Tampa Bay Bucs’ Aqib Talib cleared of all charges in Texas
TAMPA — Aqib Talib makes a living backpedaling as an NFL cornerback, but he was always straightforward by insisting he would be cleared of a felony charge in Texas that jeopardized his career the past 13 months.
That’s what he told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in August and new Bucs coach Greg Schiano in February.
On Monday, Talib made good on his promise.
Prosecutors in Dallas County dismissed all charges against Talib, according to his attorney Frank Perez.
Talib, 26, the Bucs first-round pick in 2008, was scheduled to stand trial on charges of assault with a deadly weapon June 25 in Dallas County, Texas.
Police said that on March 11, 2011, Talib pistol-whipped and fired shots at Shannon Billings, 42, the live-in boyfriend of Talib’s sister, Saran, who resides in Garland, Texas. Billings is currently jailed as a repeat sex offender, and Perez said that in reviewing the case, prosecutors did not believe their chief witness would be credible.
“I guess the district attorney, in preparing for trial, had a chance to evaluate the case,” Talib’s attorney told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday. “The bottom line is that the complainant is sitting in jail as a repeat child molester and has prior cases of the same nature.”
The dismissal of the second-degree felony, which could have carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, means Talib’s legal issues appear to be behind him for now. He can begin the season under Schiano with a clean slate.
“We felt strongly the whole time that this would be resolved in Aqib’s favor,” Perez said. “He’s very excited he can resume his career and have a fresh start with no problems.”
Talib’s attorneys, Perez and Jay Reisinger, later released a statement on Talib’s behalf:
“Today, the District Attorney for Dallas County, Texas, dismissed all of the charges that were filed against Aqib Talib in March, 2011. We appreciate the District Attorney’s thorough review of this case. Aqib is appreciative of the support that he received from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ organization, his teammates, Buccaneers’ fans and his friends and family during this difficult period. With this matter now successfully behind him, Aqib’s sole focus is on contributing to a successful 2012 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
Billings, a registered sex offender with the state of Texas, is sitting in Dallas County jail in lieu of $265,000 bail after being arrested March 1 on charges of indecency with a child/sexual contact.
He also was arrested Dec. 10 on a charge of sexual assault and was jailed in lieu of $25,000 bail. However, the grand jury returned a “no bill” in the case, according to court records.
Through his attorney, Talib has maintained his innocence in the 2011 shooting.
At the time of Talib’s arrest, Garland police said he tried to pistol-whip Billings with a Springfield 9mm. During a struggle, the gun jammed after it struck a fence and was retrieved by Billings. About that time, Talib’s mother, Okolo, 59, arrived at the scene and fired several shots with a .38-caliber Ruger. At some point, Aqib Talib gained possession of his mother’s gun and fired two shots at Billings, according to arrest warrants.
In an interview with detectives four days after the shooting, Okolo may have provided police with the most incriminating evidence against her son. She said after he took the gun from her, “she did hear a shot and eventually admitted it could’ve been Aqib who shot,” according to the affidavit. She also said that after Aqib “took the gun from her, he chased after Billings with the gun.”
Police found shell casings belonging to the gun fired by Okolo in a driveway across the street.
Talib was indicted in May 2011. In July, the Bucs conferred with him once the NFL’s labor lockout ended and allowed him to return to the team. Despite having suspended him for the first game in 2010 for punching a St. Petersburg cab driver, Goodell agreed to allow Talib to play last season while the league monitored the case.
Schiano said Thursday that he was “concerned” about Talib’s impending trial but prepared for any outcome. Talib has one season remaining on his five-year, $14 million contract and will earn $1.852 million in 2012.
“We’re pleased that this is behind us,” the Bucs said in a statement released Monday. “Aqib has had a positive offseason, which we expect will continue into training camp and the season.”