Matt Maiocco

Judge drops domestic violence charges against Reuben Foster due to insufficient evidence

Judge drops domestic violence charges against Reuben Foster due to insufficient evidence

SAN JOSE -- Reuben Foster no longer faces any charges of domestic violence, clearing the way for him to join the 49ers’ offseason program Thursday.

Judge Nona L. Klippen ruled Wednesday that the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office did not show sufficient evidence during last week’s preliminary hearing to advance the case against Foster.

The judge also reduced the charge of possession of an assault weapon to a misdemeanor. A pre-trial hearing was scheduled for June 6.

The ruling at the Hall of Justice officially drops the charges against Foster of felony domestic violence with an allegation he inflicted great bodily injury and forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime.

Foster, 24, a linebacker who was a first-round draft pick in 2017, has not taken part in the 49ers’ offseason program, which began April 16. Despite some pressure from local media and the public, the 49ers did not remove Foster from the team.

Shortly after the ruling came down, 49ers general manager John Lynch released a statement:

“The organization is aware the domestic violence charges against Reuben Foster were dismissed earlier today. As a result, he will have the opportunity to rejoin the team tomorrow. It has been made clear to Reuben that his place on this team is one that must continue to be earned. We will continue to monitor the remaining misdemeanor charge," Lynch said.

Lynch said last month that the 49ers organization wanted to gather more facts. Coach Kyle Shanahan, echoing Lynch’s statement from days earlier, spelled out the 49ers’ policy on domestic violence.

“We can promise you guys if there’s someone who ever hits their significant other, their girlfriend, something like that, that person’s not going to be on our team,” Shanahan said.

Teammates Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert attended court on Wednesday in support of Foster. As he left the courthouse, Foster was asked how he was doing, he nodded affirmatively. Foster remains subject to discipline under the NFL's policy on personal conduct.

"We continue to monitor all developments in the matter which remains under review," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.

Neither prosecutor Kevin Smith nor Foster’s attorney, Josh Bentley, stopped for comment on the way out of the courthouse. The DA's office released a statement approximately an hour after Judge Klippen announced her ruling:

“We are disappointed in the judge’s decision. We are disappointed because the evidence demonstrated that Mr. Foster seriously hurt his girlfriend. Some have wondered why we still think Mr. Foster hurt his girlfriend when she said that he didn’t. Recantation is common among domestic violence victims. Some are scared, some feel guilty, some are coerced, some need money. Whatever the cause, we move forward on cases when victims falsely recant because we know that if we don’t more victims will be hurt. Our commitment to domestic violence survivors is unwavering.”

Foster’s ex-girlfriend initially accused him on Feb. 11 of dragging her by the hair, punching her 10 times with a closed fist, spitting on her, and destroying her cell phone to prevent her from reporting the crime to police.

The woman, Elissa Ennis, recanted her testimony under oath last week at the preliminary hearing. Ennis testified last week that she attacked Foster with a clothes hanger. But when prosecutor Kevin Smith asked Ennis if Foster put his hands on her, she answered, “No, sir. Not once.”

The judge, in issuing her decision, said the injuries were not consistent with 10 punches in the face from a professional football player. The judge said the injuries were more likely the result of a fight that Ennis said had with another woman the night before the alleged incident with Foster.

But the day after the alleged incident at Foster’s home in Los Gatos, Ennis recanted her statements to police. Under oath on the witness stand last week, she admitted that she became enraged when Foster threatened to break up with her.

“I was going to f--- up his career,” she said on the stand. When asked why she stepped forward to tell the truth about her initial allegations, Ennis said, “I had to do the right thing.”

Ennis added, “It was all a money scheme. I didn’t want to get this far in the news.”

Ennis, who testified against the advice of her attorney, Stephanie Rickard, said she also stole more than $8,000 from Foster, as well as two men’s Rolex watches, which remain in a safe deposit box in Louisiana.

The judge said Ennis established a motive for the false report. Testimony also established that Ennis was unusually calm and composed while reporting the alleged incident. The judge also noted Ennis' history, in which she admitted to falsely accusing another man of domestic violence in 2011 when he threatened to break up with her.

The DA’s office filed the formal criminal charges on April 12. Ennis had already recanted her original statement to investigators and the DA’s office was made aware of a video that purportedly shows Ennis in a fight with another woman in San Francisco after a road rage incident in which her injuries could have been sustained one night before the alleged incident with Foster.

