Former Taylor Attorney and Family Friend
Wednesday, November 28, 2007 2:00 PM
Richard Sharpstein, Taylor's former attorney and family friend, was online Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the investigation and the life of Sean Taylor.
A transcript follows.
Richard Sharpstein: Hello, I'm Rich Sharpstein. I'm a long-time family friend and attorney for Sean Taylor. This is a senseless, horrific tragedy for the community of Miami, Washington, D.C., the Redskins and the University of Miami where Sean played. I've known him since he was a star football player at Gulliver Prep where Sean was a football star. He led the Gulliver to the first and only state championship in football in school history. He's an outstanding young man.
Arlington, Va.: Mr. Sharpstein, thank you for your candor over the last three days.
How do you rate the chances of Sean's murderer being brought to justice?
Richard Sharpstein: The finest meto Dade homicide detectives are working on this case. I have the utmost confidence that they'll eventually solve this case and catch Sean's murderer; however, it may take some time because burglaries are a difficult crime to solve, especially in Miami, that has become rampant with burglaries in the last 20 years. I know that because I live here. But Sean's killer will come to justice.
Landover, Md.: Can you tell me more about Sean's youth. I know that his father is the police chief and he went to a private high school. But that is about all I know. What was his childhood like? Junior high and high school years? Thanks.
Richard Sharpstein: Sean grew up in an essentially lower middle to middle class neighborhood in Perrine, a small residential area south of Miami. He was a football star from his very early youth. He was noticed by Gulliver Prep who gave him a scholarship and he attended Gulliver for the last two years of his high school days. Instantaneouly he bacame the star of the team along with with Buck Ortega who went on to be Sean's roommate and teammate at University of Miami. They led Gulliver to the championship.
My wife and law partner Janice Burton Sharpstein have known Sean since he was 15 years old. My wife always referred to him as a "swee child." He was always polite, well-mannnered, quiet, shy and not withstanding his ferocious football talents he was much of an introvert. He shunned his stardom in the limelight. His difficulty in speaking to the press or flaunting his success made some people think he was arrogant. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was a wonderful young man and his family was extremely proud of him. He was also a hero to his old neighborhood. A complete success story until his untimely death.
Rockville, Md.: Mr. Sharpstein,
Thank you for your updates over the last couple of days. As a fan of the Redskins and Taylor in particular, I am comforted by the love he apparently had from so many people. I am a father to a 2-year-old daughter and I am saddened about his little girl not having him around. I hugged my daughter a little tighter these last few days. My question to you is this: how does his fiancee and daughter move on from this? I hope Jackie's family is as strong as Sean's.
Richard Sharpstein: Fortunately for Jackie, she has the support of a strong family in Miami. She is of Cuban descent and at the hospital I could tell that she had a large group of family support. Jackie went to high school with Sean and my two daughters who were cheerleaders at Gulliver during Sean's football career there. They were high school sweethearts.
As a veteran defense attorney and prosecutor I have seen dozens, if not hundreds, of people suffer as victims of violent crime. She has been extremely strong the last two days; however, when things calm down the loss will devastate her. It will take quite some time and strong support to keep her going.
Alexandria, Va.: There seems to be a lot of speculation that Sean's murder is tied up into the whole "thug life" rap. But, unlike the stereotype, Sean's father is a police chief and Sean went to an exclusive private high school. On the surface, this does not seem to be a Michael Vick kind of situation where his friends from the "hood" ended up bringing him to a tragic end. What can you say about Sean's lifestyle outside of football and his choice of friends that could clarify the public's picture of this part of Sean's life?
Richard Sharpstein: Let's clear one thing up. Sean was not a thug. He never lived the lifestyle of a thug. His father served as a model to define his life. Sean was not your typical what they call now "players," like many of his teammates. He was a family man. He did not party, drive expensive cars and wear jewelry for the purpose of impressing people.
His murder was a tragedy but not the result of any lifestyle that he had led.
Washington, D.C.: Is Sean's girlfriend being interviewed, not as a suspect but as a witness, and if so what do she know?
Richard Sharpstein: Jackie immediately gave statements to the police at the hospital. What she reported was the following:
She and Sean were awakened by loud noises in the living room. Sean got up, she grabbed the baby, hid under the covers while Sean locked the bedroom door. Sean retrieved a knife or machete that he kept under the bed, turned to the bedroom door, the door burst open, two shots rang out. She then heard a commotion which indicated more than one person leaving but she did not see anyone or hear any specific words. When she was clear that no one was in the house she went to Sean. He was lying on the floor, bleeding profusely from his leg wound; his chest was heaving, he was grasping for breath and his eyes had rolled back, indicating that he was probably unconscious. She went to her phone to call 911; it didn't work, although rumors of the phone lines being cut are false.
She used her cellphone to call 911, paramedics arrived, attempted as best they could to stop Sean's bleeding but they had to call for an airlift by helicopter to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Hospitl. She called her family who drove her to the hospital. This is a very brave young woman, she is certainly not a suspect.
