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Ex-University of Illinois player on trial for DUI manslaughter

Many Cook County residents think a few alcoholic drinks seem harmless when they're shared with friends. It's easy to forget alcohol tolerance levels differ among people. Drivers who miscalculate how drunk they think they might be are the ones who endanger everyone on the road.

Josh Brent and Jerry Brown knew each other since they were students at the University of Illinois. Both ended up playing professional football with the Dallas Cowboys, until an accident separated the friends forever.

Brown was a linebacker with the Cowboys practice squad, while Brent played as a defensive tackle. The men were riding home together in December 2012, after the players spent the evening partying with teammates.

Josh Brent was driving a Mercedes fast just outside Dallas, when he lost control of the car. The vehicle crashed, overturned and caught fire. As authorities arrived at the scene, Brent was seen trying to pull Jerry Brown from the flames. Brown died.

Police said Brent's blood alcohol content level was more than double the legal limit. Authorities charged the tackle with killing his friend. Now, more than a year after Brown's death and half a year since his retirement from the Cowboys, Brent is in court.

Players who were with Brent and Brown the night of the fatal accident may testify. Prosecutors have promised to make sure Brent goes to prison. A manslaughter or DUI manslaughter conviction has a maximum sentence of 20 years, but probation is also a possible outcome.

Brown's mother publicly stated that she has forgiven Brent for the fatal crash. Brent remained free on bond except for a brief time in jail, after a drug test showed the former player had used marijuana.

Wealth and fame are no insulators from liability. A civil court views reckless behavior, like speeding and drunk driving, as a reason to compensate accident victims for personal injuries or surviving relatives for wrongful death.

Source: Associated Press, "Ex-NFL player on trial for fatal drunken wreck" No author given, Jan. 11, 2014

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