The charge stems from an incident at the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston, when Bennett’s brother Martellus Bennett played for the New England Patriots. After the Patriots’ victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Michael Bennett “shoved his way onto the field where players were gathering to celebrate,” the Harris County district attorney’s office said in a Friday news release announcing the grand jury indictment.
Stadium security personnel, including the woman who was working to control access to the field, told Bennett he needed to use a different entrance to get onto the field, according to prosecutors. “Instead, he pushed through them, including the elderly woman who was part of the security team,” the release said.
Bennett, 32, was indicted on a charge of injury of the elderly, a felony charge that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, according to the announcement.
Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said Bennett “forcibly opened locked doors” in the NRG Stadium tunnels, ignoring security and pushing several members of the security team. Acevedo also said Bennett told security: “Y’all must know who I am, and I can own this [expletive]. I’m going on the field whether you like it or not,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
Acevedo, who called Bennett “morally bankrupt” in a news conference last week, said there is no video of the incident, which was allegedly seen by a police officer. Acevedo said the officer checked on the condition of the paraplegic woman rather than trying to detain Bennett. The woman was diagnosed with a back strain, according to Acevedo.
Rusty Hardin, the Houston defense attorney who has represented Roger Clemens and other high-profile clients and is now representing Bennett, called the chief’s comments “over the top.”
“I’m hopeful that when all the facts are out [Acevedo] would want to reconsider if he’d want to be that over the top with somebody who’s just been charged with a crime and is presumed innocent,” Hardin told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Earlier this month, Bennett was traded by the Seattle Seahawks to the Eagles, who said Friday they were “aware of the situation involving Michael Bennett and are in the process of gathering more information.” Eagles executive Howie Roseman told reporters at the NFL’s annual meetings on Monday that he didn’t learn of the incident until Friday, but that Bennett is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
A star with the Seahawks, Bennett has become one of the NFL’s most outspoken players on political issues and social injustice, figuring prominently in last season’s pregame player national anthem demonstrations. His first book, “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable,” is scheduled to be released April 3 and, according to promotional materials, touches on “police violence, the role of protest in history and his own responsibility as a role model to speak out.”
The publisher, Haymarket books, issued a statement strongly supporting Bennett, which said the lineman “is being targeted for being a Black man who speaks out boldly against racism and police brutality,” and that the chargers “are clearly an effort by his political opponents — once again — to silence him. We will not let them succeed.”
Last summer, Bennett accused police in Las Vegas of racial profiling and excessive force after he was detained during an investigation of an active shooter at a casino after the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight. The Clark County sheriff later announced that no evidence of excessive force had been found, and that officers acted “appropriately and professionally” during the incident. Bennett was not arrested or charged.
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