Rockville, Md..: Mr. Sharpstein,
Is this sort of thing (home invasions) common in Miami and if so, do home invasions tend to be random or are they targeted towards a certain person? It is stunning that this happened.
Richard Sharpstein: Unfortunately, Miami has been plagued with home invasions and burglaries with assaults. It is generally the case that the burglers or robbers target a specific home whree they believe they will get a significant amount of cash or valuable items. It is my opinion that Sean's house was clearly targeted. There was a burglary eight days before at his house. No one was home, things were ransacked but very little was taken. It's my opinion that the same burglers probably returned, thinking that Sean had some riches around because he was a wealthy football player.
Although this seems like an astounding event, it has become all too common in our city.
Alexandria, Va.: After the break-in a week or so ago, did you give Sean any advice about what to do to better protect his family? More security, an alarm system, new locks, etc.
Richard Sharpstein: Unfortunately, Sean did not discuss the burglary with me. I was out of town but would've gladly given him advice. He did not reach out. The home was equipped with a burgler alarm which was not turned on the night of the incident. Sean did, however, put the hurricane shutters down on all windows. It's too little too late but I certainly would've told him to engage his alarm at all times at night and after the first burglary he probably should've had private security patrolling. This, of course, is hindsight.
Bethesda, Md.: I still don't understand what happened when he brandished and fired a gun at somebody a few years ago. Yes he was young but judging from what people have been saying about him now, it seemed unlike him to do such a thing. So really, it had to have been the people he was associating with. No one seems to admit to that.
Richard Sharpstein: My wife and I represented Sean in that case. He never, never, never brandished a gun. That was a lie told by individuals who had stolen his ATV's. Sean and his friends did confront the thieves and Sean got into a short fist fight with the man perpetrator, Ryan Hill, a 6 foot 7- 280 pound former high school football player. Sean and his friends then retreated to his friend's house where the ATV's had been stolen from. Within minutes of their return the house and Sean's SUV were peppered with automatic gunfire. Neighbors called the police. However, Ryan Hill called 911 at the same time and reported that Sean Taylor had pointed a gun at him. This diversion by Hill was a lie.
Unfortunately a prosector was completely self-consumed in his prosecution of Sean Taylor as a ticket to stardom. Sean came to us six months after he had been charged. My wife and I turned the case around, finding incredible long criminal records of Ryan Hill and all the other witnesses. Eventually we proved that the prosecutor was using the case for his own personal gain. Unbelieveably he had a Web site advertising himself as a disc jockey which was pornographic and lewd. Of more relevance was the fact that he had a link to "his media coverage" and it involved the Sean Taylor case and nothing more.
We downloaded the Webs site, my wife put it in a brilliant motion and we unloaded it on the media, the court and the prosecutor's office.
By 2:00 that afternoon Mike Grieco, the prosecutor, was fired. When a newly assigned veteran prosecutor looked at the case he agreed with us that this case never should have been filed.
In order to end the case before Sean had to report to the Redskins summer camp, we agreed to allow him to plead no contest without being adjudicated to simple battery. He received a non-reporting probabation. The case was dismissed after Sean agreed to and did speak to 10 high schools and middle schools about his own life to provide inspiration for others.
Richard Sharpstein: The speeches were a great success.
Reston, Va.: Mr. Sharpstein,
I can only imagine this is very hard for you to deal with, thanks for your time.
Has the family asked you to be their speak for them?
Richard Sharpstein: Yes, both Pete Taylor (father) and Jackie's father Rene asked me to address the press from the time that we were at the hospital so that truthful facts could get to the public. Rumors and gossip were spreading rampantly. Pete Taylor has entrusted me with the job and I'm honored to do so in Sean's memory.
Washington, D.C.: Where are Sean's girlfriend and daughter? I hope the family is taking extra precautions to ensure their safety.
Richard Sharpstein: She is with her parents and they are also taking care of the baby. While everyone was at the hospital, the child was with the grandmother.
Washington, D.C.: Where will Sean's funeral take place?
Richard Sharpstein: It hasn't been decided yet. However, although originally planned for Monday, Pete is postponing the funeral until Tuesday because Coach Gibss announced the entire team would fly to Miami for the funeral.
Rockville, Md.: When was the last time you spoke with Sean?
Richard Sharpstein: I called him after the Carolina-Panther game when my son and I were at my North Carolina home watching him intercept two passes and almost a third. As always, we had a pleasant conversation and Sean was very humbled about his accomplishments. I cherish that last conversation.
Annapolis, Md.: What would make someone who is being threatened like this not move the wife and family into a hotel room or another family members home until the threat was addressed and extinguished. Since his girlfriend said, and all evidence points to, a planned attack, why not just leave town. What's the draw to stay?
Richard Sharpstein: I think Sean did not perceive the original burglary as a threat. Much has been made about the fact that a kitchen knife was left on their bed after the first burglary. Police are convinced this was a tool used by the burglers to pry open items at the scene. In hingsight, it's easy to say that Sean should have left town but very few people would have taken the mere fact of a burglary as a severe personal threat.
washingtonpost.com: This concludes our discussion today with Richard Sharpstein. Thank you for joing us.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.