The State Attorney’s Office has dropped misdemeanor charges against Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison.
Morrison, 19, was arrested Sunday after barking at a police dog. He was charged with interfering with a police animal and resisting arrest.
State Attorney Bill Cervone said Tuesday that the "dismissal is based on the lack of evidence to warrant much less legally sustain those charges and the complete inappropriateness of pursing court action against Morrison, or anyone else, under the circumstances involved."
"The charge of interfering with a police animal requires malice, and none exists," Cervone said. "It also requires that the animal be engaged in some official duty, and it cannot be said that sitting in the back of a police cruiser is case he is needed constitutes being engaged in such activity."
Cervone added that he reviewed video tape and found no resistance "beyond questioning the actions of law enforcement, which is not illegal."
It was Morrison’s second arrest in five weeks, prompting coach Will Muschamp to suspend him for at least the first two games of the season. It’s unclear whether Muschamp will uphold the suspension.
According to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Morrison walked up to an open window on a police car around 2:30 a.m. Sunday and barked at a K-9 named Bear. The dog barked back, leading a deputy to arrest Morrison for interfering with a police canine.
On Monday, Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said that Morrison should have been given a warning instead of being arrested.
"Our deputies deal with chaotic situations daily and have to make quick, on-the-spot decisions," Darnell said. "While I believe the deputy’s actions were technically correct, due to the obscure nature of the law, a warning would have been more appropriate."
Dashboard camera video of the Sunday morning arrest has been released, though it does not show Morrison barking at Deputy William Arnold’s dog. It does show the actual arrest of Morrison, though.
Throughout, Morrison is seen talking with officers as they cuff him, though sound quality on the footage is low.
Once off camera, it appears to be Morrison who pleads, "Officer, please let me go. I’m not looking for any trouble. I just said, ‘Woof, woof.’ "
The officer then tells Morrison he was not cooperating as Morrison tries to explain his behavior. The officer says that his “patience is pretty thin” and then the officers can be heard discussing Morrison.
The officer then explains to Morrison why his behavior was interfering with his canine.
“You’re not getting it at all,” the officer says. “You can continue to sit here with your crocodile tears and ask me for favors and do whatever. I’m telling you, you’re going to jail for interfering with my dog.”
Darnell pointed out that the incident happened next to a bar that has been the subject of 200 police calls and site of violent crimes in the past.
"Our deputies are caught in a lot of threatening situations and are having to make rational, very well-thought-out decisions in the context of chaos, and sometimes they don’t think them all the way through," Darnell told The Gainesville Sun.
On Sunday morning deputies were responding to a report of an aggravated assault at the scene.
Morrison, a sophomore from Bolingbrook, Ill., also was arrested June 16 for allegedly punching a bouncer. He received deferred prosecution on the simple battery charged, a deal in which he was ordered to stay out of trouble for six months. His latest arrest could have violated terms of that agreement.
But Cervone said Tuesday that the deferral agreement will remain in effect because the second arrest was "legally inappropriate."
"I would expect that Morrison has learned that being out at that hour of the night under those circumstances is setting himself up for a situation where he could risk and lose a great deal," Cervone said. "However, counseling him about where he was and whatever he was doing is not the function of my office. I can only concern myself with criminal culpability, of which there is none."