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State takes deal off table; Jabar Gaffney going on trial

Ex-NFL player accused of vandalizing former teammate's car

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Former Jacksonville high school, college and pro football player Jabar Gaffney is headed to trial after the state withdrew its offer of a plea deal Thursday morning during a scheduled criminal court hearing.

The ex-NFL player has been at the center of our ongoing I-TEAM investigation since the summer, when we obtained surveillance video showing the car of Gaffney's former teammate Lito Sheppard being vandalized in Jacksonville Beach June 17 -- with at least $14,000 in damage done.

Sheppard told police he believed Gaffney was the man seen on the surveillance video, and July 5, an arrest warrant was issued for Gaffney on the charge of criminal mischief, which is a third-degree felony.

The investigating detective noted in the warrant 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. 

Gaffney has since been free on a $30,000 bond.

WATCH: Concussions to blame for Jabar Gaffney's troubles?

During Gaffney's short court hearing Thursday, the state prosecutor told Judge Angela Cox the previous offer made to Gaffney, which would have allowed the former Florida Gator to avoid a felony conviction, was being withdrawn because of comments Gaffney's attorney, Seth Schwartz, made to the media about the offer.

The offer made Sept. 20 included:

  • Two years of probation 
  • A no-contact order with Sheppard
  • A mental health evaluation 
  • 100 hours of community service
  • An agreement to pay Sheppard back for the damage done to his car

Schwartz told News4Jax his client would not be accepting the offer, saying, "It's ridiculous."

The I-TEAM tried to talk to both Gaffney and his other lawyer, A.J. Tasker, after Thursday's developments in court, but Tasker said, "No comment."  Tasker and Schwartz are part of the same law firm.

Gaffney's next court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13, and a trial date could be set at that time.   

This was Gaffney's first court appearance since the incident at his home last month which led to him being held on a 72-hour psychiatric hold.

According to a police report, on Sept. 21, Gaffney's girlfriend reported he was making suicidal threats. The woman told officers she saw Gaffney taking pills while they were on a FaceTime call. She also said he had a gun and had threatened to shoot himself if anyone came to the house. 

Heavily armed police responded to Gaffney's rental home in the gated Highland Glen community, and police took him to the Mental Health Resource Center for a Baker Act hold -- which under state law allows him to be detained for 72 hours.

According to the report, after he was taken from the house, Gaffney told officers he “drank one drink and took two sleeping pills," adding that he did “not want to kill himself and his girlfriend is crazy.” 

The report also said that as police arrived at the center with Gaffney, he became ill and was sweating profusely. As officers took him out of the patrol car, he vomited on the ground, but refused medical attention.

About the Authors:

Lynnsey Gardner is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning investigative reporter and fill-in anchor for The Local Station.