By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor has retained two new attorneys less than a month before he is scheduled to stand trial in Miami on felony assault charges, a crime that could carry a mandatory three-year minimum sentence for each count.
Taylor, 22, a starter and key defensive player in two seasons with the Redskins after being drafted fifth overall in 2004, was originally scheduled to go to trial last fall, but the case was continued several times at Taylor's request. Soon after being arrested last June, Taylor switched lawyers and hired Edward Carhart, who has worked the case since, including through several hearings. Last Thursday, Taylor hired Larry Handfield, another South Florida attorney, to represent him, and has also retained the services of attorney Richard Sharpstein, with a March 20 court date looming.
Carhart said he remains the primary attorney in the case -- "I'm supposed to be the leader of the band," he said -- and all of the attorneys are scheduled to meet with the prosecution before the judge at a hearing Friday. Carhart said he knows Sharpstein but has never worked with Handfield before, and has had limited contact with them on this case; one legal source referred to the trio as "three of top 10 criminal attorneys in Dade County."
"Sean's father [Pedro Taylor, chief of police in Florida City, Fla.] wanted to know if I would have any objection to having another lawyer assist me with the case," Carhart said. "And I said no."
The inclusion of new lawyers at this stage could indicate that a request for continuance is imminent, but Handfield said that he is seeking a timely resolution of the matter and that his addition is not cause for further delays.
"Me coming on board now does not mean the March 20 date will be delayed," Handfield said. "My expectation is not necessarily to continue [the case], but to see if this can be resolved."
Handfield, who received his law degree from Howard University, said he believes Taylor "was the victim in this situation," but prosecutor Mike Grieco increased the number of counts of felony assault with a firearm against Taylor from one to three last month, and had no comment to the addition of new attorneys yesterday.
Taylor is facing felony aggravated assault charges, and a misdemeanor count of battery after being arrested last year for pulling a firearm on three people he believes stole two all-terrain vehicles from him. He skipped the Redskins' offseason program -- he was one of only a few no-shows -- to remain near his Florida home.
Originally, he faced one count of felony assault, with three victims listed, but now faces three separate counts -- one for each victim. Each count carries a three-year mandatory minimum sentence if convicted under Florida law. He also faces one count of simple battery, which was unchanged by yesterday's filing. Previously, Taylor's maximum jail sentence would have been 16 years, but now it is 46, although as a first-time offender it would be unlikely he would receive such a lengthy sentence if found guilty.
Taylor had a tumultuous rookie season after leaving the University of Miami -- including a $25,000 penalty for skipping out on the mandatory rookie symposium, and $17,500 in total fines over consecutive weeks for unsportsmanlike conduct. He also received a one-game suspension by the team for his DUI arrest (he was later acquitted). In 2005 he earned praise for his maturity from coaches and teammates, then drew national attention for being ejected and fined $17,000 for spitting on Tampa Bay's Michael Pittman during a playoff game.
Before signing with the Redskins, Taylor changed agents three times. He fired Drew Rosenhaus days after being drafted, and hired Jeff Moorad, then fired Moorad shortly after Moorad negotiated his first NFL contract. Taylor then rehired Rosenhaus.
During a news conference Saturday in Indianapolis, Coach Joe Gibbs said he expected Taylor to attend Washington's offseason workout program this spring unless legal problems prevented him from doing so. "I think he wants to be there," Gibbs said. "I think he kind of felt like [opting out] last year was a mistake."