Redskins Inside Slant

Sean Taylor's court case is heading to trial after the Redskins safety and co-defendant Charles Caughman each rejected plea bargain offers from the state attorney's office on July 12 in separate proceedings in Miami.

   Although Taylor's trial is scheduled for Sept. 12, the day after the Redskins open the season against the visiting Chicago Bears, the state could opt to consolidate the cases now that Caughman won't be a witness for the prosecution. If the cases are consolidated, then 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, will likely 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 that 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, could also 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 that his client is innocent. 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 alleged 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 man possessed a weapon during the incident which began when Taylor claimed that 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 last 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 on July 31. Taylor won't face any NFL sanctions unless he is convicted.

   CAMP CALENDAR: July 31 -- Players report to Redskin Park; Aug. 1 -- Camp opens; Aug. 6 -- Scrimmage at Baltimore, noon; Aug. 11 -- Last day camp is open to public; Aug. 30 -- Camp closes

 

NOTES, QUOTES

   --After nine NFL seasons with three teams, Walt Harris has seen enough that he didn't flinch when the Redskins took fellow cornerback Carlos Rogers with the ninth selection in April's draft.

   "I had a pretty good idea that they were going to take a cornerback because they had lost a great cornerback in Fred (Smoot, who signed with the Vikings in March)," Harris said. "I've never worried about who they bring in. I just go out and take care of my business. Except for last year when I was coming back from that injury (a career-threatening XX), I've always been a starter. This year isn't any different. I look at it like it's my job until they take it away."

   Harris turns 31 in August, but he doesn't feel old.

   "I had a chance to learn the defense last year (while playing nickel back behind Smoot and Shawn Springs) and I've had an entire offseason where I was working instead of rehabbing," Harris said. "I'm healthy and I'm ready to go."

   Which is more than Rogers can say. The rookie is about to come off crutches and out of a walking boot and into a hard-bottom shoe for two weeks. So the former Auburn star won't have been truly on his feet and able to run for more than a month as camp begins on Aug. 1. That only enhances Harris' chances of at least opening the season as the starter.

   QUOTE TO NOTE: "We feel like Walt is a legit starter and always has been. Last year the reason he was playing nickel was because we had real good corners (Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot) and also because he was coming back from injury. That is going to be a real interesting thing there while those guys (Harris and top draft pick Carlos Rogers) compete at corner." -- Redskins coach Joe Gibbs on veteran Walt Harris, who will try to fend off a challenge from Rogers to fill the vacancy caused by Smoot's departure for Minnesota as a free agent.


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