Report: Suspects involved in earlier Taylor break-in
At least two of the suspects charged with the murder of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor were involved in the previous break-in at his home, a law enforcement official and an attorney involved in the case told The New York Times.
The Times reported that football memorabilia and large amounts of cash were found in at least one of the suspects' homes.
Richard Sharpstein, Taylor's former lawyer, told The Times that he was aware of the connection.
"This wasn't a random burglary," he told The Times. "This was a dime-a-dozen wannabe criminals who had been to the house before. They stole his life thinking they were going to steal a few dollars from him."
A spokesman for the Miami-Dade police department wouldn't confirm a link between the two crimes.
"It's something we're looking into," Roy Rutland told The Times.
In the earlier break-in at Taylor's home on Nov. 17, someone pried open a front window, rifled through drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed.
Eric Rivera, 17, who has been identified as the gunman by a grand jury, was denied bail Wednesday in a brief appearance via videoconference in a Miami-Dade County courtroom. His three co-defendants were denied bail a day earlier.
All four -- Rivera; Charles Wardlow, 18; Jason Mitchell, 19; and Venjah Hunte, 20 -- have been charged with first-degree felony murder and armed burglary. Their arraignments are Dec. 21.
Sharpstein said he expected them all eventually to be "severely punished."
Taylor died Nov. 27, a day after he was shot in the bedroom of his home. Police have said the 24-year-old player was a victim of a botched burglary.
An attorney for Rivera said his client wants to work with prosecutors to resolve the case.
Sawyer Smith, who along with his father Wilbur is representing Rivera, said Wednesday his client was admitting no wrongdoing yet.
"When the State Attorney's Office is ready, we would like to sit down and begin discussion with them so we can move towards a resolution in the case that has the best interest of all parties in mind,'' Smith said. "We want to minimize the impact of case resolution on the Taylor family and find a result that's in the best interest of justice.''
Smith added: "Plea negotiations are typical in criminal cases. However, we don't know when or if that will occur.''
Wardlow's attorney, David Brener, distanced his client's actions from those of Rivera and said he expected to go to trial.
"I believe that the acts of Mr. Rivera, who was the shooter of this case, constitute an independent act,'' Brener said Wednesday. "My client never contemplated that Mr. Rivera was going to arm himself or use lethal force against Mr. Taylor.''
Smith said the defense attorneys in the case have a history of working together, but he said he understood the grand jury's identification of his client as the alleged gunman puts him in a unique position.
"The other boys may be in a position to separate themselves somewhat from our client,'' he said. "However, under the felony murder rule, if it can be shown that they're involved in it, if they're involved in the burglary, then it's not a defense that they were not the one that pulled the trigger.''
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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Sean Taylor: 1983-2007
Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died Nov. 27, a day after the Pro Bowl player was shot at home by what police say was an intruder. Four suspects are in custody and have been charged with first-degree felony murder and armed burglary.
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