Former Miami Hurricanes football player Rashaun Jones has been granted bail while awaiting trial

MIAMI — A judge ruled on Wednesday to grant bail and allow former Miami Hurricanes football player Rashaun Jones to be released pending trial in the 2006 murder of teammate Bryan Pata.

Florida 11th Circuit Court Judge Cristina Miranda said after three days of testimony, the state had proven “there was a viable case” against Jones, but said he was “situated differently now,” noting that he had remained in the state for many years. after knowing he was suspected of Pata’s murder. She agreed to post him $850,000 bond; typically 10%, or $85,000, is required for release.

“I can’t say he’s not a danger to the community,” she said. “Leakage risk is what I’m looking at.”

Miranda also said she questioned the credibility of character witnesses who supported Jones and referenced his work as a youth coach but failed to mention his history of drug abuse and arrests and of drug related quotes. On the day of Pata’s murder, Jones had been suspended from the team after failing a second drug test, according to police records.

During the hearings, a Miami police detective admitted some flaws in the early days of the department’s investigation, and defense attorneys pressed him to explain what new evidence prompted Jones’ arrest. after 15 years.

Jones, 36, has remained in custody and has not been granted bail since his arrest in August 2021; Prosecutors say Jones, who they say had a long-running feud with Pata over a woman, shot Pata in the head in the parking lot outside his apartment complex shortly after the football training on November 7, 2006.

Since Monday, both sides have presented evidence and questioned witnesses before a judge — not a jury — in what is known in Florida as an Arthur Hearing, almost like a mini-trial, to determine whether Jones was eligible for a trial. bail pending trial.

The judge ruled that Jones, whose residence is in a county north of Miami, will not be placed under house arrest, and orders remain in place that he refrain from contacting any relatives or witnesses of Pata in the ‘case. A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade State’s Attorney’s Office said in a request for comment after the hearing that “all of our public statements were made in court.”

Jones’ defense attorney, Michael Mirer, wrote in an email that the judge made the correct decision on bail, “and we strongly believe that when this matter comes before a jury, Rashaun will be exonerated… There is a complete lack of evidence to support the charge in this case and we look forward to our day in court.”

The next hearing in the case is set for September 1.

On the first day of testimony, members of Pata’s family — including his mother, Jeanette — sat in the courtroom on the opposite side of Jones, who was wearing a Miami-Dade Corrections-issued orange shirt and pants. and Rehabilitation Department and a protective mask. At one point, Jeanette Pata broke down crying and had to leave temporarily.

Prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of Paul Conner, 77, a retired University of Miami English professor who lived in Bryan Pata’s apartment complex in 2006 and now resides in Toledo, Ohio.

The day after the Pata shooting, Conner contacted police and provided them with a description of a man who was walking away from the scene of the shooting shortly after hearing a loud bang. In the summer of 2007, police showed Conner a series of photos, and he chose the photo of Jones, noting that he was “90%” sure that was the man he had seen.

Defense attorneys questioned Miami-Dade Police Detective Juan Segovia, who was an assistant officer on the case 15 years ago and took it over full-time in 2020, about the ‘90%’ of Conner, noting that it cast doubt.

Segovia said lead detective Miguel Dominguez, who retired in 2020, asked Conner to assign a percentage, which Segovia said he never did and would not do. Segovia said Dominguez was “talked to” by senior members of the team as a result.

Segovia’s testimony revealed other shortcomings in the investigation under Dominguez’s direction, including the failure to collect sworn statements from witnesses; let a key detective submit handwritten notes instead of an official report; and a note in the police report stating that a man who allegedly confessed to the murder was in custody at the time of the shooting, when prison records showed that was not true. Dominguez did not testify at the hearing.

But Segovia said he “trusts the work of Detective Dominguez. I wanted to take it to another level. I think a little differently and I have a different style.”

During their questioning of Segovia, prosecutors also addressed statements by Pata’s brother and former teammates that Jones had threatened Pata and talked about possessing a firearm – specifically a .38 caliber revolver – and had been seen with a gun. Pata was killed by a .38 caliber bullet. Police never found a gun on Jones, and he denied ever owning a gun or talking about owning a gun, according to statements and police records.

When some witnesses have been asked to give sworn statements over the past two years, they have included details that were not in the parts of their original interviews noted in the police report, according to testimony and interrogations by lawyers. .

But beyond that, testimony from detectives and other witnesses revealed that there was no entirely new evidence, including nothing new found by analyzing phone records or other evidence with current technology. .

Assistant District Attorney Michael Von Zamft asked Segovia why there were no arrests 15 years ago.

“I know they wanted to make an arrest, but I know the prosecutor’s office at the time, they still didn’t believe they were there,” he said.

Later, in response to questioning by Mirer, Segovia said, “If it were up to me, I would have stopped him in 2006.”

Segovia said he recommitted to the case in the fall of 2020. This was around the same time as a series of hearings and leaked documents prompted by a lawsuit filed earlier. that year by ESPN against the Miami-Dade Police Department to compel the release. of an unredacted police report. After reviewing the records and reviewing to re-examine some of the witnesses — including Conner, who singled out Jones again in a series of photos — the state’s attorney’s office in 2021, under different management than in 2006, has approved the prosecution.

“What many cases need is a fresh look,” Segovia said. “Sometimes you’re so into the case, so sucked into it, and there’s something right in front of you and you just don’t see it.”

ESPN feature film producer Dan Arruda contributed to this report.

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