What to expect from Reuben Foster's preliminary hearing

What to expect from Reuben Foster's preliminary hearing

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, through his attorney, entered a plea of not guilty on May 8 to three felony charges. The action set in motion the timetable for the preliminary hearing, which is required to take place within 10 days of the plea.

On Thursday morning at the Hall of Justice in San Jose, Foster will appear in court for the hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant moving forward with a trial.

Foster faces three felony charges: Domestic violence with an allegation he inflicted great bodily harm; forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime; and possession of an assault weapon.

Here are the answers to some pertinent questions surrounding Foster's preliminary hearing:

What will happen on Thursday?
Both sides will present their arguments to a judge in what amounts to a mini-trial. The prosecution will aim to establish there is “probable cause” to proceed with a jury trial. The defense will attempt to show there is no reason for this case to move forward.

The prosecution and the defense can be expected to call witnesses to make their cases.

The decision whether or not there is enough evidence for a trial rests with the judge, who must weigh arguments on both sides and evaluate whether there is “some rational ground” for assuming the possibility a crime was committed.

Will the alleged victim testify?
Elissa Ennis, 28, who is Foster's ex-girlfriend, is scheduled to appear in court. She initially accused Foster of domestic violence, but later recanted the version of the events she initially told authorities. After the DA’s office still moved forward with charges, she made a statement through her attorney, admitting she lied to police during the initial investigation.

The statement revealed there is a video that proves Foster is not responsible for the woman’s injuries. The woman claims to have gotten in a fight with another woman, which was captured on video.

If the Santa Clara County DA’s office does not call on her as a witness – after all, she is expected to deny under oath that Foster injured her – the defense almost assuredly will call her as a witness on Foster’s behalf.

Why is the DA’s office moving forward?
The alleged victim has recanted her story, which would seem to make it much more difficult on the prosecution to prove its case. But all indications are that the DA’s office has no intention of dismissing its case against Foster.

Ennis stopped a passing motorist after the alleged incidence and called 911. She talked to police officers and sheriff’s deputies at the scene. And she was treated at a local hospital. The prosecution could call more than a handful of witnesses during Thursday’s hearing to support the charges of domestic violence against Foster.

Anyone with whom the alleged victim came in contact during that time frame could testify. The prosecution will try to convince the judge the most accurate account of the alleged incident was her initial statement – not the recanted version.

How common is it for alleged victims to recant their stories?
There does not appear to be empirical data on the subject, but anecdotally it is not uncommon for alleged victims to recant their statements or decline to cooperate with the district attorney’s office.

The alleged victim in the Tramaine Brock case last year was uncooperative with the DA’s office, and that case was ultimately dismissed. The situation surrounding Foster is different because the DA’s office appears to believe there are other witnesses who will substantiate Ennis’ initial accusations.

Will the video be shown?
The judge will almost certainly view the video of the alleged fight involving Ennis and another woman. It is not known whether the video will be shown in open court or privately in the judge’s chambers.

If the prosecution believes the video does not support the claim that Ennis’ injuries, including a ruptured ear drum, was caused by the fight with the other woman, they could submit the video as evidence. Or, the defense could use the video for its own case to show Ennis sustained the injuries before the alleged incident involving Foster.

Is Ennis at risk for admitting she lied to police?
If Ennis testifies under oath that she initially lied to police, she could be subject to prosecution. Former Santa Clara County District Attorney Steven Clark said he does not believe the DA’s office would pursue criminal charges against Ennis, especially if there is “some element of accuracy” to her initial statement.

How serious is the weapons charge?
It ranks a distant third on the list of the charges against Foster. Even if the domestic violence cases do not advance, the DA’s office could still pursue the assault weapon charge.

But Clark said it is likely to be viewed as “more of a technical violation" and could be reduced to a misdemeanor. The result could be nothing more than volunteer work and destruction of the weapon, Clark said.

What happens after the preliminary hearing?
If the judge believes there is probable cause to continue forward with the legal process, a jury trial would be scheduled to begin within 60 days. If the judge rules there is not probable cause, then Foster would be legally cleared of the domestic violence charges.

But, then, the focus would shift to the NFL’s own investigation. As the league's policy on personal conduct states, “It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime.”

Under the policy, a first offense under the description of domestic violence, would result in a baseline suspension without pay of six games. A longer suspension could be warranted with consideration given to any “aggravating or mitigating factors,” according to the policy.

