JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In what was supposed to be a routine arraignment regarding the criminal mischief charge against Jabar Gaffney, the Jacksonville football star has refused a deal offered Thursday morning by the State Attorney's Office.
As the I-TEAM first reported, Gaffney is accused of vandalizing the car of his former teammate Lito Sheppard, causing at least $14,000 in damage. He's charged with felony criminal mischief and appeared in a Duval County courtroom for the first time Thursday morning to face that charge -- which is a third-degree felony.
During the short hearing, the prosecutor offered Gaffney a chance to avoid a felony conviction if he agrees to two years of probation, which includes a no-contact order with Sheppard, a mental health evaluation, 100 hours of community service and an agreement to pay Sheppard back for the damage done to his car.
Gaffney's attorney, Seth Schwartz, contacted News4Jax on Thursday night to say his client will not accept the offer, saying "it's ridiculous."
The I-TEAM spoke with local defense attorney Gene Nichols, who is not affiliated with this case, for perspective on the deal offered to Gaffney.
"The State of Florida has extended an offer to resolve this matter without the defendant being convicted of a felony," explained Nichols. "The offer includes a requirement he pay restitution for any damage he caused, he have no contact with the victim, and he undergo a psychological evaluation. It is clear the State of Florida is concerned not only with the past actions of the defendant, but also his potential future actions, thus the requirement he stay away from the victim and undergo an evaluation."
The investigation against Gaffney began in late June after Sheppard contacted Jacksonville Beach Police to report his white BMW had been vandalized.
Sheppard told us he had no idea anything had happened to his car while he was celebrating Father's Day at a Jacksonville Beach restaurant the night of June 17, until it stalled as he was leaving.
After learning from his dealership his car had been intentionally damaged and his tires slashed, he watched surveillance video that showed a man in a black sports car with a female driver pull up to his parked BMW. Then the man is seen pouring something into his gas tank and the woman appears to slash his four tires.
Sheppard told police he believed Gaffney was the man caught on surveillance video, and on July 5, an arrest warrant was issued with the investigating detective noting that separate surveillance video obtained from the same night Sheppard's car was vandalized showed Gaffney leaving the neighborhood where he lives in the same kind of black sports car seen in the Jacksonville Beach surveillance video -- a black Audi -- with a female driver.
Schwartz previously told the I-TEAM his client has been adamant that he is not the man seen in the video vandalizing Sheppard's BMW.
Gaffney remains free on a $30,000 bond.