Four Wheels, No Breaks

Sean Taylor's felony charges have wrecked several lives, not to mention his pro football career

The Yukon was struck at least fifteen times. Police recovered 27 bullet cases, 19 of which were from 7.62-caliber bullets, the type used by an AK-47. The other bullets were .40 caliber, the kind used in a semiautomatic handgun. One of the bullets matched another used in a robbery that occurred a half-mile away.

Taylor was not at the house when police arrived.

"It was something about not waiting around to be shot," says Carhart. Also not there was the Jamaican man whom Hill and others said assaulted them with an M-16. McFarlane and his friends refused to allow police to search the house.

Sean Taylor
Sean Taylor
Ryan Hill
Ryan Hill

"They became extremely sarcastic, every single one of them. They were extremely uncooperative, okay?" said Ofcr. Anne Robinson in a deposition.

Three days after the shooting, Taylor surrendered at a police substation near West Perrine. He posted a $16,500 bond and was released from custody. He subsequently pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

Mike Grieco was the assistant state attorney who initially tried to convict Taylor. In the four years since he'd graduated from the University of Miami School of Law, Grieco had established himself as The NFL Guy at the State Attorney's Office. In addition to prosecuting Taylor, Grieco had assumed the prosecution of former Oakland Raider Barret Robbins, who has bipolar disorder and was shot by Miami Beach Police last year after he broke into the building that houses the nightclub Mansion.

Grieco was angling for a sports-related job in New York, a state where he had also passed the Bar. As defense attorneys would eventually discover, Grieco also liked to skinny-dip. And he liked women with "brains and an ass." To a small group of people — perhaps Midwestern tourists who don't know their way around South Beach — Grieco displayed an alter ego. On Saturday nights at Automatic Slim's on Washington Avenue, Grieco was known as DJ ESQ.

He could be seen by the front door, in the DJ booth. He was the one in the black T-shirt worn over a white long-sleeve undershirt. The one with the stud in his ear, the chain dangling from his jeans, the sideburns crawling down his cheeks.

He was the guy spinning a playlist cribbed from a frat party circa 1988. Old U2. Old INXS. Nothing more current than an unfortunate mashup of Jay-Z's "99 Problems" and Nena's "99 Red Balloons." The tourists dug it, though. So did Taylor's defense team.

When Taylor first surrendered to the police in West Perrine, he had a lawyer named Fred Moldovan. As if he were switching sports agents, Taylor quickly changed representation to Carhart. His new lawyer prepared to defend Taylor against the one count of felony assault with a firearm and one misdemeanor count of battery. But a full seven months after the initial arrest, Grieco amplified the charges against Taylor to three counts of felony assault and the one count of battery.

"The state has had this case since June and now they're filing these added charges? It's bizarre," Carhart said.

With more charges to defend, Taylor bulked up his legal team. In addition to Carhart, he hired attorneys Larry Handfield, Richard Sharpstein, and Sharpstein's wife, Janice Burton Sharpstein. The new team, turning its attention to Grieco, stumbled onto DJ ESQ's MySpace Webpage.

The specific Webpage notes that the personality traits Grieco looks for in the opposite sex are "brains and an ass." And has he been skinny-dipping? "Yep."

What bothered the defense the most, or at least what gave the attorneys the most ammunition, was the way the MySpace page linked to stories about Grieco's prosecution of Sean Taylor, which they deemed a conflict of interest.

"The Website is clear: 'Links to my [press] coverage,'" Richard Sharpstein said. "You click on it — it's all about the Sean Taylor case. It's not about some burglary prosecuted in Overtown."

Even though Grieco quickly removed himself from the case, and subsequently resigned from the State Attorney's Office altogether, Taylor's legal team asked for a dismissal of the charges against its client.

"An uninterested, unbiased prosecutor would never prosecute this case. If Sean Taylor wasn't the defendant, this case would have been out the window six months ago," Sharpstein has said.

Be that as it may, Taylor's defense team was not able to get the case dismissed because of DJ ESQ. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle criticized the defense attorneys and vowed to proceed with the case without Grieco.

"The desire to smear a prosecutor and affect a potential jury pool is a reprehensible trial tactic," Rundle's office relayed in a statement, adding that nothing on Grieco's Website "compromised the integrity of the Sean Taylor case."

The case, which has been delayed several times, is currently scheduled to be tried in July.

Strip away all pretrial gamesmanship and what's left is Ryan Hill. Everything hinges on Hill.

Talking outside his mother's apartment, Hill says he's changed his cell phone number because he's been receiving calls from strangers asking him to drop the case.

"I really didn't want to go through this," he says of his role in the upcoming trial. "I don't like this public stuff. It's, like, scary, 'cause that dude, he knows people that can do stuff to me. And I don't want to get hurt."

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