abuse counselling and US$1,950 in fines and surcharges.
Barnaby was arrested not far from his Clarence home in the early morning of Dec. 5. That’s when Erie County sheriffs found him behind the wheel of a Porsche Cayenne that had damage to its front end and causing sparks because it was missing its front tire.
Barnaby had his license revoked after failing field sobriety tests and refusing a breath test.
Erie County Assistant District Attorney Kelley Omel said sheriffs have since found what they believe to be the missing front tire. It was discovered near an Interstate-290 exit ramp approximately 15 kilometres from where Barnaby was arrested, Omel said.
A fifth charge of leaving the scene of the accident was dropped because there was no evidence linking the 38-year-old to any other injuries or damage.
A veteran of 13 NHL seasons, Barnaby was fired by ESPN less than a day after he was arrested, ending a four-year career as a hockey analyst for the cable network.
By reaching a plea agreement, the Ottawa native avoided a potential one-year jail term for DWI, which could have jeopardized his status in the United States.
In issuing his sentence, Powers explained why he elected against imposing a jail term. The judge noted this was Barnaby’s first alcohol-related driving offence; that Barnaby took full responsibility, and Powers took into account how that could affect his U.S. residency status.
Referring to Barnaby as “a lucky man,” Powers added: “I think you have a lot to offer this community.”
This is Barnaby’s second run-in with the law this year. In July, he avoided a potential deportation hearing by reaching a deal to have five misdemeanour charges dropped in connection to a domestic dispute with his estranged wife.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita has not determined whether to reinstate the previous charges as a result of his latest arrest.
Barnaby’s attorney Frank LoTempio declined to discuss how Barnaby’s plea might affect his status.
During the hearing, LoTempio informed Powers that his client’s ex-wife was present in the courtroom.
“He has … support,” LoTempio said. “Matthew has accepted full responsibility for these charges and, frankly, is ready to move on with his life.”
Barnaby broke into the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres during the 1992-93 season. He played for seven teams before retiring in 2007 after suffering a concussion sustained during a fight. Barnaby earned a reputation as a pesky agitator during a career in which he finished with 113 goals and 300 points. He also had 2,562 penalty minutes in 834 games.
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