In a statement to The Seattle Times Friday night, the attorney for Seahawk cornerback Quinton Dunbar denied an allegation of payouts to four victims in an alleged armed-robbery case to compel them to change their stories.
Instead, Dunbar’s lawyer, Michael Grieco, alleged that Dunbar and New York Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker are each victims of an extortion attempt by four people, who earlier alleged that the two NFL players robbed them of up to $73,000 in cash and jewelry in Miramar, Florida, on May 13.
The New York Daily News reported Friday that the payouts took place in Grieco’s office. The allegation is that the four witnesses were paid $55,000 to compel them to sign sworn affidavits alleging that they were recanting their stories of the robbery to instead state that Dunbar was innocent.
But in a message to The Times, Grieco said his office obtained what he called “truthful” affidavits and instead painted the latest twist in this case as yet another attempt to extort the two players while also stating that Dunbar has passed a polygraph test.
“Law enforcement, both local and federal, was advised from day one and beyond that the alleged ‘victims’ in this case were actively extorting Baker and Dunbar,” Grieco stated. “These men fabricated a robbery story after waiting an hour to call police and then immediately began contacting the players demanding money.
“My office obtained accurate and truthful affidavits consistent with the independent witness and my client’s account. These ‘victims’ are seasoned career criminals who have been arrested and/or convicted of crimes ranging from conspiracy to commit murder, to human trafficking, to filing a false police report. Mr. Dunbar took and passed a polygraph confirming that he did not participate or witness any robbery.”
The Daily News story said the existence of the alleged payoffs was found in a search warrant in Broward County (Fla.) Clerk of Courts seeking access to iCloud accounts associated with Dunbar and Baker.
According to the Daily News, the warrant cites evidence, including video footage and direct messages, that allegedly show that witness Dominic Johnson oversaw a $55,000 payoff to the four victims in the incident to compel them to change their stories and claim that the two players were not involved.
The Daily News further reported that unnamed team sources stated the Giants might soon cut Baker.
There was no indication Friday night, however, that the Seahawks were considering cutting Dunbar, who faces lesser charges in the incident than does Baker (Dunbar faces four felony founds of armed robbery in the case while Baker faces four counts of armed robbery with a firearm as well as four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm).
Dunbar was acquired by Seattle from Washington in March for a fifth-round pick. He has one year remaining on a contract that is due to pay him $3.25 million in 2020 and has been expected to take over Seattle’s starting right-cornerback position.
According to the Daily News, the four victims initially stated they were robbed of almost $73,000 in cash, watches and jewelry at a party that featured a dice game and then changed their story to say the players were not involved, “have given sworn statements that they were paid at the office that day to recant their sworn initial statements against Dunbar by signing affidavits.”
The Daily News further reported that one victim said he received $30,000 in Grieco’s office to change his story. A second said he received $20,000 while a third said he received $5,000 and gave half to a fourth victim.
Shortly before Grieco’s statement denying the allegation, Baker’s attorney, Bradford Cohen, also issued a denial taking to Twitter to call the story “shameful reporting” and “a smear tactic” against Baker while further stating that Baker “paid no one.”
The Daily News story was published after Grieco had confirmed he had filed a petition to the court asking for Dunbar to be able to travel out of state. As part of Dunbar’s bond agreement he had initially been told he could not travel out of the state.
The state of Florida did not file an objection, indicating the request was likely to be approved, though that was before the Daily News story.
Baker had a similar petition approved recently.
Florida state District Attorney Alex Urruela was quoted earlier in the day saying the state was continuing to review the case and he cited new evidence as among the reasons no trial date has yet been set.
“A decision to file or decline charges in this matter has not been finalized,” he was quoted by legal analyst Daniel Wallach of The Athletic via Twitter. “We are examining with acid scrutiny ‘new’ evidence as it potentially appears. I cannot comment further on specifics.”
Dunbar recently added a second lawyer to go along with the Miami-based Grieco, also bringing on Michael D. Weinstein, which some wondered if that meant he was anticipating that the case was not going to be dropped.
But Grieco told The Times earlier in the week that was not an indication of anything regarding the progress of the case, specifically.
“Mr. Weinstein and I are colleagues, and I asked him to join the team,” Grieco said. “He is certainly value added, as two experienced heads are better than one, and four experienced eyes are better than two.”
Dunbar officially pleaded not guilty to four first-degree felony counts of armed robbery on May 19 following the alleged incident.
Shortly after the initial charges, Grieco presented sworn affidavits from witnesses changing their story and attesting to Dunbar’s innocence and said he hoped the statements would compel the state to not go forward with the case.
“We are literally providing evidence of innocence,” Grieco told The Times in May.
However, Broward County assistant state attorney Aaron Passy indicated at the time that he questioned the veracity of the affidavits.
At a bond hearing in May, Passy called the affidavits “suspect” and said it was at least worth wondering if the four witnesses who changed their story “were receiving death threats or offers or bribes.”
Grieco denied that assertion at the time, saying the affidavits were signed “in the presence of a notary. This was not some back alley. This was in my office.”
The Daily News story Friday recounted Instagram messages from Johnson, who was mentioned in the initial police report and referred to as “Coach” — the police report stated that he said he knew Dunbar and Baker since they were children — detailing how he helped coerce the witnesses to change their story in exchange for the payments.
The Daily News quoted an alleged Instagram message from Johnson writing that he made the same people who “said they got robbed come in and say them Boys ain’t have nothing to Do with it.”
The 27-year-old Dunbar played the previous five seasons with Washington before his trade to Seattle, which came in part because he had threatened to hold out as he sought a new contract from the team.
The Seahawks would save $3.4 million against the salary cap if Dunbar were released. It had been expected he would replace Tre Flowers as the team’s starting right corner. Flowers would likely move back to that role if the team were to cut Dunbar, or if he were to be suspended by the NFL for any length of time.
Because of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, NFL teams held all offseason activities virtually. After initially taking a few days away from Seattle’s following the arrest, Dunbar returned to take part fully from Florida.
“He is back and participating with us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said in June. “We’ll see what happens with that.”