MIAMI – The attorney for one of the four suspects charged with killing Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor said Friday he is talking with prosecutors about a plea agreement in which his client might testify against the other suspects.
Michael Hornung, who represents Venjah Hunte, said his client has maintained throughout that he was not aware that anyone had a weapon when they arrived at Taylor's Miami home or that violence would occur, and that he was not inside the home when Taylor was shot Nov. 26.
"He has said from the very beginning that he wants to accept responsibility for his limited role," Hornung said. "He is willing to cooperate and to speak truthfully about that."
The attorney's comments came after a brief hearing for the four suspects, who have already filed written pleas of not guilty to charges of first-degree felony murder and armed burglarly. Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy set an April 7 trial date, but indicated that might be delayed.
Murphy also expressed concern that too much investigative material was finding its way into the media, saying he is considering issuing a gag order on the lawyers in order to ensure a fair trial.
"Hopefully it won't get to that point," Murphy told the attorneys. "Hopefully my point was made today."
A hearing was set for Jan. 8 on a request by the lawyer for suspect Charles Wardlow to seal from the public statements made by the defendants to police. Normally most investigative material becomes public under Florida law once it is given to defense attorneys.
"There's a tremendous amount of information that's out there already," said David Brener, who represents Wardlow. "It's unfair."
Murphy also denied Brener's request that the four suspects be permitted to wear civilian clothes to court rather than bright red or burgundy jail jumpsuits.
Despite the judge's admonitions, Hornung was willing to discuss Hunte's statements in detail, including that the black handgun used in Taylor's killing was placed in a sock and thrown into the Everglades along Alligator Alley between Miami and the Fort Myers area where the four lived. The weapon has not been found.
Hornung said Eric Rivera Jr., Jason Mitchell, Wardlow and Hunte, left Fort Myers on Nov. 25, but had no plans when they arrived in the Miami area. When they saw the luxury cars parked at Taylor's home, one of the suspects said the football star kept $200,000 in a black bag in one of the bedrooms.
At least one of the men said he had stolen $5,000 from Taylor's home before, Hornung said.
The suspects thought that even though Taylor was injured that he was traveling with the team for a game against Tampa that Sunday. They didn't know he was home nursing a knee injury.
They climbed over a fence and broke into a bathroom near the pool with a crowbar. Rivera, 17, and Mitchell, 19, went inside. Minutes later Mitchell ran out claiming he heard a noise, Hornung said.
Rivera persuaded Mitchell to go back inside. A few minutes later, Hunte, 20, heard a gunshot and then a scream inside the house. Mitchell and Rivera came running out and the group left in the car, Hornung said.
Once in Fort Myers, Mitchell and Rivera burned their clothes and masks, the attorney said.
At least two of the defendants have confessed to taking part in the attempted burglary and a grand jury indictment identified Rivera as the one who shot Taylor.
Miami-Dade police declined to comment.