Leafs forward Mark Bell faces jail term in DUI case

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mark Bell is headed to jail.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mark Bell is headed to jail.

Bell, 27,pleaded no contest to drunk driving and hit-and-run charges and will serve six months in a Santa Clara, Calif., county jail at the end of the National Hockey Leagueseason. An official sentencing date has not been set.

Bell, of St. Paul, Ont.,had faced close to four years in state prison if convicted on the original charges. He entered the plea Tuesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, said prosecutor Cindy Seeley Hendrickson.

The drunk driving charge is a felony and the hit-and-run charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanour as part of the plea agreement, Bell's lawyer Ken Robinson said.

"This was a fair settlement to a difficult case," Robinson said.

The charges against Bell stem from an incident in Milpitas, Calif., on Labour Day last year when his vehicle rear-ended a pickup truck in the early morning hours, leaving the driver of the truck with head injuries.

Bell walked a short distance from the scene and was arrested after it was discovered his blood-alcohol level was higher than 0.15, nearly double the state's legal limit of 0.08.

The Leafs acquired Bell in June from the San Jose Sharks in a deal that also brought goaltender Vesa Toskala to Toronto. The six-foot-four, 220-pound forward has two years remaining in a three-year, $6.5-million US contract.

Bell scored a career-high 25 goals in 2005-06 with Chicago. The Sharks expected big things from Bell last season after getting him in a three-way deal that sent Martin Havlat to the Blackhawks and Tom Preissing to the Ottawa Senators.

Despite initially being placed on the Sharks' top line with stars Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo, Bell managed just 11 goals and 10 assists in 71 games.

Chosen eighth overall in the 1998 NHL draft by Chicago, Bell has 83 goals and 172 points in 410 career games with the Blackhawks and Sharks.

With files from Associated Press