BY Art Thiel 08:03PM 03/26/2018

Thiel: Attorney says Bennett didn’t touch guard

After Michael Bennett turned himself in, his attorney said the ex-Seahawk “never touched” the security worker, claming Houston police ignored exonerating evidence.

Seahawks DE Michael Bennett was the 2016 Male Athlete of the Year Award winner at the annual Star of the Year event. / Seattle Sports Commission

The tumultuous Seahawks off-season now has a sidebar drama: A felony assault charge against the franchise’s 2017 Man of the Year for his community work, whose attorney said Monday that Houston police and prosecutors got it all wrong.

Michael Bennett, now a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles after a trade, flew from his home in Hawaii to turn himself in Monday to a Harris County district court and was expected to post a $10,000 bond —  he was briefly held in handcuffs, a standard processing custom in felony cases — and was released. He didn’t speak to reporters.

Bennett was indicted Friday by a grand jury on a felony assault case from 13 months ago when he was charged with injuring an elderly person after Super Bowl LI as he sought to push through a door to reach the field.

His new attorney, Rusty Hardin, whom some sports fans may remember as the attorney who defended baseball star Roger Clemens against charges in the 2006 Mitchell Report that claimed he used performance-enhancing drugs, did talk to reporters.

He said Bennett did not strike Barbara Tatman, 66, a contract security worker. Bennett was attempting to get through a locked door to the field at NRG Stadium in Houston after Super Bowl LI, in which the New England Patriots, with his brother, Martellus, beat the Atlanta Falcons.

At a press conference Friday (full video here), Houston police chief Art Acevedo said Bennett shoved Tatman, a paraplegic aboard an 800-pound motorized cart, hard enough to sprain her shoulder. Bennett allegedly forced open the door and took the field, saying, “You all must not know who I am,” according to a Houston police officer who Acevedo said witnessed the exchange.

Acevedo called Bennett “morally bankrupt.”

“Michael never touched her,” Hardin said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Michael never bumped into her . . . he never laid a hand on her. (They) do not have the whole story. I’m not going to fault the DA’s office for that at all. They presented what they had to the grand jury, but they didn’t have . . . what a lot of people would have liked to have in order to make up their minds.”

Hardin claimed that he interviewed witnesses to the episode Sunday and learned the scene was more chaotic, and included a larger number of Patriots family members who wanted to join the party on the field. He said police and prosecutors were not provided evidence he said will exonerate Bennett.

“Everybody is going to re-investigate this case,” Hardin said. “We will present to them everything we have, and at the end of the day I am comfortable they will conclude this charge should not have been filed. This guy didn’t do it.

“I don’t know who did or what happened. I know what the indictment says. I just know (Bennett) didn’t do anything. Like the chief of police, I wasn’t there. Unlike the chief of police, I can tell you right now this guy’s not morally bankrupt. He’s one of the best people I’ve met.”

Of Acevedo, who went on at length Friday to condemn Bennett’s actions, Hardin said, “I think he’s a good chief of police. He was totally over the top on Friday, and at the end of the day he’s going to regret it, because he will find he wasn’t given good information.”

Acevedo said Friday there was no video of the episode, but one of his officers witnessed parts of it. The next hearing in the case is April 23.

Bennett, 32, went to high school in Houston and attended Texas A&M at College Station, 100 miles northwest. From 2013 to 2017 in Seattle, he became one of the NFL’s most engaging and noteworthy personalities and a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

He was also a subject of controversy because he was among the highest-profile NFL players to protest social injustice by sitting during the national anthem during parts of the past two seasons.

Last summer he was briefly detained at gunpoint by Las Vegas police who were pursuing what they thought was an active shooter in a casino. There was no shooter, but because Bennett ran with others and failed to stop when ordered, he was forced to the sidewalk and handcuffed.

He later charged police with racial profiling and use of excessive force, charges strongly denied by police.

Whatever becomes of the Houston episode, apparently there will be no complaints from the Eagles regarding whether the Seahawks withheld information about Bennett prior to the March 7 trade.

Speaking to reporters Monday at the annual NFL meetings in Orlando, Howie Roseman, Eagles executive vice president of football operations, said  he was good with Seahawks general manager John Schneider’s word that he knew nothing about Bennett’s altercation.

“I want to be clear,” Roseman said. “There’s probably not a person, and I’m going to put him on the same ground as a bunch of people, that we trust more than John Schneider and the Seahawks. So there is nothing that we felt like they did wrong, or there is any blame in this matter. It’s a unique circumstance and we’ll deal with it as we go.”

