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Redskins' Taylor Rejects Plea Offer in Assault Case

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 13, 2005

MIAMI, July 12 -- A Miami-Dade circuit judge Tuesday gave Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor freedom to travel within the United States as he defends himself against felony assault and misdemeanor battery charges after Taylor rejected a plea deal from the Miami-Dade state attorney's office that included a three-year prison term.

Judge Mary Barzee reaffirmed Taylor's trial start date as Sept. 12, one day after the Redskins' season opener against the Chicago Bears at FedEx Field. Taylor faces a maximum of 16 years in prison if convicted of the charges stemming from a June 1 altercation in Miami over his two stolen all-terrain vehicles.

Meantime, in another courtroom at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building on Tuesday, the other defendant with connections to Taylor's case, Charles Elwood Caughman, also declined a plea bargain from Miami-Dade assistant state attorney Mike Grieco and received an Oct. 3 trial date, meaning he will not appear as a prosecution witness against Taylor -- a development considered a boost to Taylor's case.

Taylor, 22, did not speak during the brief hearing. When asked outside Barzee's courtroom whether he planned to report with other players for Redskins training camp on July 31, he said, "We'll see." Taylor, wearing a blue dress shirt, khaki dress pants and brown leather shoes, left about five minutes after the hearing, brushing past television cameras.

Taylor's attorney, Edward Carhart, said he expected the start of the trial to be pushed back, possibly until after the season, though he did not ask for a continuance Tuesday.

Carhart, who informed Barzee that Taylor has residences in Washington and southwest Dade County, added that he expected Taylor to show up to camp on time and participate actively in the season's activities.

"I hope so," Carhart said. "I'm sure he hopes so. I'm sure the Redskins hope so. . . . I can't call the shots for him, but I would expect to see him in camp."

Though Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs excused Taylor from the team's minicamp because of his legal problems, he said he expected the second-year safety to attend training camp.

The attorney for Caughman, Evan Hoffman, said his client could have had the felony assault charge against him -- which carries a 15-year maximum sentence -- dropped had he agreed to cooperate against Taylor. Caughman was charged with allegedly wielding a bat in the incident in which Taylor was accused of pointing a handgun and hitting a man with his fist.

"We were ethically and morally obligated to turn down the offer because we are steadfast in maintaining his innocence," Hoffman said.

Grieco said he had no choice but to offer Taylor a plea bargain that included three years imprisonment because the charges carried that minimum mandatory sentence.

That comes "from a statute, that doesn't come from me," he said.

Grieco also said he did not object to the defense request for freedom for Taylor to travel as a member of the Redskins because "I don't feel Mr. Taylor is a flight risk. He's a national figure. I'm not concerned."

Carhart said Taylor gave no consideration to accepting the plea offer.

"I don't know many people who like to be in prison," he said. "We consider Mr. Taylor to be innocent and I think the evidence will show he's innocent."

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