One of the men alleged to have taken part in the botched robbery that killed Miami Hurricanes and Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor has expressed a desire to withdraw the guilty plea he entered in order to avoid a longer sentence, his attorney Michael Hornung said.
Venjah Hunte, now 21, pled guilty to second-degree murder and armed burglary of an occupied dwelling last May and was set to serve 29 years in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors. The others charged in the killing -- Charles Wardlow, 19, Jason Scott Mitchell, 21, Timmy Lee Brown, 17, and Eric Rivera, 19 -- have pled not guilty and face a life sentence if convicted when the case goes to trial in June.
Hornung, citing confidentiality rules, would not discuss reasons why his client has changed his mind. He said that he had encouraged Hunte to take the deal and "we have irreconcilable differences."
Hunte will ask the court to appoint a new lawyer on Thursday. "There's a difference in the philosophy going forward," Hornung said. "His desire is to have an attorney appointed so that he can withdraw from his plea."
The 24-year-old Taylor was home in Palmetto Bay rehabbing from injury in November of 2007 when intruders broke into his house. Attempting to defend himself, his girlfriend, and his baby daughter, he approached the door of their bedroom armed only with a machete. It was flung open, and he was shot in the upper leg.
He died the next day.
Police theorize that the five suspects had assumed the house would be unoccupied during the NFL season and were surprised to find Taylor present in his bedroom as they entered.
Taylor's football career was awash in awards, recognition, and records from his days playing high school ball at Miami's Gulliver Prep. He won a national title at Miami in 2001, and was the first of six Hurricanes chosen in the 2004 NFL draft. Selected fifth overall by the Washington Redskins, he had established himself as the starting free safety by the third game of his rookie year. Three seasons later at the time of his death, he was regarded as the hardest hitter in the NFL and was tied for second in interceptions despite missing two games with injury. He was elected to the Pro Bowl posthumously.
The Redskins have yet to reissue Taylor's jersey number, 21, and his locker sits just as he left it, enclosed with plexiglass.
Somewhere, his daughter grows up without her father.
And Venjah Hunte sits in a Dade County jail with four other young men, awaiting trial for Taylor's senseless murder.
At their age, they should be doing anything but.
It rarely gets more tragic than that.