Reche Caldwell sentenced to 27 months

Published Jan. 31, 2015

TAMPA — Former NFL wide receiver Donald Reche Caldwell was sentenced Friday to 27 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a drug charge.

U.S District Judge Virginia Covington handed down the sentence in a Tampa courtroom as Caldwell's parents and two children watched from the gallery, said defense attorney Nicholas Matassini.

Caldwell, 35, of Tampa faced up to 20 years in prison, but that outcome was unlikely given Caldwell's short criminal history. He was ordered to serve three years of supervised probation after his release.

"He got what he thought was a fair and reasonable sentence," Matassini said. "He took it very well."

A former standout receiver at UF and Jefferson High in Tampa, Caldwell pleaded guilty in October to possession with intent to distribute ethylone, a street drug commonly marketed as "Molly."

On May 13, he accepted a parcel with 1.5 kilograms of ethylone mailed from China, according to a signed plea agreement. Six days later, investigators intercepted a second parcel in Atlanta, containing 1 kilogram of ethylone, and learned that Caldwell had mailed it from Tampa.

Matassini said he successfully argued that ethylone is less potent than other drugs in the same family, which reduced Caldwell's sentence by more than two years.

The arrest was part of a string of legal troubles that had entangled Caldwell. In the course of year, he was arrested twice on drug charges and was also among eight men accused of organizing an illegal gambling enterprise.

Matassini said Caldwell will plead guilty to his other pending charges, including possession of marijuana, bookmaking and running a gambling house, and will likely be sentenced to time served.

"He's accepting responsibility for all of those and is ready to move on with his life," he said.

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Information from Times wires was used in this report.