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'Surreal' situation

Vikings' Moss now facing two misdemeanor charges

Posted: Wednesday September 25, 2002 2:54 PM
Updated: Thursday September 26, 2002 2:44 AM
  Randy Moss Sheriff's booking photo Vikings receiver Randy Moss is shown in this Hennepin County Sheriff's booking photo. AP

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Randy Moss walked out of jail whistling, charged with two misdemeanors instead of a possible felony for allegedly pushing a traffic officer a half-block with his car.

The Minnesota Vikings' star receiver won't even miss a game.

Moss was released Wednesday from the Hennepin County jail after spending the night. He was charged with careless driving and failure to obey a traffic officer.

Dana Banwer, a deputy attorney for Minneapolis, said each charge carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. She said Moss will be arraigned Oct. 2.

Police said they found a small quantity of marijuana in Moss' car, an amount that would qualify as a petty misdemeanor, but no charge was immediately filed.

Moss' agent, Dante DiTrapano, said the marijuana didn't belong to his client. "Somebody apparently said there was residue of marijuana in the ash tray, which wasn't anything to charge anyone with," he said. "It wasn't his."

Banks: Vikings to hit Moss with $49,000 fine
The Vikings on Thursday are expected to issue a fine to receiver Randy Moss that at least initially will be in the range of $49,000, an NFL source confirmed Wednesday night.

That figure will represent the maximum amount allowable on the Vikings' internal fine schedule for missing a team meeting and weight training on Wednesday, in addition to being late to the afternoon practice -- offenses which total $18,500. In addition, head coach Mike Tice plans on fining Moss one game check for conduct detrimental to the team for his role Tuesday in an incident involving a downtown Minneapolis traffic control agent.

But Moss is expected to appeal that fine, which would be $30,882, or 1/17th of his current $525,000 base salary, and in all likelyhood would win a grievance backed by the NFL Players Association. Thus, when all is said and done, Moss is expected to pay a team fine of $18,500 in the aftermath of being charged with two misdemeanor traffic violations.

"I've talked to [Vikings head coach] Mike Tice and as far as the team's concerned, all Randy did was miss a meeting and come late to practice," said Moss's agent, Dante DiTrapano. "And they're going to fine him for conduct detrimental to the team."

But Tice made it clear Wednesday night that he intended to hit Moss with every fine possible, including the loss of a game check, even if that penalty is eventually overturned in the grievance process. More than anything, Tice will take that step in order to send a message to Moss, his teammates, and Minnesota's fans.

Moss apologized to his teammates and coaches Wednesday after practice, and plans on extending an apology to the team's fans and people in the Twin Cities on Thursday. As for a pending petty misdemeanor charge against Moss for possession of marijuana, team officials said there is no concern from anyone in the organization about that finding.

-- Don Banks, Sports Illustrated 
 
 

Moss, who has a history of trouble on and off the field, had been arrested on suspicion of assault with a dangerous weapon, a felony.

He whistled as he left jail and walked through a pack of reporters.

"You'll hear my side later," Moss said. "I was treated bad."

Attorney Joe Friedberg led Moss to a nearby car that drove him away.

Coach Mike Tice said Moss will start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks but will be disciplined for missing part of Wednesday's practice. He did not reveal the discipline.

Allowing Moss to play is "an appropriate course of action" based on the lesser charges.

"I'm still disappointed," Tice said. "This doesn't change the fact that we've been dealing with this for the last 24 hours, that I slept very little last night."

Moss wasn't available to reporters at practice. Tice said Moss apologized to his teammates and coaches after practice, and would make a statement Thursday.

"You hate to see this stuff happen to him because he's a good guy," defensive tackle Chris Hovan said. "He's respected in this locker room."

Moss wound up in jail after his run-in with the traffic officer during Tuesday evening rush hour on a downtown Minneapolis street.

The officer stepped in front of Moss' car to stop him from making an illegal turn. Moss used his car to slowly push her along the street, stopping when she fell to the ground, police spokeswoman Cyndi Barrington said.

Barrington said 27-year-old Amy Zaccardi -- a city employee but not a police officer -- was not seriously hurt. One witness called the situation "surreal." Another said he didn't believe Moss intended to hurt Zaccardi.

County prosecutor Amy Klobuchar said the case was turned over to the city for lesser charges because there wasn't enough evidence to prove Moss intended to hurt the officer.

Moss could get 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine on each of the misdemeanors if convicted. A felony assault conviction might have meant 21 months in prison.

Under NFL rules, Moss will undergo mandatory "evaluation" because he was charged. Any disciplinary action would follow a conviction or guilty plea.

Jerry Hullerman said he was parked near the intersection when he saw Moss driving his car.

"I saw a really decked-out Lexus pushing the traffic person along," said Hullerman, who was also interviewed by police. "It was really surreal."

He said Zaccardi was facing forward while sitting on the front of the car with one hand on the hood and the other hand on her radio as the car pushed her along.

After a few seconds, Hullerman said, the man in the car tapped the accelerator and knocked her down.

"She fell flat on her face," Hullerman said, adding that the driver didn't get out of his car.

Hullerman said squad cars arrived seconds later and officers took Moss into custody.

"[Moss] was going really slow," said Robert Nelson, another witness. "Apparently, he didn't want to hurt her. I think he was just trying to frighten her into moving."

 
SI's Don Banks
With the severity of the charges being dropped to just a bit above the level of a speeding ticket, Randy Moss almost certainly will play Sunday night when the 0-3 Vikings play at 0-3 Seattle.

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    The 25-year-old Moss has been in trouble before. He squirted a referee with a water bottle in 1999 -- which resulted in a $25,000 fine from the NFL -- and verbally abused corporate sponsors on the team bus in 2001. The last infraction resulted in the team fining him $15,000 and forcing him to attend anger management classes.

    He had a scholarship revoked by Notre Dame in 1995 after being charged with beating up a high school classmate in Rand, W.Va. Moss pleaded guilty to battery and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. He was allowed to defer most of the sentence until after his freshman year in college.

    He went to Florida State, where he redshirted his freshman season but was kicked off the team for violating probation by smoking marijuana. That got him a one-year jail sentence, which was reduced to about one month of time served.

    Virtually out of chances, Moss walked on at Marshall and quickly became a star.

    Moss is in his fifth year with the Vikings and is the team's highest-paid player. He signed an eight-year, $75 million contract last year.

    He set an NFL record with 5,396 yards receiving in his first four seasons as a pro and is the only wide receiver with more than 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first four seasons. Moss has scored more touchdowns since his 1998 debut than anyone except St. Louis running back Marshall Faulk.

     
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