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Capel plea agreement expected to come today

By GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001


Former Hernando standout John Capel, arrested last month on a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana, is expected to accept an agreement with prosecutors today that could have the arrest wiped off of his criminal record in six months.

It's unknown if Capel, who is participating in workouts with the Chicago Bears this week, will be present for his arraignment in Gainesville this morning, but his attorney, Michael Hornung, will be there to work out a deferred prosecution agreement.

Hornung issued a release Wednesday announcing an agreement had been reached, but Spencer Mann, a spokesman for the state attorney's office, said prosecutors have not received any reply to their offer of deferred prosecution.

"We have not heard back from him or his attorney," Mann said. "Everyone's assuming (Capel) will be here (today) for his arraignment."

Mann said the agreement is standard for a first-time offender facing a misdemeanor. The charge will be dropped in six months if he does not break any laws. He also must perform 10 hours of community service or make a $100 donation to the Black on Black Crime Task Force, a Gainesville group that works with crime in African-American communities.

Capel's attorney alleges his client's car was stopped -- and as a result, the drugs were allegedly found in a fast-food bag on the floor -- because of racial profiling.

"Based on the totality of the circumstances surrounding this alleged event, and through our own investigation, we believe that Mr. Capel was a victim of the Alachua County Sheriff's (Office's) minority profiling," Hornung's release said. Hornung, who said he was retained by Capel 10 days ago, is taking a similar stance with another black male client facing arraignment in Gainesville today. He said he has drafted a letter to the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., asking it to look into alleged discrimination.

"It seems like the Alachua County Sheriff's Office has a real problem with Afro-Americans in vehicles being stopped for alleged violations like broken taillights and tinted windows," he said. "It's something that has gone on for a long time there."

Hornung said the officer told Capel she stopped his car because she could not see his license tag. Capel had recently bought the car and had a temporary tag easily visible, Hornung said.

"If a black man is driving a nice vehicle in Gainesville, they are not only being stopped, but being harassed as well," Hornung said.

But Mann said the state attorney's office has heard nothing of allegations of racial profiling during the arrest or in subsequent correspondence with Hornung.

"If it is an issue, it's not one that's been addressed with us, nor one we'd be in a position to comment on," he said.

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office did not return calls seeking comment.

Less than 20 grams of marijuana were found in a fast-food bag on the floor of Capel's car after a traffic stop on May 5, according to police reports.

Capel, a former University of Florida football player who represented the United States as a sprinter at last year's Olympics, was in Chicago on Wednesday to participate in the Bears' minicamp, which continues through Friday. Though the seventh-round draft pick has not signed, his agent, Steve Weinberg, said Wednesday that Capel would be signed by the time training camp begins in July.

Capel, who did not return calls placed through the Bears on Wednesday, tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine in February, meaning if he makes the team, he will enter the league's substance abuse program.

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