UPDATED 7.23.2012 by Julie Montanaro
The City of Tallahassee and the family of A.J. Graham reached a settlement just days before the civil trial was scheduled to begin.
Steve Carter, who represented the City of Tallahassee in the lawsuit, said it was settled for $40,000.
The trial was slated to begin in federal court in Panama City this week. Court records show the settlement was filed on July 17th.
Graham sued the city, claiming there was no probable cause for his arrest in May 2009 on armed robbery charges. The state attorney’s office later dismissed the charges against Graham.
The city has argued all along that there was probable cause and would have argued the same in court, Carter said.
We are trying to reach the attorney representing A.J. Graham for comment.
UPDATED May 11, 2011 Press Release
Tallahassee, FL – Former Godby High School football star and All-State quarterback A.J. Graham, Jr., who won the 2009 “Mr. Florida Football Award,” filed a civil rights suit today against the City of Tallahassee Police Department for his wrongful arrest for a robbery on May 26, 2009. The charges were proven to untrue and later dismissed.
The suit identifies TPD officers who misled judges about the evidence against Graham. The TPD officers submitted an affidavit and search warrant application which falsely claimed that Graham had been “positively identified” as the robber, when in fact the robber’s face was covered with a bandanna. That information was also intentionally left out of a news release sent out by the TPD Public Information office.
Because the affidavit claimed that Graham had been “positively identified,” he was held in the Leon County jail without bond for more than two weeks. While he was in jail, his football scholarship to Marshall University was revoked. On August 4, 2009, prosecutors dropped all charges against Graham.
At the time of his arrest, Graham and his family were at home dressing in preparation for his high school graduation that evening, and were about to leave for the ceremony when TPD officers, dressed in SWAT gear and brandishing rifles and weapons drawn, entered his grandmother‟s home, threw Graham up against a wall outside, and handcuffed him in the presence of his entire family, including children.
Graham‟s mother, Angela Graham, says A.J. and his family still feel the trauma of that night. She said, “The arrest was a nightmare. I asked God “is this really happening?”
“A.J. was a role model for so many other children. He worked so hard to be able to walk across that stage and get his high school diploma, and we were all so proud of him. Instead, he spent two weeks in jail. They can never give that back to him,” said Graham.
A.J. Graham is in his second year at Marshall University. He is planning to major in psychology.
The lawsuit was filed in Leon County Circuit Court.
UPDATE 8.6.09 7pm by Julie Montanaro
A star quarterback accused of armed robbery has been exonerated and will soon be on his way to Marshall University.
AJ Graham was arrested and released from a full scholarship back in May, but prosecutors dropped the charges Thursday saying all of Graham’s alibis checked out.
The news came as a surprise to AJ Graham and his family. Earlier in the day, prosecutors dropped felony armed robbery charges against him, but he had no idea that Marshall University had reinstated his scholarship until his attorney announced it an afternoon press conference.
“First and foremost, I’d like to thank the man upstairs who made this whole thing possible for me and my family. I’m just feeling great today,” Graham said.
Graham was arrested in May and accused of robbing a man at gunpoint outside a party on Constitution Circle. The victim picked Graham out of a lineup and described the getaway car as a gray impala similar to one belonging to Graham’s grandmother. It turns out his grandmother had the car at work that night and had the time cards to prove it and alibis from Graham’s friends checked out too.
“They were confident in their identification, however, based on the alibi witnesses, we were not going to be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” said prosecutor Jon Fuchs.
“Can you imagine the ecstasy … he went from I’m graduating and going to play football to he’s arrested in a jail cell with no bond?” Graham’s attorney Tim Jansen said. “This isn’t a technicality,” Jansen said, “He should never have been arrested in the first place.”
Graham’s attorney accused TPD of rushing to judgment without fully investigating first, saying Graham missed his high school graduation and may have to red shirt his first year at Marshall because of it.
The chance to reclaim his scholarship and resume his football career brought Graham and many of his family and friends to tears.
“I’m the happiest mom in the world. I don’t think my daughter is too excited because it means her brother is leaving, but I’m the happiest mom in the world,” Angela Graham said.
A Tallahassee Police spokesman said investigators had lineups, interviews and other evidence that reached the threshold of probable cause for Graham’s arrest … but says TPD respects the state attorney’s sole discretion on how to prosecute cases.
Graham says he’ll report to Marshall University by Sunday.
A.J. Graham’s scholarship to Marshall University has been reinstated. He’s supposed to report to start football practice on Sunday.
WCTV has learned that all charges against former Godby star quarterback, A.J. Graham have been dropped.
The state attorney’s office says although the witness in the case says he’s confident Graham is the one who robbed him, the state cannot prove it.
Graham was accused of holding up three men at gunpoint outside a party on May 22nd.
The state attorney’s office says all of Graham’s alibis checked out. The state says the car that was in question was in Graham’s grandmother’s driveway at the time of the robbery and her time card records prove it.
Graham was expected to start at quarterback for Marshall this football season, before they revoked his scholarship because of the charges. When Marshall pulled his scholarship, they said if he was cleared, they would reinstate it. Graham’s attorney is now in talks with Marshall.
Graham, his family, and his attorney are scheduled to hold a press conference at 1:00 p.m. Thursday.