THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published January 6, 2005
Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was acquitted of driving under the influence and found guilty of refusing a breathalyzer test yesterday in Fairfax County General District Court.
The decisions, by Judge Mitchell I. Mutnick, came after a 2-1/2-hour trial in which Redskins wide receiver Laveranues Coles testified and a video of Taylor's field sobriety test was shown.
A conviction for refusing to take a breathalyzer carries a mandatory loss of license for one year, but Taylor can drive while awaiting his appeal at the circuit level. Warren McLain, Taylor's attorney, filed for appeal immediately after yesterday's trial. The appeal will be heard March 10.
A DUI conviction would have carried a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine, but assistant commonwealth attorney Marc Birnbaum, who prosecuted yesterday's charges, said a 30-day suspended sentence and $300 fine would have been typical for a first-time offender like Taylor.
In any case, Taylor walked out of court pleased with the outcome.
"I'm smiling," he said as he departed a brief press conference in which he declined any other comment.
Added McLain: "The truth came out. The evidence came out in this case that Sean was not guilty of DUI. ... Obviously, I disagree with what happened with the refusal charge. ... That will be appealed."
The incident occurred in the early morning Oct. 28 after Taylor attended a birthday party for Redskins wide receiver Rod Gardner. Taylor was driving home on the Capital Beltway when he was pulled over by Virginia State Trooper Mandre Boggess for going 82 in a 55 mph zone.
What happened next was shown on video in the courtroom, thanks to a video camera in the squad car that turns on automatically when the car's lights are activated. Boggess also was wearing a microphone, so most of his exchange with Taylor was audible.
Boggess immediately suspected Taylor of drinking, having detected a "strong" odor of alcohol. Taylor was taken around behind his silver BMW, where he waited for several minutes while Boggess ran a background check in the squad car. When Boggess came back, he offered a breathalyzer test. Taylor refused, and a field test was administered.
The field test involved six separate tests. Taylor performed fine on some of them, such as tilting his head back and touching his nose three times, but struggled on others. On one, he hopped around and let his foot touch the ground while counting, and on another he missed three letters (j, m and n) while saying the alphabet from e to o.
McLain argued that the entire video should be considered when evaluating Taylor's state. McLain pointed out that Taylor pulled the car over perfectly straight and in the middle of the shoulder and didn't show any signs of being tipsy during the several minutes Boggess was back in the squad car.
Mutnick agreed, granting McLain's motion to dismiss the DUI charge after considering "the totality of the entire video." Mutnick added: "I've seen a whole lot worse."
With regard to the refusal charge, Taylor testified he wasn't read the long form associated with Virginia's implied consent law. Boggess testified that Taylor was. Mutnick sided with the prosecution, remarking that Taylor "tends to remember some things and not others."
Coles' testimony came at the start of the trial, out of order because he had a plane to catch. Coles said he arrived at the party, at the D.C. nightclub "Home," at about 11 p.m. Coles spoke to Taylor briefly when Taylor arrived at 12:45 a.m. or 1 a.m., and Coles didn't detect any alcohol on Taylor's breath or see him drink anything. Coles wasn't drinking, he said, because he was a designated driver.
Four other Redskins -- Gardner, cornerback Fred Smoot, running back Clinton Portis and cornerback Garnell Wilds -- were on hand to testify but didn't need to when Mutnick dismissed the DUI charge.
"In a way it was unfortunate that we weren't able to put on the [other] players to testify," McLain said. "They would have all said basically the same thing that Mr. Coles testified to, that Mr. Taylor had absolutely nothing to drink at that party."
Note -- The Redskins signed two players to the offseason roster, linebacker Maurice Jones and wide receiver Nathan Black.
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