After sources told an NBC Bay Area reporter Tony Kovaleski that the Santa Clara District Attorney filed felony weapons charges against Aldon Smith, the reactions from many ranged from “SMH” to “R.I.P. Aldon’s career.” Sorry to break it to the people who like to make grandiose predictions as early as possible to seem prescient, but the smart money is still on Smith staying with the 49ers for a while.
The felony weapons charges are “dubious”
That’s not my word, either. Over at the firm of Fooch, Steph, and Ninersnation, LLC, they have an interesting and highly logical breakdown of why these charges may have been filed now — over a year after Smith’s house party ended in gunfire and Smith getting stabbed. Since I’m not a lawyer and will never become one, I’ll let socalisteph explain:
The District Attorney has received a lot of heat for being lenient on the rich within the last few months. Shortly after the accusations were made, the political posturing began. That is, the Assistant DA Scott Tsui stated, “We’re not treating anyone differently.” The DA had an entire year to investigate Smith and bring forth felony possession charges. A whole year. But it wasn’t until even one month ago the DA began to investigate whether he purposely left California to buy the illegal guns. Why did it take so long? The inference is Smith is the wealthy, high-profile defendant he needs to preserve his reputation.
The DUI arrest gave the District Attorney a perfect opportunity to show he can throw the book at the elite. Even if the DA did not believe he could secure a conviction a year ago, the charges can now be tacked on to Smith’s DUI charge in an effort to get a plea. While it may not be the high-profile conviction he needs, it may be enough to potentially secure a better plea bargain and save face.
It is pretty simple. If there is new evidence to prosecute the charge, why did it take so long to discover it? And, if there is no new evidence, it is clear to me — the felony charges are merely a leveraging tool.
There’s a lot more in Steph’s piece, which I recommend highly. If the DA is using these charges to get Smith’s team to agree to a plea agreement that would include jail time, they’d better come with airtight evidence that Smith knew the guns were illegal in California and went out of his way to circumvent CA law. However, based on the “specific intent” requirement for Smith to be convicted on these felony charges, Smith’s legal team will surely fight against anything close to that happening. We’ll see what happens with the two misdemeanors resulting from his DUI arrest, but unless Smith defends himself in court it’s difficult to imagine him landing in jail for a significant period of time, if at all. His license might get suspended or he could get placed on probation, but it appears the DA wouldn’t have even considered filing weapons charges if it weren’t for the recent lawsuit against Smith and Delanie Walker (also stemming from the same party). The whole thing seems a little flimsy, and Smith will surely have a dynamite set of lawyers who’ll relish the opportunity to keep their client from becoming a pawn in the DA’s political game.
Smith went to rehab
This was an extraordinary and unprecedented step taken by both the athlete and the team that employs him, and shows a commitment to Smith from the 49ers that won’t get discarded unless Smith fails to hold up his end of the bargain. The possibility of a relapse will always be there, but it does no good to predict a young man will fail without allowing him to go through the process. For a terrific breakdown of what Smith faces during and after his rehab stay, check out what Ruthless Sports Guy wrote here.
Smith is an incredible player
Everyone in the NFL is good, but Smith is a top-five pass rusher in a league where allowing quarterbacks too much time to throw usually results in disaster. No offense to Craig Dahl — but if Dahl was the one who was found unconscious at 7 am after running into a tree, he wouldn’t have an NFL front office urging/pressuring him to go to rehab. His playbook would’ve been taken away and he’d be left to clean up his life on his own.
No doubt, Smith is teetering on the edge. One more false move, and his opportunity to build a Hall of Fame career (and land a Clay Matthews-like extension) will vanish. It’d be easier to predict that the end was imminent if Smith hadn’t done the right things: admitted he had a problem publicly and take a flight to a rehab facility the next day. If he did nothing and let the legal process handle it all for him, expecting another screwup wouldn’t be so far-fetched. But despite the egregious mistake he made the Friday morning prior, Smith earned the benefit of the doubt with his actions after the Colts game. He should receive the same when it comes to the weapons charges.