Merriman denies harming reality TV star
SAN DIEGO -- San Diego Chargers star outside linebacker Shawne Merriman said he did not harm reality TV star Tila Tequila at his home early Sunday and added he was concerned for her safety because she appeared to be intoxicated.
Merriman was arrested and accused of choking and throwing Tequila to the ground as she tried to leave his home in suburban Poway. Tequila signed a citizen's arrest warrant charging Merriman with battery and false imprisonment. Both are felonies.
Merriman spent about 2½ hours in the downtown jail before posting bail.
Merriman practiced Monday, then said he's convinced he'll be cleared. It will ultimately be up to the District Attorney's office to decide if he'll be charged.
"I think when it all surfaces, it will be a different situation. Period," said Merriman, who described Tequila as an acquaintance.
Tequila, whose real name is Tila Nguyen, is best known for "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila," which ran for two seasons on MTV. The bisexual dating show featured men and women vying for Tequila's affections. She has also modeled for Playboy and other men's magazines.
Merriman said he was limited in what he could say. He kept referring to a statement issued through his attorney Sunday night.
"At the time, I was concerned about her welfare given the intoxicated state she appeared to be in and I encouraged her to stay until safe transportation could be provided," Merriman said in the statement. "We would all do our best to help a friend if we considered their actions to be detrimental to their personal safety.
"I in no way caused any harm to Ms. Nguyen, however, paramedics were called and she was examined but no injuries were reported," the statement continued.
"It's kind of a tough situation where you think you're doing the right thing," Merriman said Monday. "I'm glad that everyone was safe at the end of the day. I don't think I will regret that part."
Asked if he threw Tequila to the ground, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Merriman said: "No. I can't talk about any of that stuff."
Scott E. Leemon, an attorney for Tequila, didn't respond to an e-mail asking for comment on Merriman's statement.
Also Monday, the owner of a downtown club where Merriman and Tequila attended a party Saturday night said his staff told him Tequila had been drinking and it appeared Merriman had ordered only bottled water.
"I feel sorry for the guy and I think the truth needs to be told," said James Brennan, who owns Stingaree, one of the city's top hangouts for celebrities.
Brennan said he normally wouldn't comment, but felt he should after seeing Tequila's tweet in which she said she's allergic to alcohol.
"It sounds like she's allergic to the truth," Brennan told The Associated Press.
Brennan said he was not at the club Saturday night, but had spoken with every employee who dealt with Tequila and Merriman. Brennan said he was told she had shots of tequila and drank from a bottle of vodka. Brennan said Tequila requested that his brother, Shane, a manager at Stingaree, have a shot of tequila with her.
"She wasn't like falling down or anything of that nature, but she was visibly intoxicated," Brennan said.
In a tweet Sunday, Tequila said: "I am allergic to alcohol. It has been publicly known for years. That is how I got the name Tila "Tequila" cuz the irony. I cant drink."
Merriman said he met Monday morning with team president Dean Spanos and coach Norv Turner.
"They're just all supportive, hopefully that we can move on from the situation as soon as possible," Merriman said.
Merriman said he did not meet with general manager A.J. Smith.
Smith is believed to be unhappy with Merriman's various off-field activities. There's been speculation the Chargers will Merriman leave when he's eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
Merriman is one of the NFL's hardest-hitting players. Nicknamed "Lights Out" for his savage hits, he has a tattoo of a switch on one of his forearms that he pretends to flip while doing his spasmodic sack dance.
He had 39½ sacks in his first three seasons. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has been getting back into shape after having season-ending knee surgery following the 2008 opener.
Merriman was suspended four games for testing positive for steroids in 2006, his second NFL season.
Star running back LaDainian Tomlinson said Merriman sought advice from key teammates. Tomlinson also said Turner addressed the team.
"He wanted us to continue to think about places we'll be, what time we're there and who we're around," Tomlinson said. "Those are the things we can control. That was kind of his point."
Turner refused to say what he said to the team. Smith didn't return a call seeking comment and a team spokesman said Spanos wasn't going to comment.
The Chargers open the season next Monday night at Oakland.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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