Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Alleged gunman in Taylor death denied bond

By Pat Gillespie
Originally posted on December 05, 2007


The entire University of Miami family mourns the tragic loss of alumnus Sean Taylor, who died Tuesday. Taylor, a safety on the Hurricanes football team from 2001 to 2003 who became a star player with the Washington Redskins, was beloved by countless 'Canes, colleagues, and fans throughout the community and across the nation.

'We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of former Hurricane Sean Taylor,' said University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala. 'Sean was not only a member of the University of Miami family, but he was a hometown star athlete with a promising, brilliant career in the National Football League before him. We all mourn his loss, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.'

The University is organizing several activities in Taylor's memory:

• At Wednesday's and Sunday's Hurricanes men's basketball game and Sunday's football banquet and awards ceremony, a moment of silence will be observed in Taylor's memory.

• On Thursday and Friday, the UM Student Government will have students sign a banner in the University Center Breezeway that will be given to the Taylor family.

• On Monday, December 3 all members of the UM community are asked to wear orange and green clothing in honor of Taylor.


Redskins owner Dan Snyder released a statement late Friday acknowledging the

“This is another step, but not a conclusion, in a very personal and painful tragedy,” Redskins owner Dan Snyder said in a statement Friday night.”

Taylor and longtime girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, were awakened early Monday by loud noises at Taylor’s home in an affluent Miami suburb.

Taylor grabbed a machete he keeps in the bedroom for protection, his friend and former
attorney Richard Sharpstein said. Someone broke through the bedroom door and fired two shots, one missing and one hitting Taylor in the upper leg.

Neither the couple’s 18-month-old daughter, also named Jackie, nor Garcia were injured.

The bullet damaged the femoral artery in Taylor’s leg, causing significant blood loss. Taylor never regained consciousness and died a little more than 24 hours later.

SEAN TAYLOR, 1983-2007

• NFL team: Washington Redskins

• College team: University of Miami Hurricanes

• High school: Miami Gulliver Prep

• Career highlights: Compiled 299 tackles and 12 interceptions over four NFL seasons

• Drafted: First round, fifth overall pick by the Redskins in the 2004 NFL Draft

• Contract: Signed a seven-year, $18 million contract in July 2004

• Pro Bowl: Made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2006 after leading Washington with 129 tackles.

• Local ties: Sister, Sasha Johnson, attended Dunbar High School

1:27 p.m.

The four Fort Myers suspects in the Sean Taylor murder case are scheduled for arraignment Dec. 21.

According to the Miami-Dade Clerk of Court Web site, Venjah Hunte, 20, Jason Scott Mitchell, 19, Charles Wardlow, 18, and Eric Rivera Jr., 17, will be formally read their charges in 16 days. Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy will preside over their cases.

This morning, Rivera had his first appearance and was denied bond. All four are charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary.

12:27 p.m. update

Eric Rivera Jr., the 17-year-old who allegedly fatally shot Sean Taylor last week, was denied bond this morning by a Miami-Dade judge.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge John W. Thornton Jr. ordered Rivera, who is charged with first-degree murder and burglary with assault, held in jail, his attorney, Sawyer Smith said.

Rivera, Jason Scott Mitchell, 19, Venjah Hunte, 20, and Charles Wardlow, 18, were denied bond Tuesday in Miami. All four are accused of breaking into Taylor’s Miami house Nov. 26, trying to burglarize it. Taylor, a Washington Redskins safety, was home at the time and fought back.

Rivera allegedly shot him in the leg and he died the next day.

10:03 a.m. update

Eric Rivera, the alleged gunman in the Sean Taylor murder case, was expected to make a first appearance in Miami today.

Rivera, 17, was indicted Tuesday by a grand jury who found that he was the gunman in a botched robbery of the NFL star’s Miami home.

Attorneys expect that Rivera's bond will be denied.

"The truth is, we won't know until bond court is over," said Ed Griffith, spokesperson for the state attorney's office in Miami. Bond court may finish between 11 and 11:30 this morning, he said.

"But first-degree murder is a non-bondable offense by law," Griffith said. "You've already got three guys denied bond, why would the last one be granted?"

Mitchell, 19, Venjah Hunte, 20, and Charles Wardlow, 18, were denied bond Tuesday in Miami.

All four suspects face first-degree murder and burglary with assault or battery charges.

Rivera was transported from Lee County to Miami late Tuesday.

Today 1:15 a.m.

Eric Rivera Jr. shot Sean Taylor after he and three other Lee County residents entered the Washington Redskins player’s Miami-area house Nov. 26, trying to burglarize it, according to an indictment filed Tuesday by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

“Eric Rivera Jr. possessed a firearm and during the course of the commission of the offense, (he) discharged a firearm and as a result of the discharge, death of great bodily harm was inflicted upon Sean Maurice Taylor,” the document reads.

The indictment also states that Jason Scott Mitchell was wearing a hood or mask to hide his identity at the time of the burglary.

Rivera, 17, Mitchell, 19, Venjah Hunte, 20, and Charles Wardlow, 18, face first-degree murder and burglary with assault or battery. Prosecutors didn’t file charges on the armed home-invasion robbery charge.

The indictments didn’t reveal details of Wardlow’s and Hunte’s roles.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office could now seek the death penalty against three of the four defendants — Rivera was younger than 18 at the time of the crime and can’t face the death penalty.

If the state doesn’t seek death, all four could face up to life in prison.

The indictments came just hours after Mitchell, Hunte and Wardlow had their first appearance before a judge in Miami on Tuesday morning. They were denied bond.

The three were on suicide watch, said Mitchell’s attorney, Landon Miller, of Naples.

Miller also said a fifth suspect is cooperating with police, although Miami police spokesman, Alvaro Zabaleta, wouldn’t confirm that.

Rivera was transferred to Miami-Dade police late Tuesday, said Attorney Sawyer Smith, who is representing Rivera. Sawyer is the son of Wilbur Smith.

Attorneys and police have said the four didn’t know Taylor, his girlfriend and the couple’s 18-month-old daughter would be home. Taylor, defending his family with a machete, was shot in the upper leg. Taylor died the next day due to blood loss.

Sasha Johnson, Taylor’s half-sister, dated Christopher Wardlow, who is related to Charles Wardlow, said Dwayne Johnson, Sasha’s father. The suspects attended a party at Taylor’s house in the past few months, which is how they knew where the NFL star lived, Dwayne Johnson said.

Sawyer Smith said he thinks Rivera will have a first appearance this morning in Miami and that bond will be denied.

Wilbur Smith and Miller don’t expect their clients’ cases will go to trial.

“The simple fact is this was a tragedy, and Mitchell doesn’t want to put Taylor’s family through any more pain, specifically the girlfriend and his child,” Miller said.

Mitchell himself has a young son, according to his MySpace Web page.

Wardlow’s attorney, David Brener, said Monday he will prepare the case for trial, while Michael Hornung, representing Hunte, said he doesn’t know how long the case will take.

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘quickly,’” he said. “We’re going to do as much as possible to cooperate.”

Although Rivera’s three co-defendants are charged as principals, meaning they participated but didn’t commit the murder, Hornung said Hunte did less than the others.

“My client gave a truthful statement early on,” he said. “His culpability and his involvement in this is less than his co-defendants

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