The off-season for the San Francisco 49ers has been just about as much fun as their final game of the 2013 season.
Oft-troubled LB Aldon Smith, the first player drafted by Jim Harbaugh as Niners coach, apparently did something of breathtaking foolishness — telling Los Angeles International airport employees he had a bomb, while being “belligerent and uncooperative” to TSA agents — and was arrested Sunday on a charge of making a false threat.
When available, Smith has been a formidable adversary for the Seahawks. In the first meeting in the past season, Smith had six tackles, four for loss including two sacks, in Seattle’s 29-3 win. In the regular season rematch, he had just a single tackle in the 49ers’ 19-17 win at Candlestick Park. In the NFC title game, he had four tackles, including two sacks and recovered a fumble.
But according to the San Jose Mercury News, his availability in 2014 is in some jeopardy. Smith has two “open” cases in separate run-ins with the law that may impact how the latest episode is seen by a court.
In September, Santa Clara County prosecutors debated whether to charge Smith with illegal possession of three assault rifles, which were discovered in 2012 after gang members crashed a party at his house, stabbing him and shooting other guests. Smith was considered a victim, putting prosecutors in a quandary about whether to charge him.
But while Smith was waiting to hear his fate on the gun charges, he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, compromising his ability to avoid prosecution for the guns.
Prosecutors can’t call the LAX episdoe a “prior” since it came after the first two episodes. But legal experts consulted by the Mercury suggested prosecutors may be reluctant to offer him a plea deal that would reduce charges or lighten a sentence, increasing the chances for jail time. Smith might be seen as more incorrigible.
Punishment for the gun charges range from probation up to four years in jail. The DUI charge is compounded by a prior DUI arrest in Florida, plus the fact that his blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit and he was involved in a collision with a tree.
The false bomb threat could be booked as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
However the charges pan out, the latest episode brought further scrutiny to Harbaugh’s comments last summer when he lightly mocked the Seahawks for being busted by the NFL for performance enhancing drugs, chiefly Adderall and marijuana.
“We want to be above reproach in everything and do everything by the rules,” Harbaugh said at the time. Smith missed five games last season after going into rehab following the DUI arrest, but played in one between arrest and the rehab stint, drawing some criticism of Harbaugh.
Smith is sufficiently talented that the 49ers are unlikely to make any move to suspend him before charges are known on all three episodes. But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is free to weigh in within the limits of the collective bargaining agreement with the players union.