Monday, June 6, 2005

Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor could face a mandatory minimum sentence of at least three years if he is convicted on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a firearm after Miami police said he pointed a gun at two people and physically assaulted one Wednesday.

Taylor was arrested late Saturday night after he turned himself in to the Miami-Dade County Police Department. He was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, a third-degree felony, and simple assault, a first-degree misdemeanor.

The Associated Press reported Taylor was released yesterday on a $16,500 bond, though a police official wouldn’t confirm that when reached later in the day. Taylor reportedly will be arraigned at a later date.

The mandatory minimum sentence is part of a 1999 makeover of Florida’s gun laws, called “10-20-Life,” by Gov. Jeb Bush. To get tough on gun crime, Florida instituted mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years if a person possesses a gun while committing certain crimes, 20 years if the gun is fired and 25 years to life if someone is shot.

According to the Florida state code chapter 775.087, aggravated assault is one of 18 crimes to which the mandatory minimum sentences apply but also one of three in which the sentence is just three years at the “10” level. However, the loophole closes at the “20” level, when a gun is fired.

That could be a crucial distinction in Taylor’s case. Police said Friday that they were seeking Taylor in connection with a “shooting” in southern Dade County. They said shots were fired during a dispute in a residential area but that no one was hurt.

However, a press release yesterday from the police department made no mention of whether Taylor fired any shots or whether any shots even were fired. It specifically said Taylor pointed a firearm at two victims and that no shots were fired at that time.

There was a second phase of the incident, and it is possible shots were fired at that time without being noted in the press release. An official at the police department declined to answer questions about the press release.

If Taylor indeed fired the gun during the incident, he would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years — 17 more than if he did not fire the gun.

A message wasn’t immediately returned from the state attorney’s office to confirm the application of the “10-20-Life” law. The applicability of the law was first reported by, a Web log that focuses on NFL news.

The second charge, simple battery, carries a sentence not exceeding one year.

According to the press release, the incident began Wednesday evening when Taylor drove his blue 2005 Yukon Denali to an area in southern Dade County. He was accompanied by Charles Elwood Caughman of Baltimore and several other unidentified individuals. Some members of the group were in a second vehicle.

Taylor accused the two victims of stealing a pair of all-terrain vehicles, according to the press release. He pointed a gun at them and demanded his property be returned. No shots were fired. Taylor’s group left the scene and returned about 10 minutes later. Taylor got out of the car and “physically assaulted one victim with his fists,” the press release said. Caughman wielded a baseball bat as he chased the second victim. The second victim was not struck. Taylor’s group then fled the scene again.

The press release noted that police hadn’t determined whether the victims were involved in any theft and that Caughman was arrested and charged with aggravated assault Wednesday night.

The Redskins commented briefly Saturday night to say that they were aware of Taylor’s situation and were monitoring it through Taylor’s representatives. Agent Drew Rosenhaus declined comment last night. Coral Gables attorney Fred Moldovan, who reportedly accompanied Taylor to the police station, did not return a call seeking comment.

Taylor has made repeated missteps off the field since Washington drafted him fifth overall in 2004. Last October he was arrested for DUI on the Capital Beltway, though he eventually was acquitted on both charges related to the incident. He also showed up late for the NFL’s rookie symposium and was accused of spitting on an opponent, among other dubious moves.

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