According to Hudson County First Assistant Prosecutor Terrence Hull, a grand jury did not find probable cause to return an indictment against Casey, but did return a third-degree felony aggravated assault charge against Casey's former Hoboken High School teammate, Desmond Miller. Miller will have to stand trial on the charge.
Casey and Miller were arrested and charged for allegedly beating Hoboken Police Officer Patrick Fitzsimmons outside the River Street Tavern in the wee hours of May 14, but both pleaded innocent to the charges upon arraignment.
According to the arrest report, Casey and Miller allegedly got into an altercation with Fitzsimmons outside the bar around 2:40 a.m. after Casey, Miller and former Hoboken High School teammate Keeon Walker had words with Fitzsimmons over the woman Fitzsimmons was with that night. Witnesses said that Walker tried to break up the fight.
The argument was apparently over the fact that Fitzimmons, a white man, was with a black woman. Police reports said that Fitzsimmons was punched and kicked in the head repeatedly by two men who then fled the scene. Fitzsimmons was treated for facial lacerations and head trauma in the hospital. Fitzsimmons later filed a civil suit against Casey, Miller and Walker, and that suit is still pending.
However, according to Hull, the grand jury did not find enough evidence to return an indictment against Casey. They did find enough to indict Miller on the charges.
"They were presented all of the formal evidence and decided that there wasn't enough against Casey to indict him," Casey said.
Shut, or open?
In the eyes of the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office, the matter against Casey is closed.
"It's absolutely a closed case," Hull said. "We have no plans to re-present the case to a grand jury. We have the ability to present it, but we don't see the need."
Hull said that the grand jury listened to the testimony of approximately 10 to 15 witnesses in the case and there were some inaccuracies with the witnesses' recollections of the events.
Hull insisted that a deal was not struck between Casey's attorney, Dennis McAlevy, and the Prosecutor's Office, that would drop the charges against Casey in order to have Casey testify against Miller.
"There was absolutely no deal whatsoever," Hull said. "There is a possibility where Rashard Casey could be called as a witness in Desmond Miller's trial, but there was never any deals cut. Of course, there was a high degree of inquiries and scrutiny about the case. Our only concern was that the grand jury would get all of the evidence. There was no preconceived plan or notion because he was who he was. We provided the information and this was the grand jury's final decision."
Hoboken Police Chief Carmen LaBruno expressed his disappointment with the grand jury's findings.
"We're very disappointed with the grand jury's decision," LaBruno said. "Obviously, the bottom line is that the grand jury chose not to believe two witnesses, the officer himself and the medical evidence and chose to believe a close friend of Rashard Casey's, who gets tickets [from Casey] to Penn State games. I believe in the justice system and I accept the decision, but I'm very disappointed."
LaBruno hinted that the case was not over in his eyes and believes that the case could be turned over to the New Jersey State Attorney General's office in Newark for possible intervention.
"The feds [Federal Bureau of Investigation] has been monitoring the case since Day One" because of the racial bias charge, said LaBruno. "It's far from over."
High school pleased
Hoboken High School Principal Ed Stinson, who was also Casey's coach when he was leading the Red Wings to two consecutive state championships (1994 and 1995), was relieved that the grand jury decided to drop all charges.
"Publicly, I've stated all along the belief I have in this young man's character," Stinson said. "Well, it held true. It's justice served and thank God his reputation isn't tarnished. The grand jury validated what we knew all along. It validates that he is the person we all knew he was."
McAlevy could not be reached for comment at press time. He was quoted by Associated Press as saying, "The grand jury looked at five days of testimony and rewarded my faith in Rashard and [Penn State coach] Joe Paterno's faith in Rashard. Rashard never hit anybody."
The fact that charges were finally dropped against Casey makes the published reports that appeared last week more puzzling.
Published reports a week ago Wednesday in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and USA Today, among others, said that the grand jury had decided to indict Casey. All of the newspapers cited anonymous sources in reporting the indictment.
USA Today said that Casey, the 1996 Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Year, was indicted on third-degree felony assault, which could bring a sentence of five years in jail if convicted.
However, the Philadelphia Daily News and the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa. reported that Casey had been indicted on second-degree assault, which could bring a 10-year sentence.
The same week, Hull was quoted exclusively in the Hoboken Reporter that the reports were "totally erroneous."
"Virtually every newspaper I read erroneously reported last week that Mr. Casey had been indicted," Penn State President Graham Spanier said in a released statement last week. "Shame on the news media for their atrocious handling of this story."
"Unfortunately, the reporters all read into it and wrote speculation instead of fact," Hull said last week. "If they would have asked the proper sources, they would have received the real story. They reported it as being a done deal, that Rashard Casey was indicted, and that was inaccurate. It was irresponsible and unfair. They all chose to jump the gun and they were wrong." Miller will stand trial on the felony assault charges sometime next year.