While the public was divided over whether a judge went too far in sentencing Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson to 30 days in jail after he gave his attorney a light tap on the rear in the courtroom, the former NFL player says he is grateful to the judge.
“I think that Judge McHugh was able to get me do something many people have tried to get me to do for a long time: slow down, just at life in general,” Johnson said today on “Good Morning America.” “She was able to get me to do that, maybe not in the best circumstances for those on the outside but I see being able to sit down and think about life and where I’m going from this point was probably on one of the best things that could happen to me right now.”
The reflection by Johnson, 35, came on his first morning of freedom after Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen McHugh reduced his 30-day jail term for a probation violation down to the seven days he’d served since the June 10 in-court rear tap.
Johnson had reached a deal that day with prosecutors that called for community service and counseling instead of jail on a domestic violence case involving his wife, reality TV star Evelyn Lozada. When asked by Judge McHugh if he was satisfied with his lawyer, Adam Swickle’s, negotiation of no jail time after Johnson had failed to meet with his probation officer for three months, Johnson gave the attorney a light tap on the rear – as football players routinely do to each other on the field.
“It was a light tap. It wasn’t in any way to disrespect the courtroom and I actually didn’t think anyone would see that because it was my third time doing so,” Johnson said on “GMA”. “That’s the way I’ve always interacted throughout life, just in general.”
While the courtroom erupted in laughter and the story of Johnson’s in-court tap later made headlines and elicited many jokes, Johnson, accused last year of head-butting Lozada, who divorced him shortly after, says he understood the gravity of why he was in court.
“I think with me being Chad it kind of made the judge feel that I wasn’t being serious about the situation but, trust me, I understood exactly what I did,” said Johnson, a six-time Pro Bowler. “I lost two of the things in life that I love the most at the time. Football and my now beautiful, I did say beautiful, ex-wife.”
“You have to understand, I haven’t had any chances because I’ve never been in any trouble before. I’ve done nothing wrong ever. This is my first time being in trouble with the legal system,” Johnson said. “My trouble in the past has been having fun entertaining fans when it came to playing the game of football so this is all new to me.”
The man on the other end of the tap, Swickle, says he was surprised not by the tap, but by McHugh’s reaction.
“Chad and I, we’re very close and it’s just the way that he communicated and thanked me,” Swickle said on “GMA.” “I was rather surprised that the court took it to the extent that she took it but, you know, everybody’s got a method of running the courtroom and the judge felt that this was an appropriate resolution.”
Johnson, who most recently played in the NFL as a Miami Dolphins receiver, pleaded no-contest to the charge of misdemeanor domestic battery. The Dolphins cut him from the team after his arrest but Johnson says he hopes to make a comeback on the football field.
“I don’t want the last thing to be remembered you know, well, Chad was cut from the Dolphins for an incident he had with his wife,” Johnson said. “I would love to grace the football field one more time and to help some team. I’m not injured. There’s nothing wrong with me.”
“I’ve learned my lesson, especially over those past seven days,” he said. “I think everyone deserves a second chance. Many would say I might not deserve it. I would like to finish my career off the right way.”
ABC News’ Suzan Clarke contributed to this report.