The Santa Clara County District Attorney has decided not to pursue charges against 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who had been accused of beating teammate Lamar Divens repeatedly over the head with a Heineken bottle last month. New evidence, including an earlier rough-housing incident between the two men and Divens' demands for $1 million from Brooks, helped convince District Attorney Jeff Rosen that he would not be able to get a conviction.
Nearly three weeks ago, the district attorney's office sought - and obtained - a warrant for felony assault with great bodily injury, which carries a maximum sentence of four years. There was conflict in the district attorney's office on whether the warrant should be served, however, and it was decided that more information was needed. In a rare move involving this type of case, assistant district attorney Karyn Sinunu-Towery, one of the office's most senior members, was put in charge of the case.
That investigation turned up new evidence, including a May incident at a barbecue at Brooks' home in which Divens pushed Brooks to the ground, causing a two-inch cut on Brooks' leg. According to a district attorney memo that explains why Brooks will not be charged, the two teammates had been "wrestling" and "shadow boxing" throughout the afternoon. No one called the police, Brooks tended to his wound and Divens remained at the party.
"Cases are not always what they first appear," Rosen said in a press release. "The value to a thorough and deliberate investigation is a more complete picture of the facts. We cannot prosecute this case because we cannot prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 jurors. To file criminal charges when we do not believe we will obtain a conviction is wrong."
To read the memorandum on why the district attorney's office will not pursue charges against Ahmad Brooks, click here.
According to court records filed when the original warrant was obtained earlier this month, Brooks, Divens and two defensive teammates - undrafted rookies Lawrence Okoye and Mike Purcell - had been drinking in San Jose on June 8 when they returned to Brooks' home in Brooks' truck. After Divens, who had been driving, jokingly pretended to throw Brooks' keys into the yard, Brooks hit him repeatedly over the head with a beer bottle and punched him in the face, opening a gash that needed to be closed with stitches.
When police questioned Divens after the incident, he told them Brooks also threatened to retrieve a gun, according to court records. The district attorney memo said no other witnesses could corroborate that Brooks mentioned a gun.
Brooks, 29, was described in the police report found in the court records as "very drunk." Officers who responded said Divens, 27, did not show any outward signs of being intoxicated. Divens had been serving as the group's driver that night.
The district attorney memo released today said that when Divens was feigning to throw the keys away he was moving his hand back and forth, and Brooks said he thought Divens was going to strike him, as was the case in the May encounter.
Divens initially told police he would press charges but five days later changed his mind, telling police that doing so would be "bad for both of their careers." The follow-up investigation noted that Divens wanted Brooks to pay him $1 million. When that demand was rejected by Brooks, Divens changed his mind again and said he wanted to press charges.
No charges will be filed against Divens.
"As you well know, I do not condone the behavior of Brooks on June 8, 2013," Sinunu-Towery concluded. "However, based on the law as applied to the above facts discovered in this investigation, I will dismiss the felony complaint, which was filed prematurely. The totality of the circumstances demonstrates that the charge cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to twelve jurors."
Brooks was charged with assault in 2008 for allegedly striking a Kentucky woman when he was with the Bengals. Brooks accepted mediation on the charges, according to newspaper reports at the time. Brooks has since said that case was expunged, and the Boone County (Ky) District Court has no record of the case.
Under the NFL's personal conduct policy, which purports to hold employees to a higher standard than that used in the legal system, Commissioner Roger Goodell can discipline a player even if he is not convicted of a crime. It is not clear whether the NFL will continue to look into Brooks' case. In a statement today, the 49ers said, " ... we look forward to moving on from this situation and will have no further comment."
Brooks has started every game for the 49ers for the last two years at left outside linebacker, and he appeared to finally meet the lofty expectations surrounding him when, as a prep athlete in Virginia, he was named USA Today's defensive player of the year. He had two pivotal plays at the end of the NFC Championship in Atlanta to preserve a Super Bowl berth for the 49ers. He batted down a Matt Ryan pass on the Falcons' final drive and also had a legal hit on the Atlanta quarterback that caused a shoulder injury.
The 49ers have considerably more depth at outside linebacker than they did a year ago. Veteran Parys Haralson, a starter in 2011, is healthy again after tearing his triceps tendon in August. The team also used a third-round draft pick on Corey Lemonier, who will compete with holdover Cam Johnson and free-agent acquisition Dan Skuta for playing time. Darius Fleming, a 2012 draft pick, has been moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker.
Both Brooks and fellow starter Aldon Smith were rehabilitating shoulder injuries in the spring. In their absence, Harlason and Skuta were the team's starting outside linebackers.
--- Matt Barrows