Sean Taylor faces up to 46 years in prison when his trial on aggravated assault and simple battery charges begins on April 17 in Miami. Taylor's last hope of avoiding trial disappeared on April 4, when Circuit Judge Mary Barzee denied a 17-page defense motion to dismiss the felony and misdemeanor charges against the Washington Redskins safety. Taylor's trial was set to start Monday when someone realized that Passover begins Wednesday, followed by Good Friday two days later. So the trial was pushed back a week.
Attorney Richard Sharpstein had argued that the case should have been dismissed since the state had not informed the defense that most of the alleged victims and witnesses had been arrested in unrelated cases since the incident involving Taylor occurred last June. However, Barzee, who'll preside over the trial, denied the 17-page motion to dismiss.
"The allegations of prosecutorial misconduct were baseless," said assistant state's attorney Michael Grieco, the lead prosecutor in the case. "I didn't find out about the arrests until 11 p.m. last night. If the defense wants to come at me, I welcome it. This case has been on the up and up from day one. I don't have any bias against Mr. Taylor. I've been ready to listen to any probationary offer from the defense up until today."
Edward Carhart, who had been Taylor's sole attorney in the case until last month, said his client will not accept probation since it would mean admitting guilt.
"The motion to dismiss was disappointing, but we're prepared for trial," Carhart said. "If Sean accepted probation, he would have to plead to a felony, but he denies any guilt. Sean had some of his property stolen and when he heard on the street where it was, he went to see if that was true."
The state alleges that Taylor, in attempting to reclaim his all-terrain vehicles, pointed a gun at three people and had them in fear for their lives. Each of those charges of aggravated assault with a firearm carries a minimum of three years in prison and a maximum of 15 years. Taylor also faces a misdemeanor charge of simple battery, for which he could serve up to a year if convicted.
Grieco admitted that the credibility of his six witnesses has been damaged by the news that four or five of them have been arrested in the past eight to nine months, with one in jail and one having violated probation.
The trial, which will begin with jury selection, is expected to last two to four days. Taylor's alleged accomplice, Charles Caughman, faces his own trial on June 12 in Miami.
Taylor, 23, has been embroiled in controversy on and off the field since he was taken fifth overall by the Redskins in the 2004 draft out of the University of Miami. But Taylor has played so well that he was voted a Pro Bowl alternate in both of his seasons, during which he helped Washington finish in the top 10 in defense.
"You're always nervous about (losing Taylor)," Gibbs said. "It would be real struggle for us (without him). I know what Sean says happened and what his group says happened. I think he is concerned about it and I think he felt like there is not much he can do about it now. He's kind of put it in other people's hands. You look a guy that big and that mature-looking and (you forget that) he's really young. He was real cooperative, much more open and friendly last year, and I think he had a heck of a year. I think he genuinely thought about (skipping the 2005 off-season workout program) and won't make some of those mistakes."
Quotes and Notes
--The signing of cornerback Kenny Wright on April 3 filled one of the Redskins' two last remaining big needs.
Wright, 28, played his first three seasons with Minnesota -- starting 26 games -- and the next two with Houston -- starting just five games -- before spending 2005 with Jacksonville. Wright wasn't even on the Jaguars' training camp roster, but he beat out veteran Terry Cousin and youngsters David Richardson, Scott Starks and Chris Roberson to start every game for the AFC wild-card qualifiers. Wright is believed to have signed a 1-year deal.
While veteran Shawn Springs and 2005 first-round draft choice Carlos Rogers are set as Washington's starting corners, Wright has the inside track to inherit the third spot from aging Walt Harris, who was cut last month. Special-teamer Ade Jimoh and the unproven Christian Morton and Dimitri Patterson are the only other Redskins corners with NFL experience.
The 6-1, 207-pound Wright is better known for his toughness and smarts than his man-to-man coverage skills, but he was athletic enough to rank eighth in the nation in the long jump as a senior at Ruston (La.) High, also the alma mater of former Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey.
--On the same day Wright joined the Redskins, last year's top backup defensive lineman, Demetric Evans, decided to stay put.
Evans, 27, has been a surprise during his two seasons under defensive line coach Greg Blache and assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams. Signed out of NFL Europe in 2004 after sitting out the previous year following his release by Dallas, the 6-3, 285-pound Evans started seven games in place of injured right end Phillip Daniels and recorded 31 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks for the NFL's No. 3 defense. Last year, Evans started three games in place of injured left tackle Cornelius Griffin with 32 tackles and three sacks. He added another sack in the playoff victory at Tampa Bay and started the next week at Seattle in place of injured left end Renaldo Wynn.
Evans visited San Francisco, New Orleans and Houston but opted to return to Washington for a three-year deal despite the Redskins' acquisition of end Andre Carter, which will likely cut into his playing time.
"I'm glad I had the chance to look around, but I like the direction this team is heading and I'm comfortable here," Evans said. "I know the system. I know the coaches. I know my teammates. Hopefully with the way we'll rotate guys, there'll be enough time for everybody."
--Center Casey Rabach is sidelined from the off-season conditioning program for three weeks after suffering a deep laceration when he fell off an all-terrain vehicle while clearing brush at his home.
--Weakside linebacker Chris Clemons (April 6) and DB Ade Jimoh (Mar. 31) signed their $722,000 tenders, completing Washington's restricted free agents deals. Clemons is the leading candidate to fill the only hole in the starting lineup, the one vacated by LaVar Arrington, a Pro Bowl player from 2001-03 who never meshed with assistant head coach Gregg Williams or linebackers coach Dale Lindsey.
"Somebody's going to get a real opportunity to play for us," coach Joe Gibbs said. "There still may be a solid guy there (in free agency now or after the June 1 cuts) that we feel like might come up, but that's something everybody is concerned about."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There are no five-year plans. You go from year to year. (But) I certainly think this is where I am supposed to be. I signed up for a five-year deal and I plan on living up to it unless there is some kind of tragedy in my family." -- Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who didn't rule out remaining beyond the January 2009 expiration of his contract.
Player Personnel Notes
After their spending splurge, the Redskins are pretty much done shopping, though they need to find a starting linebacker (WLB or MLB). Washington has just one draft pick (second round) before the fifth round.
1. Linebacker: The Redskins have yet to come close to filling the hole left by the Mar. 6 release of three-time Pro Bowl WLB LaVar Arrington. Chris Clemons has only been used as a situational pass rusher and is coming off knee surgery in December. Fellow backup Warrick Holdman is unsigned and didn't produce as a starter in the first half of 2005. Washington could move MLB Lemar Marshall, a starter here in 2004, back to this spot depending on whether it signs or drafts an inside LB or an outside LB.
2. Kicker: The Redskins could use some serious competition for formerly reliable kicker John Hall, who has missed 14 games the past two seasons with a series of pulled leg muscles. Hall turned 32 in March.
3. Punter: The Redskins could also use some serious competition for young punter Derrick Frost, who averaged just 40.4 yards per kick last year despite an incredible number of good rolls.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Warrick Holdman; TE Brian Kozlowski.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): DE Melvin Williams
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.