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Non-support charge dropped against Minnesota Vikings linebacker

May 23, 1997

FLINT, Mich. (AP) _ Minnesota Vikings linebacker Fernando Smith has been cleared of a felony non-support charge in Flint District Court.

But Judge Nathaniel C. Perry III threw out the charge on the grounds that the Vikings neglected to withhold the support payments from his paychecks.

Vikings officials have said they misplaced a court document ordering them to withhold money and forward it to Latonya Poole, a Flint woman who has a 6-year-old daughter with Smith, The Flint Journal reported Thursday.

``There was no intent by Fernando Smith to commit a crime,″ Perry said.

Smith, 24, was in court Wednesday for a preliminary examination. He could have faced four years or more in prison, because of a past weapons conviction.

But Perry ruled it was the Vikings, not Smith, who erred.

``I think (Perry) is wrong,″ assistant prosecutor Daniel Jaworski told the Journal. ``All we had to show (at the hearing) is that (Smith) didn’t pay support. It was not the Vikings’ responsibility, it was his responsibility.″

Smith declined comment. His attorney, George Hamo, said Smith came up with the money once the Vikings discovered the error and the support has resumed on a ``regular basis.″

The Vikings paid the Friend of the Court $19,000, and Hamo said Smith is making biweekly payments of $5,000 to Poole.

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