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Patriots player takes plea deal in drug case




Far from the glitz of the National Football League or the underbelly of the drug trade in which he became an undercover informant, justice for New England Patriots offensive lineman Nicholas Kaczur was meted out yesterday in a cramped wood-paneled office that serves as a court in this small upstate New York town.

Kaczur paid $355 after pleading guilty to speeding, and court officials said his misdemeanor drug charge of possessing 202 OxyContin pills would be dismissed if he stays out of trouble for six months. The 315-pound football player, who was 20 minutes late for the hearing, also agreed to participate in a two-year drug treatment program administered by the Patriots.

"Nick's not going to talk to anybody today," defense lawyer Louis J. Viviani of Syracuse said after the informal 15-minute hearing. "The system ran its course. We are very pleased with this disposition. We don't think it's anything out of the ordinary. Nick's ready to move on and happy to get it over with and start [training] camp" today.

The guilty plea was entered in 201-year-old Whitestown Town Hall, where Town Justice Stanley C. Wolanin, an 80-year-old undertaker by trade, presided over the case in shirtsleeves and a tie. Wolanin listened to the charges from behind a Formica-topped desk as the hulking, goateed Kaczur, clad in a chocolate-brown suit and cowboy boots, buried his hands in his pockets and occasionally looked at the floor.

Kaczur had been caught speeding on the outskirts of Utica on April 27, driving 76 miles per hour in a 65-mile-per-hour zone on the New York State Thruway. In addition to illegally tinted windows and a loud exhaust, police found 202 OxyContin pills in Kaczur's car. After his arrest, Kaczur became an undercover informant, helping the Drug Enforcement Administration indict a man accused of supplying the gridiron star with OxyContin.

In a husky voice, Kaczur uttered "guilty" to the speeding charge. His fine included a $55 surcharge. His lawyer paid the fine and surcharge in cash, and the judge pulled out bills to make change. The money was accepted by the court clerk, the judge's daughter-in-law, Janet Wolanin.

Assistant Oneida District Attorney Grant J. Garramone, who leads narcotics prosecutions, outlined the plea agreement in court and later told reporters that Kaczur's cooperation with federal authorities and position as a professional football player were irrelevant.

"I'm giving him this disposition based on my review of the case," Garramone said. "The substance he possessed was for his own use. He had no criminal record. His status as a football player does not enter into this equation at all."

Garramone said that hundreds of other first-time drug offenders have gotten similar treatment in New York state courts and that the drug charge can be revived if Kaczur gets in trouble in the next six months. He said the maximum penalty for the charge is up to a year in jail.
Kaczur declined to comment, leaving the court with his wife, who had promised the judge she would drive after the football player was warned not to speed on the thruway. The judge, who says he has presided over more than 200,000 cases in nearly 50 years, remarked on Kaczur's physique to a couple of reporters in the room after the hearing.

"He's a big boy," Wolanin said. "What position does he play?"

After his arrest, Kaczur, 28, wore a hidden recording device during three drug transactions in May at gas stations in Foxborough and North Attleborough and a supermarket parking lot in Sharon, according to federal court documents. At each of the three transactions, Kaczur paid $3,900 in cash to buy 100 OxyContin pills, a potent prescription pain reliever.

Federal agents arrested the alleged dealer, Daniel Ekasala, moments after the third transaction, said Ekasala's lawyer, Bernard M. Grossberg of Boston. Ekasala was indicted by a federal grand jury in June on three counts of possession of oxycodone, the main ingredient in OxyContin.

The Patriots have said that Kaczur will remain on the team and that any disciplinary action would be handled internally. Stacey James, a spokesman for the Patriots, declined to comment on the criminal case and said it is the league's policy not to discuss treatment programs for players.

Grossberg also was unavailable for comment. He has challenged Kaczur's credibility and said the football player has gotten soft treatment by authorities compared with his client.

Although Kaczur told police after his arrest that he bought the pills in Boston from a drug dealer named Danny, they were imprinted with letters indicating they were Canadian-made, according to New York State Police arrest reports.

Kaczur was returning from his hometown of Brantford, Ontario, when he was arrested.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in the City & Region section of yesterday's Globe reported that a prosecutor in upstate New York said a plea deal with New England Patriots offensive lineman Nicholas Kaczur had nothing to do with the player's cooperation with federal authorities in a drug-dealing sting. The prosecutor, Grant J. Garramone, said that he knew nothing about the federal drug case and that it had no bearing on an agreement to dismiss a state charge of OxyContin possession against Kaczur in six months.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in the City & Region section of yesterday's Globe reported that a prosecutor in upstate New York said a plea deal with New England Patriots offensive lineman Nicholas Kaczur had nothing to do with the player's cooperation with federal authorities in a drug-dealing sting. The prosecutor, Grant J. Garramone, said that he knew nothing about the federal drug case and that it had no bearing on an agreement to dismiss a state charge of OxyContin possession against Kaczur in six months.




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