Everitt Cleared of Drug Charge
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) _ Philadelphia Eagles center Steve Everitt was cleared Tuesday of a drug paraphernalia possession charge lodged after police stopped him for speeding last year.
Municipal Court Judge John L. Madden accepted defense claims that a marijuana pipe was left in Everitt’s car by a friend. The judge said prosecutors failed to prove that Everitt knew the pipe was there and intended to use it.
Earlier, William Schaffer of Marietta, Ga., who played with Everitt at Michigan, admitted that the marijuana pipe belonged to him. Schaffer was not present when Everitt was arrested, but later told authorities he left the pipe in the vehicle while visiting days earlier.
``It was his pipe,″ Schaffer’s lawyer, Scott Liebling, said. ``He felt he had to come forward to take responsibility for his action.″
Schaffer was granted a conditional discharge, which will be dismissed after a year if he has no further run-ins with authorities.
The possession charge, which carries a penalty of up to six months in jail, was the most serious charge facing Everitt. The judge must still rule on traffic charges of speeding and driving while intoxicated.
The trial, which lasted several hours, was recessed until Jan. 27 to allow prosecutors time to locate an expert witness to counter allegations by a defense forensic scientist that Breathalyzer tests were improperly administered to Everitt.
Everitt could be fined and lose his license for up to a year if convicted.
Police said Everitt, 27, of Mount Laurel, was travelling 74 mph in a 50 mph zone when his 1996 Ford Bronco was stopped on Nov. 4. Police said his blood alcohol registered .16 and .17. The blood alcohol limit in New Jersey is .10.
But Richard Saferstein, former chief forensic scientist for the New Jersey State Police, said the results were skewed because police failed to wait 20 minutes after Everitt removed a wad of chewing tobacco from his mouth before administering the test.
Tobacco contains volatile chemicals that can alter the blood alcohol readings, Saferstein said. He declined to speculate on what Everitt’s actual blood alcohol level might have been.
``In my opinion, the test results are scientifically unreliable,″ Saferstein told the judge. ``We’re in a gray area here.″
Prosecutor William O’Brien relied primarily on testimony from Patrolman Alan Rowatti who said Everitt reeked of alcohol, had watery, bloodshot eyes and failed a battery of roadside sobriety tests.
``He could not hold his balance. He could not walk in a straight line,″ Rowatti testified.
Everitt admitted drinking three or four beers hours before his arrest while attending a wrestling match in Philadelphia with teammates and later having another beer and a shot of gin at a hotel bar. Everitt, however, insisted he was not intoxicated.
Tom Kanavy, an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Eagles, also suggested that the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Everitt might have wobbled while performing a sobriety balance test because he performed it using his weaker left leg injured playing football.
The Eagles signed Everitt last year to a five-year $11.5 million deal that included a $2 million signing bonus. He was a first-round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns in 1993.