In the statement that announced the formal charges last month, Smith said, “Our office handles between 4,000 and 5,000 domestic violence cases each year. We only hope that this case illuminates the tragic regularity of the rest.”

Jed York says 49ers abstained from NFL anthem vote

Jed York says 49ers abstained from NFL anthem vote

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday the vote was unanimous among all 32 teams in the league.

But San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York told reporters at the NFL owners meetings that the policy to prohibit players from any form of protest during the national anthem did not include his support.

The new NFL policy regarding the national anthem states::

--All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag the Anthem.

--Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the Anthem has been performed.

--A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.

--Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.

--The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.

“All 32 clubs want to make sure that during the moment of the anthem and the flag that that is a very important moment to all of us, as a league, as clubs, personally to our country,” Goodell said at a press conference in Atlanta. “And that’s a moment we want to make sure is done in a very respectful fashion.”

But York told a group of reporters the 49ers abstained from the vote. Terez Paylor of Yahoo! Sports was first to report York’s revelation. York has publicly supported the rights of 49ers players to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest peacefully.

“I think there are a lot of reasons, and I’m not going to get into all of those reasons. But I think the gist of it is really that we want to make sure that everything that we’re doing is to promote progress. And I think we’ve done a good piece of that so far,” York said, as reported by Kevin Seifert of ESPN.

The 49ers have been at the center of the movement to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid began kneeling at the start of the 2016 season. Kaepernick did not play in the league last year, but Reid continued kneeling, along with teammates Eli Harold, Marquise Goodwin and others. Reid has remained unsigned as an unrestricted free agent.

The NFL Players Association fired back at the NFL policy, stating the players have demonstrated their patriotism, in part, "through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about."

McKinnon followed Garoppolo's lead to 49ers: 'He’s a true leader, you can't teach that'

jerick-ap.jpg
AP

McKinnon followed Garoppolo's lead to 49ers: 'He’s a true leader, you can't teach that'

SANTA CLARA -- Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo caught the attention of running back Jerick McKinnon long before they became teammates with the 49ers.

And when McKinnon was available as a free agent this offseason, Garoppolo helped sell him on the idea of moving to the Bay Area.

And now that they have been in the same building for a month-and-a-half during the 49ers’ offseason program, McKinnon feels better and better about his new NFL address.

“It’s not always about the money, like people say,” McKinnon said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “For me, it’s about the scheme. And I felt like this was probably the best fit that I could possibly think of.”

Before signing a four-year, $30 million contract, McKinnon spoke to Garoppolo and 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk and asked questions about the organization, the coaching staff and Bay Area.

“Talking to those guys and coming here, being blessed with the contract, obviously, it’s just a good fit,” McKinnon said. “Since I got here, it’s been nothing but love. I feel like this team is family oriented. And I can feel that when I first got here. It reminded me of a lot of the things that went on in Minnesota. That’s how I know there’s something special going on here.”

McKinnon was mostly the No. 2 back behind Adrian Peterson and Latavius Murray during his four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He said he knew he would not be returning to the Vikings as a free agent. And he used his knowledge of happenings around the NFL to help figure out his next move. Out of all the options at running back available to him, including Carlos Hyde, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan targeted McKinnon.

And McKinnon targeted the 49ers, too.

He said he took note of Garoppolo during his time as a backup in New England. Both were in the 2014 draft. Garoppolo was a second-round pick from Eastern Illinois. McKinnon was a third-round selection from Georgia Southern.

“That dude right there is sharp,” McKinnon said of Garoppolo. “We came out the same year. I watched him behind Brady, and when he got his chance to play and how he did, I was like, ‘When this guy gets his time, he’s going to be ready – there’s no doubt.’ He’s playing behind Tom Brady, one of the best. Tom Brady’s got five rings. So he got to learn from the best on a daily basis.

"I saw the trade was made last year. ‘OK, he’s going to be something special.’ And when he got hit chance, he didn’t lose a game, they didn’t lose a game. . . I watched them last year toward the end of the season when they started winning. I was like, ‘Those guys over there have something contagious going on.’ ”

Garoppolo signed a five-year, $137.5 million contract extension with the 49ers prior to the start of free agency. He led the way, and McKinnon followed.

“Coming here and getting to meet him in person and see how he prepares and how he leads in the huddle and on the field, he’s a true leader,” McKinnon said. “You can’t teach that.”