Local News

Monday, Mar 29 2010 06:09 PM

Porter's lawyer disputes arrest

BY STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer, sswenson@bakersfield.com

An attorney for NFL linebacker Joey Porter, who was arrested early Saturday on misdemeanor charges of drunken driving and battery on a peace officer, expects his client to be cleared on all charges, even though Porter took a breath test that was at or near the legal limit.

"What he's accused of in this case is untrue," attorney Daniel Rodriguez said.

The attorney said he will investigate reports that the California Highway Patrol officer who arrested Porter "may have a history of being overly aggressive."

CHP Sgt. Larry McGuire replied, "We have no reason to doubt our officer's report."

Two twists also came to light Monday: The officer who arrested Porter has a pending drunken driving case of his own, and the first man stopped by officers -- who Porter followed into a parking lot that led to his arrest -- got off scot-free.

The incident happened at about 1:40 a.m. Saturday when a two-man CHP car pulled over a car that went into the parking lot of the Taco Bell at Hageman Road and Calloway Drive.

McGuire said the man driving that car did not have a front license plate. That man was neither cited nor arrested, McGuire said. It is the type of violation which may result in just a warning, he said.

But as one officer was talking with that driver, Porter drove into the parking lot behind the CHP car, officers reported. Rodriguez disputes this account, saying that Porter went into the lot some distance away from the patrol car and was just watching. An officer had no reason to contact Porter, Rodriguez said.

But Officer Jeritt Greer went up to Porter and detected an odor of alcohol, the CHP reported. The CHP reported what happened next:

Greer asked for Porter's license, but Porter refused to give it to him. Greer asked Porter to get out of his car, a 2002 Mercedes Benz, but Porter refused.

Porter began to roll up the driver's window, but Greer reached into the car to pull up on the unlock button. Porter slapped his hand on top of Greer's hand to keep the button down.

Greer grabbed Porter's arm and pushed it into the interior of the car. Porter got out "in a confrontational manner." McGuire said the confrontation was "verbal."

Greer pulled out a retractable baton and ordered Porter to the ground, but Porter did not comply. Porter did agree to place his hands behind his head. Greer then arrested Porter who was booked into the jail on charges of drunken driving, battery on a peace officer and resisting arrest.

Rodriguez said the so-called slapping incident didn't happen the way the officers reported it.

Rodriguez said Porter took a breath test at the jail and registered .07 and .08 percent. The legal limit is .08, but Rodriguez said the breath test has a margin of error of .02, which means Porter's blood-alcohol level could be as low as .05 or as high as .10.

Greer himself was arrested Oct. 22 on a drunken driving charge, according to the Kern County Superior Court website. He's set for a pretrial hearing on April 9.

McGuire said he could not comment on Greer's pending court case or any possible discipline he may face if he's convicted. The sergeant said a misdemeanor DUI arrest would not derail an officer's career.

Rodriguez said, "Joey Porter respects and trusts law enforcement. He's always done the best he can to support law enforcement. But while 99 percent of law enforcement officers do a good job, there are a couple of bad apples."

Based on telephone calls to his office alleging that Greer may be overly aggressive, Rodriguez said he will ask a judge to look at Greer's personnel file to see if that's true.

"We're pretty confident Joey will be exonerated," Rodriguez said.

Another man in Porter's car, Terrance Porter, 44, was arrested on public drunkenness charges, officers said.

Porter, 33, an 11-year veteran linebacker, just signed a $24.5 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. The 1995 graduate of Foothill High school was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1999 after playing at Colorado State.

Pittsburgh won a Super Bowl with Porter in 2006, and Porter was a four-time Pro Bowl selection. Porter went to the Miami Dolphins in 2007. Porter has held the Joey Porter Boot Camp for the past several years at Foothill High and has staged golf tournaments to raise money for other Bakersfield-based nonprofits.

He and his wife, Christy, and their four children, live in northwest Bakersfield.

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