At the meeting, Schneider confirmed it was news to him.

“No, I didn’t know anything about it,” Schneider told reporters. “And I have a great relationship with Howie and (team owner Jeffrey Lurie). We would never do that.”

The thought of Bennett’s football problem of chronic offsides penalties now seems quaint.


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YourThoughts

  • Ron

    Heads need to roll at Houston PD if indeed Bennett is innocent.

  • Ken S.

    A grand jury is pretty much a one way street. Only one side is presented in a grand jury setting – the prosecutors – who present the empaneled jury the facts on hand as they see them, and wait for a thumbs up or down from the jury. Should be interesting to see what the prosecutors have against Bennett and whether it’ll fly in a courtroom. It is interesting that bad news seems to travel with Bennett these days. That incident in Vegas is especially interesting – someone is lying.

    • Tman

      The video of the scene in Las Vegas clearly shows, from the way they rushed in military raid style in combat uniforms, to the take down, the police were WAY out of line.

      This is America,with a set of constitutional laws to protect citizens from just this kind of abuse. The colonists had a belly full of it from the kings soldiers and police. Our protection from illegal search and seizure came because the Kings men used to stop colonists, search their wagons and take whatever they wanted for their own.

      This is America, not Germany of the the 30’s and 40’s. Our Armed Forces and Police need to return to civility, respecting all provisions in the Constitution and bill of rights as they carry out their duties.

      As for the Military, it starts with this: You are sworn to follow lawful orders..not orders given in the conduct of illegal wars.

      As for the police you are to protect and serve. We do not pay you to pepper spray us as we protest illegal wars, slam us down on the hoods of our cars when you arrest us for doing 35 in a 25. We do not pay you to send us tickets in the mail.

      We pay you to protect and serve and we expect nothing less.

    • Centiorari

      Absolutely, a Grand Jury just replaces the District Attorney in determining whether to file charges. It is not a fact finding or determining body and the threshold to file charges is actually really low. It is perhaps the most misleading legal term ever.

  • notaboomer

    Bennett’s a ham sandwich

  • Effzee

    Innocent until proven guilty.

    • ReebHerb

      We really need to wait and see if Boykin’s girlfriend had it coming. In other words, no one is under any obligation except the jury and judge to presume innocence.

      • Effzee

        Sure, you’re totally not under any obligation to observe one of the basic tenants of our land which sets America apart from many places in the world. You can go ahead and just believe everyone who cries victim if you want to. I’m in a situation where my partner was brutally attacked by my ex, the ex pled guilty, yet continues to deny accountability to this day, telling everyone she knows that she didn’t do it. There is photographic evidence, yet she has her team of attorneys convinced that she is the victim in this case. By believing everything you hear from the media and the self-proclaimed victims, people like you make everything harder than it needs to be. Its called due process, and everything works better when it is followed.

  • coug73

    May the truth win out in a court of law.

    • Centiorari

      Agreed, sadly what Bennett is fighting for is his freedom, he can’t get his reputation fully restored and it will cost him more in lawyer fees than the fine for the crime. If he is guilty everything is fine, if he is innocent, well then he still lost quite a bit.

  • rosetta_stoned

    but because Bennett ran with others and failed to stop when ordered

    There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

    He didn’t ‘run’ with the others. He took deliberate, evasive action, crouched, attempted to hide and then scaled a wall.

    All one needs to do is watch the video. With his or her eyes open.

  • Ron

    In other disturbing news…

    http://www.wcnc.com/article/sports/nfl/ive-never-seen-that-much-blood-seahawks-qb-boykin-accused-of-assaulting-girlfriend/275-532483891

    That has to be the end of Boykin in Seattle. Who is an available back-up QB ?

  • tor5

    This case is freakishly similar to a case for which I served as a juror. When you dig into it, you soon realize that all parties have ulterior motives. The injured woman could be exaggerating and looking for a payday. The police will look out for their own (including security folks). Prosecutors want a high profile win. Bennett, obviously, doesn’t want to go to jail or have a record. All any reasonable person can do for now is wait for evidence.

  • Centiorari

    Damage is done either way. Guilt or Innocence is really only for a Court of Law, public opinion is decided on the first printing. Few will read about any apology or innocence, most of the nation will just see him as a football player who beat up an old woman. The exposure of one story will exceed the other by millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of readers. It’s the dirty side of our freedom of the press, but like most freedoms it comes with a cost that is much smaller than the gains. We can’t just blame the press, we as readers drive what is printed to a degree as well.

  • Husky73

    Re-affirms the Seahawks’ decision. He’s another team’s problem.