Former Miami Hurricanes football player Rashaun Jones granted bond pending trial

MIAMI – A judge ruled Wednesday to grant bond and allow the release of former Miami Hurricanes football player Rashaun Jones from custody pending his trial on charges that he murdered teammate Bryan Pata in 2006.

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

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

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

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

Jones, 36, has remained in custody and been ineligible for bond since he was arrested in August 2021; prosecutors claim that Jones, whom they said 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 football practice on Nov. 7, 2006.

Since Monday, both sides have presented evidence and questioned witnesses before a judge – no jury – in what’s known in Florida as an Arthur hearing, almost like a mini trial, to determine if Jones was eligible to be released on bond pending trial.

The judge ruled that Jones, whose residence is in a county north of Miami, would not be on house arrest, and orders remain in place that he refrain from contacting any of Pata’s relatives or witnesses in the case. A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade State 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 ruling regarding bail, “and we firmly believe that when this case is brought before a jury, Rashaun will be exonerated … There is a complete lack of evidence to substantiate the charge in this case and we look forward to our day in court. “

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

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

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

The day after Pata’s shooting, Conner contacted police and provided them with the description of a man walking away from the scene of the shooting shortly after he heard a loud bang. In the summer of 2007, police showed Conner a photo lineup, and he picked out Jones’ photo, noting that he was “90 percent” sure that he was the man he saw.

Defense attorneys questioned Miami-Dade Police Detective Juan Segovia, who was an assisting officer on the case 15 years ago and had taken it over full time in 2020, about Conner’s “90 percent,” noting it left room for doubt.

Segovia said lead detective Miguel Dominguez, who retired in 2020, asked Conner to assign a percentage, something Segovia said he has never done and wouldn’t do. Segovia said Dominguez was “spoken to” by senior members of the team as a result.

Segovia’s testimony revealed other shortfalls in the investigation under Dominguez’s lead, including failure to gather sworn statements from witnesses; letting one key detective submit handwritten notes instead of a formal report; and a notation in the police report that a man who alleged to have confessed to the murder was in custody at the time of the shooting, when jail records showed that not to be true. Dominguez did not testify during the hearing.

But Segovia said he “trusted Detective Dominguez’s work. I wanted to take it to another level. I do think a little differently, and I have a different style.”

In their questioning of Segovia, prosecutors also addressed statements from Pata’s brother and former teammates that Jones had threatened Pata and had talked about owning a gun – 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 were asked to give a sworn statement in the past two years, they included details not in the portions of their original interviews notated in the police report, according to witness testimony and the attorneys’ questioning.

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

Assistant state attorney Michael Von Zamft asked Segovia why an arrest wasn’t made 15 years ago.

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

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

Segovia said he reengaged with the case in the fall of 2020. That was around the same time as a series of hearings and disclosure of documents prompted by a public records lawsuit filed earlier that year by ESPN against the Miami-Dade Police Department to compel release of an unredacted police report. After reviewing the records and returning to reinterview some of the witnesses – including Conner, who again picked Jones out of a photo array – the state attorney’s office in 2021, under different leadership than in 2006, signed off on prosecution.

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

ESPN feature producer Dan Arruda contributed to this report.


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