Michael Bennett, the Pro Bowl defensive end who recently was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, surrendered to the authorities in Houston on Monday on a charge that he injured a woman in a wheelchair while trying to get onto the field after the 2017 Super Bowl.
Bennett was a spectator at NRG Stadium in Houston for the game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons on Feb. 5, 2017. The Harris County district attorney’s office said Bennett ignored instructions to go to a different field entrance and subsequently pushed past a group of security employees to try to congratulate his brother, Martellus, who had just won the game as a member of the Patriots.
Prosecutors said the group of security personnel included a 66-year-old paraplegic woman who suffered injuries during the incident.
After Bennett’s brief court appearance Monday, a judge set his bond at $10,000 on a felony count of injury to the elderly. He was expected to post bail and be released.
Speaking to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Bennett’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, made it clear that his client denies the charge.
“He just flat-out didn’t do it,” Hardin said. “It wasn’t a case of, ‘He didn’t shove her that hard,’ or anything like that. He never touched her.”
A nine-year NFL veteran who won a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks after the 2013 season, Bennett is one of the league’s most outspoken players. Frequently a media darling along with his brother, Bennett is a published author and the head of a charitable foundation that fights childhood obesity.
He has yet to personally comment on this episode, but Hardin said Bennett was one of several people in the Patriots’ family section of the stadium trying to find his way onto the field and that it is unclear how the injured woman could know it was Bennett who injured her.
At the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ executive vice president of football operations, told reporters that the team did not know about the accusations until Friday, nine days after the team officially acquired Bennett from the Seahawks via trade. Roesman said the team was not jumping to conclusions before all of the facts have been presented.
“In this country, people are presumed innocent,” Roseman said. “I think we have to be fair about that in all these matters. I don’t think it’s fair in any situation to not give people the right to present their side. I don’t want to get into this, but our overriding philosophy on things are people are innocent until proven guilty.”
Roseman said the team conducted a background check on Bennett and that players they interviewed reported that he was well-liked and a good teammate.
Monday’s court appearance came after an arrest warrant was issued Friday following a grand jury electing to indict Bennett on the felony charge, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
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