JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The State Attorney’s Office has dropped the 2018 felony criminal mischief charge against former Jacksonville football star Jabar Gaffney after he successfully completed a Pre-Trial Intervention Program.
The ex-NFL player was accused of vandalizing the car of his former high school and college teammate Lito Sheppard on June 17, 2018.
Sheppard contacted police after watching surveillance video showing his white BMW intentionally damaged by two people while he and his wife were eating Father’s Day dinner at a Jacksonville Beach restaurant.
The video appears to show a man pouring something into Sheppard’s gas tank and a woman slashing his four tires. Sheppard said at least $14,000 in damage was done to his car.
While Sheppard told police he believed the man in the video was Gaffney, Gaffney has maintained his innocence – pointing out to News4Jax what he called specific differences between himself and the person on camera, including tattoos and build.
Gaffney’s attorneys, Seth Schwartz and A.J. Tasker, have also maintained their client’s innocence, telling the I-TEAM they were confident -- based on concrete evidence they obtained through their own investigation into the vandalism -- Gaffney would have been found not guilty had his case gone to trial.
However, they say reaching the agreement with State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s Office -- for Gaffney to complete a felony Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) to have the criminal mischief charge dropped -- was in Gaffney’s best interest financially and would allow him to move forward with his life.
“Thanks for the opportunity to make a statement on behalf of my client. We were looking forward to trying the case before a jury to fully exonerate Jabar, but the cost of trial estimated to be $40,000, and the state’s offer of PTI at $840.39, made accepting the PTI offer a no brainer,” Schwartz told the I-TEAM in a statement.
He also says additional evidence they uncovered, including inconsistencies in witness testimony, would have resulted in a jury ruling in favor of Gaffney.
“The video and photographic evidence the State planned to use, we contend showed Jabar was not the assailant. In fact, Jabar has many distinguishing tattoos, none of which appear on the individual on the video or photographs. The State contended a known white female, who is covered in colorful tattoos, was with Jabar in the video, yet all of her colorful tattoos are nowhere to be seen in the video and photographs. The State even enhanced the videos, and still nothing. Despite the fact multiple detectives from multiple agencies worked the case for months and issued many warrants, and ran down all leads, no evidence was obtained beyond Mr. Sheppard’s claims, Jabar was involved in the event. Jabar maintains his innocence today as he has throughout this case. ” Schwartz said.
The State Attorney’s Office said it will not be commenting.
The I-TEAM submitted a public records request Friday morning to learn the requirements Gaffney fulfilled in order to complete the intervention program, and we will follow up on this story once we receive those documents.