04/21/2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
Former NFL player Rae Carruth, 26, was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison in a North Carolina courtroom on Monday for his role in the 1999 shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams, 24. On Friday, the athlete was acquitted of first-degree murder but found guilty of conspiracy and two other charges in her death. Adams, who died one month after the incident (bullets were shot into her car), was seven months pregnant with the former Carolina Panther's baby. On Monday as his sentence was announced, Carruth stared at the judge and expressed no emotion, said the Associated Press, which also reported that Carruth's relatives embraced one another as the hearing ended. Before sentencing, defense attorney David Rudolf reportedly asked the judge to consider mitigating circumstances, saying that Carruth had no criminal record before the shooting and served as a mentor to youngsters. During his trial, prosecutors insisted that Carruth hired gunman Van Brett Watkins to kill Adams so that he could avoid child support and sever his ties to the woman. Carruth was also found guilty of shooting into an occupied vehicle and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. Had he been convicted of first-degree murder, he could have gotten the death penalty under North Carolina law.