Seahawk Coach Ordered To Quit Drinking For 2 Years -- Erickson Must Attend Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings, Counseling

EVERETT - Seahawk Coach Dennis Erickson, charged with driving while intoxicated, has qualified for a deferred-prosecution program in Snohomish County after being judged to have a significant drinking problem.

As a result, Erickson was ordered to abstain from alcohol and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for the next two years, and to undergo counseling.

Erickson appeared in Everett District Court this morning and requested the deferred prosecution through his attorney, Frank Willson. Erickson did not enter a plea, but by asking for deferred prosecution, agrees with the DWI charges.

To qualify for the program, Erickson first underwent a chemical-dependency evaluation. It determined that he had a significant drinking problem, said prosecutor Lori Lebon.

Under the agreement, Erickson:

-- Must abstain from alcohol for two years.

-- Cannot have any alcohol-related or major traffic offenses for two years.

-- Will be on supervised probation during that period.

-- Must attend one session of a DWI victim's panel within 60 days.

-- Must attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings twice a week for two years.

-- Must undergo counseling for six months.

"Deferred prosecution is difficult to successfully complete unless you have the proper attitude," District Court Judge Roger Fisher said to Erickson. "I hope you have that attitude."

Erickson did not speak during the hearing. But after the hearing, Seahawk spokesman Gary Wright issued a written statement by the coach.

"I made a mistake. I don't want this to happen again. And by going deferred prosecution, this will give me the opportunity to ensure it won't happen again," the statement read.

Lebon, who had to agree to the deferred prosecution, said Erickson is not "getting off easy."

If Erickson successfully completes the two-year program, the DWI charge would be dropped. But it remains on his driving record for five years. If the program is revoked, Erickson would automatically be sentenced on DWI charges.

Under state law, a conviction on a first DWI offense with a blood-alcohol reading of .15 or above requires a jail sentence of not less than two days, fines of between $500 and $5,000 and a license suspension of 120 days.

Erickson was arrested April 15 after he was spotted driving erratically on Interstate 5 in Snohomish County. The Everett native was driving his 1995 BMW at speeds sometimes 15 mph slower than the 55 mph speed limit and he forced three drivers to swerve or brake hard, according to the State Patrol.

Erickson's blood-alcohol level was .23, more than twice the state's legal limit of .10. On April 25, he pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Seahawk President David Behring has said the franchise will institute an alcohol-awareness program for all employees.

The Seahawks received national attention Dec. 1 when defensive tackle Mike Frier was paralyzed in an accident less than a mile from the team's headquarters. King County prosecutors say alcohol was involved in that accident. The driver, running back Lamar Smith, is scheduled to stand trial May 30 on vehicular assault charges.

Erickson, 48, was hired by the NFL Seattle Seahawks in January.