GREAT FALLS – Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he broke into a house and possessed prescription painkillers as part of a plea agreement that recommends he spend nine months in inpatient drug treatment.
Leaf pleaded guilty to one count each of felony burglary and drug possession during a hearing in Cascade County District Court.
The plea agreement also calls for a five-year suspended sentence.
“There is no question he needs treatment,” said District Judge Kenneth Neill, who is not bound by the agreement.
The judge denied Leaf’s request for a bail reduction, saying he was out on bond when he was arrested a second time.
Leaf was arrested twice in his hometown this spring after a monthlong investigation that began with a tip that the former San Diego Chargers quarterback and Washington State standout was receiving suspicious packages at the post office.
Police arrested Leaf on March 30 after an acquaintance said Leaf had entered his house without permission and stole oxycodone pills.
Leaf posted bail that afternoon, but was arrested two days later after a couple identified him as the stranger they found inside their home before they discovered three different prescription medications missing.
Leaf had been charged with two counts of burglary and two counts of criminal possession of a dangerous drug.
Leaf was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1998 draft, but his short-lived career earned him the reputation as one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
Leaf also is facing prison time in Texas after a prosecutor there filed to revoke the former quarterback’s probation from a 2010 plea deal on similar accusations. Leaf was charged with stealing prescription pain medicine from a player’s home while he was a coach at West Texas A&M. An investigation also found he obtained nearly 1,000 pain pills from area pharmacies in an eight-month span.
Prosecutors say Great Falls postal workers tipped the Central Montana Drug Task Force that Leaf was receiving frequent packages and paying more than $500 cash on delivery for each.
Task force officers and Leaf’s parole officer confronted Leaf on March 30 and searched Leaf and his truck, finding two pill containers in a golf bag. One contained 28 oxycodone pills, while the other was empty with a prescription label in the name of an acquaintance of Leaf’s.
Police interviewed the acquaintance and the acquaintance’s housekeeper, who said that Leaf had entered the man’s home the day before without permission.
Leaf was arrested and then freed on $76,000 bail.
On April 1, two Cascade County residents told authorities they had returned home to discover a man inside their home, according to the charging documents. The man said he had the wrong home and left, and the couple only later noticed a drill and three different prescription medications missing.
The couple identified Leaf in a photo lineup and police went to Leaf’s home to arrest him. They found another 89 hydrocodone pills when searching his home, the charging documents say.
Great Falls Police Sgt. Chris Hickman said Tuesday that the task force and federal drug authorities are still investigating the Florida source of the packages that Leaf received through the mail. The task force also is reviewing data downloaded from the GPS device in Leaf’s truck to determine if Leaf drove to other sites where there were burglaries.
Leaf could face more charges in the future if any incriminating evidence is discovered, Hickman said.
After his arrest in Texas, Leaf returned home to Montana and appeared to be turning his life around. He gave occasional motivational speeches and last wrote a book titled “596 Switch” about the 1997 season when he led Washington State to its first Rose Bowl in six decades.
Last year, Leaf had surgery to remove a benign tumor from his brain stem and later underwent additional radiation treatments.
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