Sean Sutton to plead guilty to drug charges, hopes to atone for mistake by educating others

By Jeff Latzke, AP
Friday, August 13, 2010

Sutton to plead guilty to drug charges

STILLWATER, Okla. — Former Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton said he will plead guilty Friday to felony charges accusing him of illegally obtaining prescription drugs.

Before headed into a courthouse here for a hearing and a judge’s decision on his fate, Sutton said he made a mistake and hopes to atone for it by educating others about the dangers of addiction.

“I did it. I made a mistake,” Sutton said. “I’ve apologized for that and I’ll accept the consequences of whatever he decides.”

Sutton was arrested Feb. 12 after agents from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs said he picked up a shipment of painkillers under another person’s name.

Authorities said the package contained about 40 pills, which included the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam and two forms of the stimulant Adderall. An affidavit from a bureau agent said Sutton admitted obtaining the drugs from people he had met while in an inpatient rehabilitation program.

Prosecutors charged Sutton with four felonies — obtaining a controlled dangerous substance (oxycodone) by fraud, unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance (oxycodone) without a prescription, attempted possession of controlled dangerous substances (clonazepam and Adderall) and use of a communications device to facilitate a felony.

After his arrest, Sutton spent the night in the Stillwater jail before being released on a $10,000 bond. Authorities said he showed signs of withdrawal and that he told them he needed to “tough it out.”

Six days later, Sutton said Friday, he entered treatment at the Cirque Lodge rehabilitation center in Utah as “a broken man, recognizing I could lose everything I treasured in life.” He said he spent 115 days in treatment and will continue to attend meetings and contact his support group and sponsor in a continuing fight against addiction.

“It’s never as easy as just flipping a switch and it’s over with. It’s a battle every day,” he said. “You have to make a commitment to do your program every day. If you don’t and you miss enough days, eventually it’s going to get a hold of you again.”

Sutton is the son of Eddie Sutton, the former basketball coach who won more than 800 games in a career that included a stint at the Betty Ford Center to fight an alcohol addiction between his time at Kentucky and his return to Oklahoma State, his alma mater.

Sean Sutton took over the program when his father stepped down following a drunken driving crash, going 39-29 in two seasons in charge of the Cowboys.

He said he hopes one day to return to coaching, but it isn’t his top priority now. Sean Sutton said he started playing basketball in first grade and had always been a part of a team until he resigned under pressure as the Cowboys’ coach in 2008 at age 38.

“I lost kind of track of myself,” he said. “I made the statement I got consumed. I thought that’s what I was: I was a basketball coach. But really, that’s what I do. It’s not the person I am.”

He said he believes getting back into coaching would help him fight his addiction, which initially started after he had been prescribed medications to help with migraine headaches and lower back pain.

“Idle time is no good for anybody,” he said. “When you’re not doing things productively every day, you don’t feel good about yourself, and I felt lost for the first time in my life.

“Other than my kids and my wife, I didn’t have anything to really motivate me and get me to look forward to the day. As a person that’s been very driven throughout their life, I was lost.”

Cirque Lodge director Gary Fisher said Sutton spoke to schoolchildren as part of a community service program and became a leader for others going through the substance abuse treatment program.

Following Sean Sutton’s arrest, his wife Trena helped launch an awareness campaign about the illegal use of prescription drugs in Oklahoma.

“I think people have seen the struggles that my family has gone through, and I hope that we can get in position to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them through this terrible, terrible thing,” he said.

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