You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
As some of you have noticed, the Sean Taylor legal case has not been discussed much here since it broke early last June. Perhaps such an omission has been irresponsible journalism on my part, but I had never seen enough about the details of the case to understand what happened. Believe it or not, I actually want to be informed about something before I form an opinion on it and, at least in in articles I've been able to find, the details of what actually happened have been very sketchy.
That is, in the articles I've been able to find up until today. I found this New York Times article by one Robert Andrew Powell. I'm not sure if Powell is a sports reporter or a legal reporter but he is definitely a reporter. He did some legwork, got access to the case file, interviewed one of the men involved in the incident and pieced together the best, most complete account to date of the confrontation that landed Taylor in legal hot water.
The picture painted is disturbing in many respects. I'm going to clip a few excerpts here, but I don't want to take too much of Powell's work. If you want to follow the rest of this blog, I'd suggest that you click on the link to Powell's story and read that and then come back.
Taylor, who had signed a multi million dollar contract a year earlier, was hanging out with a friend named Michael McFarlane in West Perrine, which Powell describes as, "a depressed community south of Miami." He brought along his two new ATV's to cruise the side streets and the lawns of the housing projects. At the end of the day, Taylor left them parked in McFarlane's lawn even though he didn't stay at his house.
The next morning the ATV's were gone. Yes, this just in, if you leave expensive items unsecured in housing projects overnight, they just might get stolen. To compound the stupidity, instead of calling the police Taylor, McFarlane and another unidentified man jumped into Taylor's truck and another car to cruise the neighborhood to try to find the vehicles.
For some reason they confronted a man named Ryan Hill, who was hanging out in the neighborhood with some friends and demanded to know where the ATV's were. Hill denied knowing where they were and that's when the confrontation started. Powell interviewed Hill for this story:
"He (Taylor) started talking nasty and stuff, talking about how: 'The police can't touch me. I own this town,' " Hill, 22, said in an interview on the stoop outside his mother's public-housing apartment in West Perrine, where he lives with her, a brother and a sister.
According to Hill and other witnesses, Taylor exited his truck, pulled a gun out of his waistband and pointed it at Hill and a couple of his friends. Witnesses said another man pulled out an M-16 and demanded that Hill return Taylor's A.T.V.'s. When Hill denied stealing the vehicles, Taylor and the other man left in their cars. Both vowed to return and kill everyone present, according to depositions from Hill and other witnesses.
Obviously, if this is true, Taylor committed a crime here in pointing a gun at people and by threatening to kill them. He and the other men then left and further compounded the already compounded stupidity and bad judgment by returning with a "posse". A fistfight evidently started by Taylor ensued and ended when Hill and his group fled. So now we have another crime committed by Taylor in starting a fight.
As if all of this wasn't strange enough, there was one final twist. Taylor drove his GMC Yukon back to McFarlane's house, parked it in front, and went inside.
A silver car pulled up. Hands poked out of the car's windows. From inside the house, McFarlane noticed guns and dived to the floor, according to depositions given by witnesses to Taylor's lawyers.
The Yukon was struck at least 15 times, and the police recovered 27 bullet cases, according to the police report.
Taylor was not at the house when police arrived. He turned himself in to police three days later to face one count of felony assault and one count of battery. In January, Dade County DA Michael Grieco, a/k/a DJ Dirty Sanchez, filed two additional felony assault charges. Since there was a gun involved in the assault cases they each carry a mandatory minimum of three years in jail if Taylor is convicted of them.
With the warning that I'm not a lawyer and not intimately familiar with what goes on every day in the housing projects near Miami or elsewhere, let me take a stab a summing this up. Two vehicles costing thousands of dollars each were stolen. Two men, one of them Taylor, drew guns and made threats. A fight involving a "posse" and Hill's group of friends broke out. A car filled with men drive by and with multiple guns and apparent disregard for the safety of whoever was in McFarlane's house or any bystanders who may have been present unloaded a couple of clips of bullets into Taylor's truck.
And in all of this Sean Taylor, the one whose ATV's were stolen and whose truck was shot up, is the only one charged with a crime. Isn't it fair to say that he was the victim of a couple of crimes himself? That doesn't excuse the crimes, of course, but if this was such an outrageous happening that someone who didn't fire a single shot is facing nine years in the slammer for it, what about his co-conspirators? What about whoever stole the ATV's valued at thousands of dollars? What about the ones who did the drive by?
It's important to note two other points here, points that in many cases would be causes for leniency when it came to considering a sentence for a defendant. First, there doesn't seem to be any premeditation on Taylor's part; whatever crimes were ones committed in the heat of the moment. Second, it's very important to note that when he returned after making the death threats, Taylor was not armed.
One does not have to be a Redskins homer or a skeptic to think that this reeks of a case of a publicity-hungry DA going after the only famous person involved in the whole mess. We do know that the Grieco was using press clippings from the case to promote his second career as the above-mentioned DJ Dirty Sanchez. Apparently, going after some guy named Hill doesn't generate enough pub to make it worth the additional time. Might cut into the clubbing time, don't ya know.
When we use the term "celebrity justice" it usually is in reference to a case where a famous person gets a slap on the wrist for a crime that would have brought the full hammer of justice down on us average folks. In this case with Sean Taylor, we seem to have the mirror image of that with very serious charges being brought for an incident that, while it calls for legal action, does not seem to be serious enough to warrant the possibility of such a severe penalty.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 2: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game that the Redskins played from the time they moved to Washington in 1937 through the 2001 season. To get details on the book and ordering information, go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com