Jets’ Wide Receiver Dodges One Bullet, Delays Another One
The troubled wide receiver’s legal problems became a little less pressing after Florida prosecutors dropped most of the new charges against him and agreed to a six-month continuance in another case.
In January 2018, officers pulled over a wide receiver for the Jets for travelling 105mph in a 45mph zone. He was very combative and allegedly threatened to sexually assault an officer’s wife. The man was arrested and charged with nine criminal infractions, including resisting arrest and felony reckless driving. About three months later, prosecutors announced that they would reduce the felony reckless driving to a misdemeanor, citing a “possible discrepancy regarding the initial estimated speed.” They also said they would drop the other eight charges due to a lack of evidence. The man’s trial on an unrelated reckless conduct charge was scheduled for April 6, but it was recently rescheduled to August 6.
The man, who was the Jets’ leading receiver last year, may also face discipline from the National Football League and team CEO Christopher Johnson.
Burden of Proof in New York Criminal Cases
Many of the laws in Florida are obviously different from the laws in the Empire State. But the burden of proof in a criminal trial is the same. Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Different states define this term in different ways; some have no definition at all. According to the New York standard criminal jury instructions, proof beyond a reasonable doubt means “proof that leaves you so firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt that you have no reasonable doubt of the existence of any element of the crime. . .A reasonable doubt is an honest doubt of the defendant’s guilt for which a reason exists based upon the nature and quality of the evidence.”
In most jurisdictions, the reviewing prosecutor and trial prosecutor are not the same person. Intake prosecutors normally file the most aggressive charges that the facts could possibly support. Sometimes, the trial prosecutor believes that there’s simply not enough evidence.
Speeding is a good example. Most likely, the arresting officers either paced the wide receiver’s speed or used RADAR. Pacing is not much more than a guesstimate. That often holds up in New York traffic court, but felony court is a different story. RADAR is more precise, but it only proves that one car in a cluster of vehicles was speeding. It doesn’t conclusively establish which car was speeding.
Delay in New York Criminal Cases
If the wide receiver’s trial goes forward in August, and that is a rather big “if,” more than a year will have elapsed between the incident and the trial. That delay is often very frustrating for defendants who are understandably anxious to simply move on. But in many cases, delay is a criminal defense attorney’s best defense.
That’s especially true in disorderly conduct, theft, and other cases that involve non-police witnesses. New York police officers almost always show up for trials and hearings. But civilian witnesses are another matter. After a prolonged delay, they may relocate beyond the court’s subpoena power or lose interest in the case. Furthermore, if they do testify, these witnesses may not be as carefully coached as police officers.
If the civilian witness is unavailable or unconvincing, it’s almost impossible for New York prosecutors to meet the burden of proof.