An attorney for Washington Redskins running back John Riggins said yesterday that the BMW occupied by Riggins and a longtime friend, Stuart Miller, was stopped last week by a Fairfax County police officer and both were charged with alcohol-related offenses because the officer knew Riggins was in the car.
"We believe the police officer, late at night, knew it was John Riggins and wanted to stop him," said Fairfax attorney Jerry M. Phillips, who is representing Riggins and Miller. "He had no probable cause to arrest them . . . He (Miller) was driving perfectly well."
Riggins, who was charged with being drunk in public, was a passenger in the car driven by Miller, who was charged with driving while intoxicated. The two were arrested about 1:50 a.m. Thursday in Reston, later appeared before a magistrate and were released on their own recognizance.
Riggins was not available to comment to The Washington Post, but in a telephone interview with sportscaster Frank Herzog on WJLA-TV-7, he said, "I categorically deny" the drunk in public charge.
"I feel badly that it causes embarrassment to my family and the Redskins and I'm sorry about that, but I'm innocent," he said, adding, "And it could only happen to me."
Riggins also said he and Miller "will be exonerated when the case is heard."
Fairfax police spokesman Warren R. Carmichael denied Phillips' charges. "The officer stopped the car because he had probable cause to make a DWI arrest from observation of the driving behavior," he said.
Carmichael said it was department policy not to comment on specifics of a case and also a policy not to release the name of an arresting officer.
He did say that Riggins, who lives on Vickers Drive in Vienna, offered no resistance and cooperated fully with the officer. But Riggins "appeared obviously intoxicated to the officer," Carmichael said.
"It was determined that his state of intoxication was such that it was necessary to transport him to the ADC (Adult Detention Center) for his own safety."
Phillips said, "He's (Riggins) fighting this because he's innocent. He's going to fight this minor charge."
The maximum penalty for being found guilty of the DIP charge in Virginia is a $100 fine. For DWI, it's a maximum $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Both are misdemeanors.
Miller's trial date was set for Sept. 17 and Riggins' for Oct. 24 at Fairfax General District Court.
Phillips said that Miller, a co-owner of Dixie Liquors, 3429 M St. NW, was driving Riggins home that night and was stopped after he made a sharp, wrong turn onto Glade Drive from Reston Avenue.
He said Miller, of North Kentucky Street in Arlington, and Riggins had gone to Clyde's at Tysons Corner and then to dinner at another restaurant.
According to Phillips, the "longtime friends" were heading home when the cherry-colored BMW was pulled over by an officer and a backup.
Phillips said Miller was asked to take several standard sobriety tests -- walking heel to toe for five steps and standing on one foot while counting -- "which he did perfectly," according to Phillips. But Phillips said Miller told the officer he did not want to submit to a preliminary screening with the use of a portable field apparatus because he was not intoxicated.
Carmichael disagreed: "It was on the basis of his performance on the field screen test that the officer found probable cause to take him into custody."
Phillips said Miller gave him this account:
Riggins was sitting in the car, at that point, and stepped out to find out what was going on. The officer said he had some questions for the driver and Riggins said, "What's the problem, officer?" Riggins then was arrested on the DIP charge.
"John Riggins was not intoxicated and was not disorderly and was not profane and acted like a complete gentleman to the officer," Phillips said.
He said they were handcuffed behind their backs and taken in the patrol car to the magistrates' office, located in the ADC complex.
Phillips said police officers gave Miller a Breathalyzer test and that Miller had below 0.10 percent blood-alcohol content. In the state of Virginia, 0.10 and above is the standard used to determine if someone is legally drunk, Carmichael said.
According to V. Britt Richardson Jr., the deputy commonwealth's attorney in Fairfax, the fact that there is less than 0.10 percent blood alcohol content does not rule out prosecution.
Richardson, who said he was not familiar with the case, said in other such cases the prosecution would have to look to other evidence -- such as field test results and observations by the officer -- to determine whether the person was under the influence. Richardson said the test is not required in DIP cases.
Phillips said that after the hearing before Magistrate Michael Capone, Miller and Riggins were released immediately. Capone could not be reached for comment.
Phillips said someone picked them up, since the car was towed, a routine procedure in DWI cases.
Meanwhile, at the Redskins' training camp in Carlisle, Pa., team owner Jack Kent Cooke expressed his support for Riggins, with whom he has been negotiating a new contract. There is no agreement yet.
"If he is guilty, I find it deplorable and I regret it as I'm sure he does, too. But he's innocent until proven guilty," Cooke said.
He added that news of Riggins' arrest has no bearing on the contract negotiations. "Not a bit," Cooke said. "Because we don't know if he is guilty or innocent."
Negotiations, which seemed to be all but completed earlier this week, continue. Riggins has received an offer, sources said, and the team is awaiting his answer. It could come as early as tonight.
Riggins asked the Redskins for a one-year contract believed to be worth more than $1 million, according to sources. Terms of the Redskins' offer were not available.
Cooke and Coach Joe Gibbs both said they had not spoken with Riggins since the news of his arrest.
"I don't know anything other than what I've read in the paper," Gibbs said. "I haven't had a chance to talk to John, but I'd like to hear what he's got to say about it."
General Manager Bobby Beathard said he would make another offer to holdout cornerback Tory Nixon's agent tonight, ending a week-long stalemate with the Redskins' top draft pick. Beathard said he did not expect an immediate agreement with agent Larry Muno . . . Wide receiver Charlie Brown might miss practice for up to "a week or two," Gibbs said, due to a mild strain of his right hamstring.