Eagles' lineman Michael Bennett turns self in on injury to the elderly charge
Michael Bennett has posted $10,000 bond that a Texas judge set, after the traded Seahawk surrendered to authorities there on a felony charge of abusing an elderly security woman at last year's Super Bowl in Houston.
Harris County (Texas) Judge Robert Johnson presided over a brief hearing for Bennett Monday. The three-time Pro Bowl defensive end, whom Seattle traded to the Philadelphia Eagles this month, asked that he not be handcuffed. The judge refused Bennett's request. He said he could not give preferential treatment and that Bennett needed to follow normal court protocol for a defendant who's been indicted on a felony charge.
Bennett, wearing a black cardigan sweater over a buttoned-up, white dress shirt and accompanied by his Houston-based attorney Rusty Hardin, was handcuffed after the hearing and after he left the courtroom. He was then fingerprinted and taken to the Harris County Sheriff's Office. Harris County court records show he posted the $10,000 bond later Monday.
Judge Johnson said he will allow Bennett to go back to his offseason home in Hawaii while his case continues in Texas, near where he went to high school.
Court records show Bennett's next scheduled hearing in Texas on the case is April 23. That's one week after the Eagles and every other team with a returning head coach can begin hosting formal offseason workouts for players.
Prosecutors allege the 32-year-old Bennett injured the shoulder of a 66-year-old woman, a paraplegic, by shoving past her to get to his brother Martellus moments after Martellus won Super Bowl 51 with the New England Patriots on Feb. 7, 2017, in Houston.
A league source told me the Seahawks did not know of the alleged incident involving Bennett until the grand jury's indictment of him became public on Friday.
The charge of abuse of the elderly in Texas carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
"He didn't do it," Hardin told reporters Monday, off a live television feed from Houston station KTRK broadcast nationally via CNN. "Michael did not assault this lady ... Michael never touched her."
Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman defended Bennett's right to due process and the presumption of innocence on Monday while speaking to reporters at the NFL owners' meetings in Orlando, Florida.
“I think we’re in a great country,” Roseman said, according to the Allentown (Penn.) Morning Call. "And in this country, people are presumed innocent. And I think we’ve got 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 that people are innocent until proven guilty.”
So the Eagles remain in support of Bennett.
Roseman said he and the Eagles do not believe the Seahawks knew about Bennett's alleged incident or withheld any information on him before they traded him to Philadelphia on March 7.
"I want to be clear: There’s probably not a person—and I’m going to put him on the same ground as a bunch of people—that we trust more than (GM) John Schneider and the Seahawks," Roseman told reporters in Orlando. "So there is nothing that we felt like they did wrong, or there is any blame in this matter. It’s a unique circumstance and we’ll deal with it as we go.”
The chief of the Houston police department read a statement during a press conference on Bennett's indictment Friday.
"Mr. Bennett forcibly opened the locked doors (of tunnels leading to the field) even though security stated he did not have access to the tunnels to get to the field," Chief Art Acevado said. "In an attempt to force his way and push his way to the field, again, Mr. Bennett forcibly open locked doors, he pushed back one female, 28 years of age, a white female 28 years of age, and pushed back another male individual. Mr. Bennett then went up to a 66-year-old black female employee again of the NRG, a paraplegic, and pushed her. Mr. Bennett's assault on this individual actually caused injury, according to her medical records a sprain of her shoulder."
Chief Acevado said Bennett disregarded the command of a Houston police officer working security at the game who witnessed the incident. The chief added Bennett told the officer "**** you, and walked past him onto the field."
Bennett had just finished his fourth consecutive season and second Pro Bowl one for the Seahawks when the alleged incident occurred. He was at the Super Bowl in Houston, where he went to high school, to watch his brother and his Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium.