Former Arizona State star Terrell Suggs is looking forward to the Baltimore Ravens’ training camp this year.
The alternative could have been a prison cell with his younger brother, but a jury’s acquittal of aggravated assault charges for both of them will allow the All-Pro to be in pads for the scheduled start of camp Aug. 1.
"I prefer two-a-days to prison any day," Suggs said. "You can give me six-a-days over prison. I just can’t wait to go."
Suggs thanked his lawyer and the Lord for the acquittal and graciously shook the hands of the prosecutor, Elizabeth Gilbert, who portrayed him as a thug who picked a fight with a man half his size at a basketball tournament on March 29, 2003.
His 18-year-old brother, Donald, was facing a mandatory prison term of at least five years if convicted. Judge Michael Wilkinson dismissed one charge against Terrell Suggs that carried a mandatory prison term last week, but the judge still had the option of putting the player behind bars if he had been convicted on the remaining two assault charges.
"I’m ready to go home, oh God," said Donald, who was sweating profusely as he left Maricopa County Superior Court and collapsed to his knees in the corridor.
Suggs, who has recorded 22 1 /2 sacks in his first two pro seasons, said he wasn’t shocked by the verdict.
"All you have watched me grow up here," said Suggs, who also starred at Chandler’s Hamilton High School. "I’ve never once been in trouble, I’ve never once been exposed that I was a violent character. I’ve never once been arrested. I’ve never once failed a drug test."
Gilbert and the defendants agreed there was a brawl between three alleged victims and the Suggs brothers, their cousin and two passers-by who jumped in to help the Suggses.
The dispute was over who threw the first punch, with the prosecutor saying Terrell Suggs effectively sucker punched Jeryme Cook, and the defense witnesses saying Cook punched first.
There was also a dispute over who introduced a baseball bat and a piece of rebar into the fight.
Defense attorney Larry Kazan told jurors the alleged victims saw dollar signs and demanded Suggs pay $2 million to settle in the weeks between the fight and the Ravens picking him in the first round of the 2003 draft.
"They bit off more than they could chew and it was like, ‘we’re the victims here, we can get some money,’ " Suggs said.
A lawsuit against Suggs is pending in court.
Jury foreman Jennifer O. Martinez of Surprise said the state’s evidence was insufficient and left the jury guessing as to what truly happened.
Wilkinson also dismissed charges against Robert Castro Sanchez and Keith Wilson, the two men who said they stepped in to help the Suggses when they saw Terrell get hit on the head with the rebar.
Wilkinson said he was shocked the state brought charges against Wilson and advised him to get a lawyer to sue.
Ravens team spokesman Kevin Byrne said the case should never have been prosecuted.
"Sometimes celebrities do get special treatment, but not in the way people think," Byrne said.
Bill FitzGerald, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said the prosecuting agency respects the decisions of Wilkinson and the jury.