- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Miami police confirmed yesterday that Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor fired no shots in Wednesday night’s incident in southern Dade County, a crucial fact given Florida’s stiff mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes.

Meanwhile, two sources familiar with the investigation said there is a second phase of the case in which Taylor is the apparent victim. In the first phase, according to police, Taylor pointed a gun at two victims and physically assaulted one. Subsequently, sources said, there was a retaliation in which shots were fired at Taylor.

Detective Mary Walters of the Miami-Dade County Police Department, who confirmed Taylor did not fire his gun, declined comment on the second phase of the case. It was unclear when police might release information in connection to the shooting.

The two pieces of information uncovered yesterday helped clear up some of the uncertainties that lingered in the wake of Taylor’s arrest Saturday night on two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, a third-degree felony, and one count of simple battery, a first-degree misdemeanor.

Police on Friday said they were searching for Taylor in connection with a “shooting,” but a press release obtained Sunday said no shots were fired. The existence of a second phase of the case could explain the discrepancy.

After posting bond Saturday night, Taylor was released. He is scheduled to be arraigned June 24, five days after the Redskins conclude minicamp, the final element of their offseason workout program.

Coach Joe Gibbs said Taylor has been excused for the remainder of the workout program. The move was somewhat superficial, considering Taylor hadn’t shown up for the program or even talked to Gibbs this offseason, but the team seemingly wanted to make clear that Taylor has no Redskins commitments for the foreseeable future.

“As of today, Sean is excused from the participating in the remainder of the club’s voluntary offseason workout program and the upcoming mandatory minicamp beginning on June 17,” Gibbs said in a statement. “As an organization, the Redskins believe that it is in Sean’s best interest to focus on his personal and legal issues at this time.”

Gibbs directed any further inquiries to the NFL, which has a personal-conduct policy to discipline players for crimes.

The fact Taylor didn’t fire any shots could be crucial because of Florida’s “10-20-Life” law. By not discharging the weapon, Taylor could face a mandatory minimum sentence of just three years rather than 20.

The “10-20-Life” law was instituted in 1999 as part of Gov. Jeb Bush’s effort to get tough on crime. The law set minimum sentences of 10 years if a gun is present when certain crimes are committed, 20 years if the gun is fired and 25 years to life if someone is shot.

Taylor is subject to the “10” level, but aggravated assault is one of three crimes that qualifies for just a three-year minimum sentence. The loophole closes at the “20” level, meaning he could have faced 17 more years in jail if he had fired the gun, even if the shots went nowhere near the victims.

Mandatory minimum laws are fairly common across the country and often controversial. “10-20-Life,” for example, appears to have deterred crime, but state attorney Barry Krischer said the 10-year penalty can be “Draconian,” according to the Palm Beach Post.

The state attorney’s office was not able to confirm whether “10-20-Life” would be applied in Taylor’s case. A spokesman said that would be left up to the prosecuting attorney.

The incident occurred Wednesday evening in southern Dade County when Taylor, Charles Elwood Caughman and several other individuals drove up to the two victims and accused them of stealing a pair of all-terrain vehicles. Taylor pointed the gun at the victims. The group drove off and returned about 10 minutes later, at which point Taylor punched one of the victims, and Caughman, wielding a baseball bat, chased the other.

Caughman was arrested later that night. Taylor was at large until Saturday night, when he turned himself in, accompanied by Coral Gables attorney Fred Moldovan.

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