Former Chiefs running back pleads guilty to domestic violence

Troubled former Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson on Tuesday pleaded no contest to domestic violence charges stemming from an October allegation he beat and strangled his ex-girlfriend.

Johnson, 33, appeared in Las Vegas Justice Court in a charcoal pinstripe suit with lawyer Greg Knapp and a bodyguard and was adjudicated guilty of one count each of battery-domestic violence and assault, both misdemeanors.

As part of a deal with prosecutors, a felony charge was dropped.

Johnson, who played for Pennsylvania State University, was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay a $345 fine, perform 48 hours of community service, stay out of trouble and have no contact with the victim or her family.

The judge ordered Johnson to undergo six months of mandatory counseling in Florida, where he lives and runs a business.

Afterward, Johnson said, “I’m just happy to have this behind me and go back to Florida and stay out of trouble for once.”

Johnson said he wants to focus on raising his 3-year-old daughter and “try and keep my nose clean.”

“It was a good resolution to this case. This was far from a felony,” Knapp said.

Johnson was arrested on felony charges on Oct. 5 in a Bellagio hotel room after his ex-girlfriend accused him of beating and strangling her, Las Vegas police said.

Melissa Emerson told police she and her girlfriends were having drinks with Johnson when she accompanied him to his room to talk.

Johnson then “became enraged and began to beat her and throw her around the room,” the report said.

Emerson told police she fought back and remembered Johnson’s hands squeezing her neck causing her to black out, according to the report.

She woke up in the hallway wearing only underwear. She knocked on several nearby doors before someone answered and let her call security.

Bellagio security guards detained Johnson until police arrived.

Police noted Emerson had multiple injuries to her face and bruising on her neck. Johnson, who had small scratches on his face, told officers that he never laid “a finger on her,” the report said.

Johnson has been arrested several times since 2003 on charges involving assaults on women.

He was an All-American running back at Pennsylvania State University, where his father, Larry Johnson Sr., was a coach. He ran for more than 2,000 yards his senior year.

Johnson was a first-round NFL draft pick in 2003 and played professional football for 10 years, seven with the Chiefs.

He was one of the top running backs in the league in 2005 and 2006 and was selected to the Pro Bowl both years.

Johnson was criticized for being angry and sullen. He was benched for three games by coach Herman Edwards for violating team rules in 2008 and suspended another game by the league.

The next year, Johnson ran afoul of Chiefs’ management for criticizing his new coach, Todd Haley, and insulting fans, including using a gay slur, on Twitter. He was suspended and then released by the team.

Over the next three seasons, he played 10 games with the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins.

In his career, he ran for 6,223 yards on 1,427 carries, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and caught 154 passes for 1,373 yards. He scored 61 touchdowns.

In July 2010, Johnson got in trouble for not completing 40 hours of court-ordered community service, according to the Kansas City Star.

At the time he was on probation stemming from two convictions of disturbing the peace for incidents at Kansas City nightclubs in 2008. A judge gave him another opportunity to complete the community service.

In the first incident, a 26-year-old woman said Johnson shoved her on the side of her head while she was walking through a club, the Star reported.

The second incident involved a 24-year-old woman who said Johnson spit a drink in her face at another club.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at or 702-380-1039.

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