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    Ex-Bucs star gets 90 days in jail

    Hugh Green is sentenced for failure to pay child support. He will serve his time in a Mississippi jail.

    By LARRY DOUGHERTY

    © St. Petersburg Times, published August 31, 2000


    TAMPA -- He was once paid more than a million dollars a year to play football. Now he stood in a federal court on Wednesday, trying to persuade a judge not to throw him in jail for failing to pay nearly $300,000 in child support since 1989.

    Hugh Green -- winner of the Lombardi Award as the best college lineman in the country, runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, a star for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1980s -- gripped the lectern and tried to explain how he had let down the two children he had with a St. Petersburg woman.

    "I was pampered," Green said. "I didn't learn life like a normal teenager."

    Yes, he understood he could be jailed for 12 months for the missing $2,700-a-month child support, but, he said, "if the purpose is for me to learn a lesson, I'll have learned it long before then."

    U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth A. Jenkins wasn't swayed.

    "I find your conduct to be too little, too late," Jenkins said. "We don't have any special rules for Hugh Green."

    With that, she sentenced Green, 41, to 90 days in jail. When he gets out, he will have to start making efforts to pay the child support.

    His years in the NFL brought Green a yacht, sports cars and an 800-acre ranch in Mississippi.

    But after his retirement from football in 1991, he filed for bankruptcy. Land sales have whittled the ranch down to 65 acres, and Green says he has little income today.

    Two years ago, before another magistrate, he described himself as an unemployed stay-at-home dad.

    "He's trying," said his federal public defender, Anthony Martinez. "The only thing he knows is football."

    The children for whom Green owes support are a 15-year-old girl, Danielle Matrece Green, and a 13-year-old boy, Hugh Green Jr.

    Their mother, Theresa M. Webb, attended Wednesday's hearing, but declined to comment afterward.

    Green's case was in federal court because of an act of Congress targeting deadbeat parents who don't live in the same state as their children.

    Federal prosecutor Rachelle DesVaux Bedke asked the magistrate to sentence Green to the maximum 12 months.

    "Mr. Green has had ample opportunity, your honor," Bedke said. "He is thumbing his nose at the court and the system."

    But Martinez, Green's public defender, countered that "jail is not going to solve the problem."

    "This is a rude awakening for him," Martinez said. The lawyer proposed home detention for Green.

    Green wasn't taken into custody Wednesday.

    The judge allowed Green to surrender himself at a jail in Mississippi, where Green now lives with his wife and their two young children.

    Green pleaded guilty in Tampa last year to failing to pay child support in 1994, a year in which he earned about $145,000.

    Half of that was back pay from the NFL.

    His only contribution was $3,000 he paid to the children's mother at Christmas.

    As a result of his pleas last year, Green was sentenced to five years of probation.

    The prosecutor said Wednesday that Green had violated almost every condition of his probation, by failing to pay support, failing to keep his probation officer apprised of his travels and failing to make enough effort to find work.

    When Green was first arrested in Mississippi two years ago on the federal charges out of Tampa, Green told a federal magistrate, "I can swear that I will do everything to get this straightened out."

    On Wednesday, Green's optimism was undimmed.

    "I have great intentions for my children," he told Magistrate Jenkins.

    - Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Larry Dougherty can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or dougherty@sptimes.com

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