Saul Smith pleads guilty to DWI, gets community service

The assistant men’s basketball coach will rejoin the Gophers on Nov. 13.
November 12, 2012

Saul Smith sat hunched over an iPad for nearly half an hour awaiting his sentencing in the Hennepin County district court Friday.

The assistant coach’s shoulders sagged, but he walked out of the courtroom with his head held a little higher after pleading guilty to an Oct. 20 drunken driving incident.

Smith was sentenced Friday to 40 hours of community service within 180 days, a one-day Hennepin County DWI program and a $300 fine plus a $78 surcharge. The sentence effectively ended a string of litigation caused by back-to-back drunken driving arrests in the Gophers men’s basketball program this offseason.

Smith’s attorney, F. Clayton Tyler, will send proof of community service completion to Smith’s probation officer as part of the agreement.

As a first-time offender, Smith’s punishments pale in comparison to the team’s star forward Trevor Mbakwe, who was sentenced Oct. 19 to two years probation, 500 hours of community service and three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week for his July 1 DWI.

Smith, 33, registered a .18 blood alcohol level when he was pulled over for speeding at about 2 a.m. Oct. 20 on Interstate 394. He was placed on unpaid leave by the Gophers on Oct. 21 for five days and has since been on paid leave. He will rejoin the team Tuesday.

“First, I want to apologize to the University of Minnesota, my family and friends for making a huge mistake,” Smith said outside the courtroom after the arraignment.

Smith didn’t take more than a few steps outside the courtroom before calling his mother, Donna Smith.

Gophers men’s basketball coach and Saul’s father, Tubby Smith, was “too close” to the situation, according to a team spokesman, so Tubby Smith deferred his son’s punishments to athletics director Norwood Teague last month.

Teague then called the incident “embarrassing,” but he ultimately decided to let Saul Smith stay with the team.

“I was very firm with him,” Teague said in October.

Tyler, Smith’s attorney, had prearranged a deal with Hennepin County’s prosecution to give Smith community service.

“He has taken this very seriously,” Tyler told Hennepin County Judge Daniel Mabley. “One of the reasons we talked about community service was so that he could use his talents and skills and do some community service for other people.”

Smith stood with his hands lodged in his pockets, repeatedly affirming his attorney’s statements with a simple “yes” to Mabley.

“He’s remorseful about this,” Tyler said to Mabley. “I don’t think you’ll see him back here again. It’s an embarrassing situation.”

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