If Foster is cleared of criminal charges but the NFL determines there is enough evidence to warrant a suspension that would seemingly place the 49ers in a position to act. General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan are both on record saying no player who hits a woman will have a place with the organization.

Foster, who remains under contract to the 49ers, is not taking part in the team's offseason program while his legal issues remain unresolved.

Chris Simms explains why Odell Beckham fits 49ers better than Antonio Brown

Chris Simms explains why Odell Beckham fits 49ers better than Antonio Brown

Chris Simms, the former NFL quarterback, current NBC Sports analyst and long-time friend of Kyle Shanahan, can envision the 49ers being interested in a big-name wide receiver this offseason.

Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham?

While Simms said he believes the 49ers would have interest in either wide receiver, he has no doubt which player would give the 49ers a bigger lift with less risk.

“I do think Odell Beckham Jr. is the better player,” Simms said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

“I would say Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t even reached the prime of his career, yet.”

Brown met Tuesday with Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II. Brown reported on social media the sides agreed "it is time to move on.”

Brown, it appears, will be available, either in a trade or as a free agent, if the Steelers cut him. Beckham might also be available in a trade from the New York Giants. Both players are among the most productive receivers in the NFL.

Brown turns 31 in July. Beckham turned 26 in November.

“In my own personal opinion -- I watch a lot of film and break down teams and games and players -- I thought Antonio Brown did lose a step a little bit this year,” Simms said. “He’s still great, but he’s not the guy we saw three or four years ago. This is the age where receivers start to lose explosiveness and speed a little bit.”

In the first two offseasons of Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, the club worked to add veterans of high character. Simms said he gets frustrated when people lump Brown and Beckham together as having similar off-field concerns.

“I think Antonio Brown comes with a whole lot more baggage than Odell Beckham Jr.,” Simms said.

Brown has been involved in a long list of off-field issues and dramas during a career that has also included seven trips to the Pro Bowl and six consecutive seasons with at least 101 receptions and 1,284 yards.

[RELATED: Odell Beckham Jr. or Antonio Brown? 49ers have need, and decision to make]

“Antonio Brown works very hard. He’s a hell of a football player. I get all of that. And I know his work ethic is through the roof,” Simms said. “But the one thing I’ve always been told from people in Pittsburgh – players, coaches, front office people – is it’s all about Antonio Brown.

“At the end of the day, he doesn’t care if the Steelers win or lose. He just wants to know how many catches he had, how many yards he had. He is habitually late on a weekly basis. So he is a handful.”

Antonio Brown meets with Steelers owner, says 'it is time to move on'

Antonio Brown meets with Steelers owner, says 'it is time to move on'

After months of airing out his feelings towards the Steelers, Antonio Brown has finally met with team owner Art Rooney II. 

Rooney wasn't the only member of Steelers management at the meeting in Florida. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and exec Omar Kahn were also in attendance, reports ESPN's Adam Schefter, and it's clear a trade is on the horizon. 

The meeting comes the morning after the All-Pro receiver went on Instagram and said the following:

"If your team got guaranteed money, they want to get to know me and work with me, tell 'em call me. ... Call me Mr. Big Chest! Big Chest for now on. Big Chest Brown for now on! Don't even call me AB. Just call me Big Chest. Yeah, I'm Mr. Big Chest!" 

Brown also recently sent out a series of tweets, one in which he calls out Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for his "owners mentality." Even though his talent is obvious, Brown's social media presence has turned some teams away, reports Peter King.

Ever since his request to be dealt, Brown has found himself at the center of trade rumors this offseason. And it all started with 49ers tight end George Kittle recruiting the star wide receiver on Twitter. 

It didn't stop there with the 49ers, too. Brown has made his desire to wear red and gold clear, and he's even posted a picture of himself in a Photoshopped 49ers jersey on Instagram. He's even become close with Jerry Rice, and the 49ers legend has vowed to mentor him if he's traded to San Francisco. 

[RELATED: Odell Beckham Jr. or Antonio Brown? 49ers have need, and decision to make]

Last week, Brown was found guilty of reckless driving in a Pennsylvania court and did not attend his hearing. The 31-year-old is also being sued in Florida for throwing furniture off of a 14th-floor balcony, and nearly hitting a toddler and his grandfather. 

The future seems inevitable. Brown's time in Pittsburgh essentially has come to an end, but his new home is still a mystery.