Posted by Adam Jacobi
On its face, the news out of Gainesville Monday evening that Florida linebacker Dee Finley had been arrested on multiple charges looked bad -- especially since those charges (initially--see update below--ed.) included resisting an officer with violence (a third-degree felony). Resisting an officer with violence conjures many mental images, and they're universally ugly. That's the type of behavior that not only gets one kicked off the football team, but out of school... and into prison. Felony violence against a police officer! Can you imagine!
Except we don't have to imagine, because the Orlando Sentinel has the police report from Finley's arrest, and let's just say the police report -- i.e., even the cop's side of the story -- doesn't seem to back up the charges:
Finley was pulled over at 1:50 p.m. by Officer William Sasser after driving around a barricade at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. According to the arrest report, Finley initially refused to give his license and registration and told Sasser he was late.
As Finley tried to leave, Sasser told him he was under arrest and grabbed Finley's wrist. Finley pulled his wrist away and "stood up and squared to me while straddling the scooter," Sasser wrote in the report.
After Sasser removed his Taser, Finley complied.
Now, that's extremely inadvisable behavior from Finley from the moment he got onto the scooter; driving with a suspended license is going to turn even the most mundane of traffic stops into a legal situation, no matter who you are. Trying to drive said scooter away from a police stop without proffering a license and registration is also amazingly dumb. It's such a bad idea that Florida coach Will Muschamp (and really, pretty much every D-I coach) should schedule a meeting with his players where all he says is "DO WHAT THE COP TELLS YOU TO DO" over and over for an hour straight.
That said, once the police officer escalated the situation to an arrest (as he should have) and grabbed Finley's wrist, Finley's reaction was once again inadvisable but hardly an act of violence. If anything, the violence here is perpetrated by the policeman, who grabs Finley's wrist then threatens the use of a Taser. It's all legal, of course, and we're not exactly about to advocate charges brought against a policeman doing his job, but there's such a chasmic disconnect between the police report and the charges filed that the word "violence" ceases to have any real meaning here, and it would be naive to assume otherwise. That'd be a dangerous precedent to set.
UPDATE: This is likely why Finley's charges have already been reduced from the felony "resisting arrest with violence" to the misdemeanor-level "resisting arrest without violence." A Florida spokesman said Muschamp "is aware of the incident and will handle the matter." For more on Finley's situation and the Gators' options for replacing him in the second-string, have a look at our CBSSports.com Florida RapidReports.
At any rate, there's a roughly 0.0001% no chance this felony charge makes it anywhere near conviction, so it would just be prejudicial to call Florida a bunch of felons and felon-coddlers. Sure would be nice if the police had set a good example for Finley after the arrest and told him that they technically could have filed a felony charge, but weren't going to do that since he complied before the situation escalated to the use of a Taser. Wouldn't that have sent a message to Finley without smearing him as a felon in the public sphere, the way these types of allegations so often do before a judge even gets a chance to look at them? Or is it just more enjoyable to just throw as many charges at a person as possible and let the lawyers decide which should stick?
Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview