Sean Taylor’s court case is heading to trial after the Washington Redskins safety and co-defendant Charles Caughman each rejected a plea bargain offer from the state attorney’s office yesterday in separate proceedings in Miami.
Although Taylor’s trial is scheduled for Sept. 12, the day after the Redskins open the season against the Chicago Bears at FedEx Field, the state could opt to consolidate the cases now that Caughman won’t be a witness for the prosecution. If that happens, the trial would be set for Oct. 3, Caughman’s date. The Redskins play host to Seattle in their third game of the year the previous day.
However, Taylor’s attorney, Edward Carhart, likely will ask the court to continue the trial until the offseason so that his client doesn’t miss any paychecks. NFL players receive all of their salaries during the 17-week regular season. A state attorney’s source said his office doesn’t generally dispute continuance requests.
After rejecting the plea bargain of three years in state prison, the mandatory minimum for his felony assault charge, Taylor faces a maximum of 16 years if convicted. Taylor, 22, also could be sentenced to up to a year in county jail if convicted of the misdemeanor charge of simple battery.
Carhart, noting that Taylor passed a lie detector test, maintains his client is not guilty. Carhart also wasn’t surprised that Caughman rejected the plea bargain.
Caughman’s attorney, Evan Hoffman, said the 19-year-old did the right thing by risking a more severe sentence — a maximum of 15 years — if convicted of his felony assault charge.
“For the sake of taking the easy way out, we’re not going to break any laws,” Hoffman said. “We’re steadfast on Charles’ innocence. Charles is a pawn that the state has been trying to use to get the top dog in this case, which is Sean. The state pursued the most severe charge possible in hopes of getting Charles to plead to a lesser charge. That didn’t happen. Now that we’ve seen the state’s cards, it will be interesting to see where its case goes from here.”
Hoffman is mystified about the failure of Miami-Dade police to test the supposed victims for gunpowder residue after shots were fired at Taylor’s car and at a friend’s house during the June 1 incident in which the safety is accused of brandishing a firearm and Caughman of wielding a baseball bat. Hoffman said the state has no evidence that either possessed a weapon during the incident, which began when Taylor claimed two of his all-terrain vehicles were stolen.
Taylor skipped the Redskins’ entire offseason program until being excused from last month’s minicamp to attend to his legal affairs. The fifth pick in the 2004 draft hasn’t spoken to the media — except briefly after two court appearances — since being arrested for driving under the influence in October. However, Carhart and running back Clinton Portis, a teammate at the University of Miami and in Washington, expect Taylor to report on time for training camp July 31. Taylor won’t face any NFL sanctions unless he is convicted.
Note — Monday’s hearing on the contract dispute between LaVar Arrington and the Redskins has been postponed at the request of the Pro Bowl linebacker and NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw. Upshaw and Arrington hope to settle the dispute with Redskins officials privately in the coming months. Arrington and the Redskins have been at odds over a $6.5 million signing bonus that he says he should have received for renegotiating his contract in December 2003.
Redskins director of football administration Eric Schaffer, who renegotiated the contract with Arrington’s agent, Carl Poston, issued a statement after the NFLPA announced the postponement.
“I heard about the postponement and I was disappointed,” Schaffer said. “While we agreed to the postponement, I think it’s very important to finalize through arbitration that the Redskins did nothing wrong to our highest-paid player. I also feel strongly that the business ethics of the agent should be questioned and looked into.”