Melissa Pittman won't press charges, but the state might. The Bucs starting running back still faces a probation hearing.
By ROGER MILLS
Published June 11, 2003
TAMPA - Melissa Pittman, the wife of Bucs running back Michael Pittman, told Phoenix prosecutors Tuesday she does not intend to press charges against her husband and hopes the state will follow the lead, her attorney Ed Brennan said.
In the meantime, a hearing to review whether Pittman violated the terms of his three-year probation, stemming from two misdemeanor convictions in 2001, has been set for June 18 in a Tempe municipal court.
"Melissa has made the determination that she does not want to proceed with the criminal charges, at all," Brennan said. "She hopes the state will drop the charges so that she and Michael can move on. She is an extremely strong person who has a lot of religious faith and believes that in the frailty of humanity people make mistakes and can correct those mistakes."
The Bucs starter, who attended workouts Tuesday at One Buc Place, faces two felony counts of aggravated assault stemming from a domestic dispute at his Phoenix home on May 31. Police say Pittman, 27, rammed his Hummer into the Mercedes-Benz driven by Melissa. At the time of the incident, the couple's 2-year-old son Mycah and 18-year-old babysitter Kristina Hegland were in Melissa's car.
In the summer of 2001, while with the Cardinals, Pittman pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and criminal damage after an altercation with Melissa in Tempe. Pittman was sentenced to five days in jail, received a three-year probation and was suspended for one game by the NFL.
"What (people) should perceive about Melissa is that she is a strong, caring, loving mother who is very forgiving," Brennan said. "No one can judge her decisions until they have walked in her shoes."
Contacted late Tuesday, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Phoenix would not discuss details surrounding the Pittman case.
Historically, the state of Arizona has prosecuted cases similar to Pittman's felony case without the cooperation of the victim, and at this point, Brennan said, the state has indicated they will go forward.
"We've made contact with them and let them know that we don't want to proceed and they have indicated that they intend to proceed (with the felony charges)," Brennan said.
While an initial hearing on the felony counts is set for June 16, Pittman still faces another gigantic barrier. Authorities in Tempe have made it clear they intend to try to have his probation revoked.
Tempe city prosecutor Robert Hubbard said Pittman does not have to attend the preliminary probation revocation arraignment on June 18. Pittman's Phoenix-based attorney, Phillip Noland, can attend on his behalf.
Hubbard said his office plans to ask the court to rescind Pittman's probation on the grounds he has not been a "law-abiding citizen." If that happens, Pittman could immediately be sent to jail, though that decision rests with the judge.
"(Sending him to jail) would be our reason for pursuing this hearing," Hubbard said.
Though not definite, Pittman likely will appear in front of Judge Lorraine Arkfeld, the presiding judge in that court. Arkfeld sentenced Pittman to the original three-year term.
At such a preliminary hearing, which is independent of the felony charges, Pittman could deny any wrongdoing on May 31. At that point, the court will set a date for a minitrial, which could be within a few weeks.
"It's a lot like a real trial, only that the burden of proof is different," Hubbard said. "The court will be looking for a preponderance of evidence to indicate he was not a law-abiding citizen. (In a probation hearing) the state does not have the same burden of proof (as it would in a criminal hearing)."
If Pittman is found to be in violation of his probation the consequences could be severe.
"The worst thing that could happen (for Bucs fans) is that he gets six months in jail, minus the five days (from his original sentencing)," Hubbard said. "But it would be entirely up to the judge."
Around the league
BILLS: Safety Chad Cota has decided not to sign his contract and is contemplating retirement.
CHARGERS: The team released former second-round pick Rogers Beckett safety Rodney Harrison and cornerback Alex Molden.
SEAHAWKS: Tight end Jerramy Stevens pleaded guilty to reckless driving after prosecutors agreed to drop a drunken driving charge.
But the judge declined to accept a sentence recommended by attorneys of two days in jail, a $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service.
VIKINGS: Receiver-returner Nick Davis has a tear in his right shoulder and might miss three months.
- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.