The Miami-Dade state attorney's office has postponed the preliminary court hearing of Sean Taylor's co-defendant, Charles Elwood Caughman, in the hopes that he accepts a plea bargain and becomes a prosecution witness against the Redskins safety, according to the defense attorney. Taylor has been charged with one felony count of aggravated assault with a firearm and faces a minimum sentence of three years.

Caughman, 19, of Baltimore, was charged with one felony count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (a bat). He faces a maximum of 15 years; there is no mandatory minimum sentence.

Caughman's hearing -- a plea conference -- originally was scheduled for last Thursday. It was moved to July 11, one day before Taylor's hearing, when the 22-year-old officially will be provided an opportunity to accept the minimum sentence. If Caughman accepts a plea bargain, he will be added to the prosecution's witness list for Taylor's hearing, the state attorney's office said yesterday.

"What they are doing is using Charles as a pawn to get the top prize: Sean Taylor," said Caughman's attorney, Evan Hoffman, who said his client -- who knows Taylor casually -- was on vacation in Miami when the June 1 incident occurred. "They could have filed a misdemeanor against my client. But there's a headhunt for Sean Taylor, and we don't need to be caught in the middle of it. We're going to explore all our options, and do what's best for Charles.

"The state wants to resolve our case on July 11. But right now we have no reason to cooperate. I don't see the court proving its case."

Taylor's trial date tentatively has been set for Sept. 12 -- the day after the team's season opener against the Chicago Bears -- although it is expected to be postponed for several months through continuances requested by Taylor's attorney, Edward Carhart.

-- Nunyo Demasio