Redskins' Taylor to Accept a Plea Deal

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By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 1, 2006

MIAMI, May 31 -- A plea deal has been reached in the felony assault case involving Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor that ensures Taylor will not spend a day in jail and the felony charges against him will be dismissed, one of Taylor's attorneys said Wednesday.

Taylor, who faced up to 46 years in prison over charges related to a street fight last June, agreed to the plea terms Wednesday, according to attorney Larry R. Handfield, who joined Taylor's defense team in February.

The agreement, which will require the approval of Judge Leonard Glick, will be presented during a hearing Thursday morning in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building.

Handfield said Taylor, the Redskins' No. 1 draft pick in 2004, has agreed to plead no contest to one misdemeanor battery charge and one misdemeanor assault charge. The deal includes a withholding of a conviction, Handfield said, and the dismissal of three charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon that each carried a mandatory minimum three-year sentence.

Taylor also agreed to visit 10 schools in the inner city, providing $1,000 to each school, according to Handfield.

Taylor's trial had been scheduled for July 10, about three weeks before the start of Redskins training camp. The deal, if accepted by the judge, would bring an end to a case that included seven delays and threatened to intersect with the upcoming season.

"Even though I was certain he would be vindicated at trial, this avoids the risk associated with any trial," Handfield said. "With the present charges, he was looking at 45 years in prison if he was found guilty. This way, he can be in training camp and put this behind him, close this chapter in his life."

Ed Griffith, a spokesman at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office, declined to comment.

Taylor's defense team met with prosecutor Abe Laeser on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Handfield and Taylor's lead attorney, Richard Sharpstein. Sharpstein, an attorney with the Washington-based Jorden Burt firm, declined to comment for this story on whether a deal had been reached.

Laeser is a respected veteran of the state attorney's office who took over the case about six weeks ago after allegations surfaced that the previous prosecutor, Mike Grieco, was using it to promote his side career as a Miami Beach disc jockey. After Grieco stepped down from the case, Taylor's trial was postponed from early May to mid-July.

The charges against Taylor stem from a fight in Miami that occurred last June 1 after Taylor went searching for two all-terrain vehicles he believed had been stolen from him. Police reports and depositions describing the incident said Taylor brandished a gun and issued threats before initiating a fistfight with the man he believed had stolen his property.

After retreating from the fight that involved at least a dozen people, according to depositions and court records, shots were fired into Taylor's GMC Yukon Denali while it was parked at a friend's house.

Days after the incident, Taylor was charged with one count of felony assault and one count of misdemeanor battery, which carry a combined maximum of 16 years in prison. In January, the prosecution brought two other felony charges, each adding another possible 15 years imprisonment.

Taylor acknowledged that a fight occurred but claimed it was prompted by the prosecution's main alleged victim, Ryan Hill, according to Ed Carhart, one of Taylor's attorneys. Taylor said Hill, against whom Taylor played high school football in Miami, attempted to force his way into Taylor's Denali and then threw Taylor to the ground, Carhart said.

Carhart also said Taylor denied waving a weapon.

Carhart did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday but said last week the case "weighs heavily on [Taylor] and is very frustrating for him. This is not easy to go through. If a jury decides to convict him, the judge has to give him three years at least."

Taylor's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, could not be reached. Taylor was credited last season with 80 tackles, third-most among the Redskins, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and one sack. Taylor attended Gulliver Prep in Miami. His father, Pedro Taylor, is chief of police in Florida City, Fla.


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