The former Miami Hurricanes football player accused of killing teammate Bryan Pata will plead not guilty, his attorney said.
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The attorney for Rashaun Jones, the former Miami Hurricanes football player accused of killing teammate Bryan Pata in 2006, said Friday that the case against him is based on circumstantial evidence that has been “sat on” by police for 15 years.
Jones was represented by defense attorney Michael Mirer in a bail hearing in Dade County, Florida, on Friday, where the court rejected his request, meaning the 35-year-old is likely to stay in prison until his arraignment hearing on Sept. 17. Jones, according to Mirer, will enter a not guilty plea. Jones may face the death penalty or a life sentence without the possibility of parole if convicted.
“It’s a unique situation,” Mirer told ESPN. “I mean, the arrest warrant speaks about evidence that police collected in 2007, sitting on for 15 years, and re-interviewing the same eyewitness that they supposedly questioned in 2007, with no further evidence in the arrest warrant.”
Mirer declined to comment as to why the arrest was made last week. He said, “[Jones] maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court.”
Jones was detained on August 19 in Ocala, Florida, and was sent to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami on Thursday. Interviews with individuals who claimed Jones was making threats, cellphone signal records showing he wasn’t at his home that night as he had told police, and ballistics reports confirming the bullet discovered in Pata matched the caliber of a kind of pistol Jones owned are all included in the arrest warrant.
The warrant also included a witness who, in 2006, provided police a description of a guy who looked like Jones fleeing the site of the shooting. In 2007, the guy chose Jones from a picture lineup, and in September 2020, when police performed a follow-up interrogation, he did so again.
The evidence in the warrant seems to come largely from documents and statements obtained within a few years after the shooting, and police and state attorney spokesmen have refused to comment on what fresh evidence they may have or what precipitated the arrest. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office refused to comment on Mirer’s remarks on Friday. A request for comment from the Miami-Dade Police Department was not immediately returned.
According to the arrest warrant, it is being presented “for the limited purpose of establishing probable cause” and does not contain every “aspect, fact, or detail” of the investigation. If the defendant chooses to engage in the exchange of discovery materials, prosecutors have 15 days after the official charges are filed to turn over evidence to the defense.
Pata was returning home after practice on Nov. 7, 2006, when he was shot in the head as he exited his SUV in front of his apartment complex, which was 4 miles from school. Jones has long been regarded a suspect, according to an ESPN investigation last autumn. Jones and Pata had a history of disputes and clashes, according to police records and interviews, and Jones had previously dated Pata’s girlfriend, Jada Brody. In a case file with more than 4,000 pages, police questioned and/or conducted background checks on at least 100 individuals, yet only one had the term “suspect” written on their front page: Jones.
In earlier interviews with ESPN, authorities speculated that the gunman was hiding in the woods or behind a trash, waiting for Pata. The incident was not recorded by any security cameras in the vicinity.
ESPN sued the Miami-Dade Police Department in March 2020, alleging that the department withheld and redacted documents in the case that should have been made public since the case was no longer ongoing. Police, on the other hand, disputed that it was inactive and pledged a resumption of the investigation.
Police were only “a jigsaw piece” away from completing the investigation, according to Lt. Joseph Zanconato, who was subsequently moved out of the murder squad. “Yes,” Zanconato said when asked whether the department will make an arrest “in the near future.”
Pata, the youngest of nine children, was just a few months away from getting drafted into the NFL. He had wanted to help his mother, a Haitian immigrant, out financially. Pata’s brother Edwin sounded hopeful when questioned about the details of the arrest warrant and if it included any fresh evidence last week. Edwin Pata said, “There needs to be something fresh.” “From the sounds of it, and I’m not trying to endanger their case, but there was probably something fresh that broke that they were looking for, and the time would assist them with that.” And it did in the end.
“There’s more to it than that. There’s bound to be more to it.”