Bennett Hires Hardin, Plans to Surrender Monday
(973espn.com) - Michael Bennett has hired famed criminal defense attorney Rustin Hardin to represent him in the wake of a high-profile indictment that charges the embattled Eagles defensive end with injuring a 66-year-old paraplegic woman working security at Super Bowl LI in Houston.
The charge -- injury to the elderly -- is a felony in Harris County, Texas punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Hardin, the point man for a number of high-profile issues involving Houston-area sports figures, including Roger Clemens and Adrian Peterson, told USA TODAY that Bennett was out of the country when the indictment was handed down on Friday and plans on surrendering Monday.
After the news broke Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo held a press conference and surprised some with his harsh editorializing on Bennett's character, calling the veteran "morally bankrupt," something Hardin obviously objected to.
"My initial reaction is that everyone needs to calm down a little bit," Hardin told USA TODAY in a phone interview. "He's a professional football player who is very respected for his work on social issues. I'm going to take my time to find out what occurred."
The Harris County district attorney's office alleges that Bennett shoved security staffers, including the women, while trying to get on the field after the game, something that was witnessed by a police officer.
Acevedo added that Bennett told those he pushed: "'You all must know who I am and I can own this (expletive). I'm going down to the field, whether you like it or not.'"
Many questions remain about the case, including the absence of video, the lack of action by the police officer who observed Bennett as well as the length it took to build an indictment, and Acevedo's strange over-the-top language in describing Bennett.
"Mr. Bennett may think that because he's an NFL player and some time passed ... he may have thought that, No. 1, rules don't apply to him, No. 2, he doesn't have to respect the dignity of a paraplegic woman who's trying to earn a living," the chief asserted.
An NFL source told 973espn.com that neither the Seahawks or Eagles were aware an indictment could be coming when they engaged in a transaction that sent Bennett from Seattle to the Philadelphia at the beginning of the league year.
"We are aware of the situation involving Michael Bennett and are in the process of gathering more information," the Eagles said in a statement Friday afternoon. "Because this is an ongoing legal matter, we will have no further comment at this time."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen