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FOX19: Jerome Simpson Has Three Choices

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking marijuana on Monday in a Kenton County court room. The charges stem from an investigation dating back to the third week of the season when a package of 2.5 pounds of marijuana was tracked from California to Simpson's Northern Kentucky home. It was originally reported that there were six more pounds of marijuana found at his home but that has been proven untrue.

Simpson was charged with a Class D felony which is punishable by one to five years in prison. FOX19 News interviewed Kenton County Prosecutor Rob Sanders who told them that Simpson has three options and one of those options could help him avoid time behind bars.

One option would have been for Simpson to plea guilty, in which case Judge Gregory Bartlett may not sentence him to any time behind bars but instead to a probation or diversion program. Another option would be to take the case to a bench trial, in which case Judge Bartlett would decide whether or not Simpson is guilty and do the sentencing. The last option is for Simpson to argue his case in front of a jury. However, if the jury sentences Simpson to prison time, probation would not be an option.

According to Bartlett, most people get probation instead of time behind bars if the plead guilty."Not speaking to Mr. Simpson's case in particular, but I will say in general it is much more common that if someone is going to get probation it is after a guilty plea rather than a trial," Sanders said.

"Jury trials in felony cases can take 2, 3, 4 days sometimes," said Mike Allen, FOX19 legal analyst.

"Judges like to avoid that if possible. And if the defense lawyer knows that if he goes to jury trial and loses, it will be a stiffer penalty, it encourages plea bargains, let's put it that way. I'm not saying it's the right way it should be or the way it should be in a perfect world but in the real world that's what happens, that's the way it works."

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals receiver pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is due in court again on Feb. 20. Simpson is set to be a free agent on March 13.