How the 49ers have handled player arrests, criminal charges

College Sports

Since 2012, the 49ers’ front office has more experience dealing with players’ off-field legal issues than any other team in the NFL. During that time, the 49ers have seen an NFL-high 17 player arrests, including allegations of domestic violence that have been dealt with in a variety of ways.

More times than not, the team did not immediately cut ties with its players.

Thursday, following news that Santa Clara County prosecutors filed multiple charges against Reuben Foster, including one felony count of domestic violence, the 49ers issued a statement that did not make any mention of intentions to cut their star linebacker.

“The 49ers organization is aware of today’s disturbing charges regarding Reuben Foster,” the statement reads. “We will continue to follow this serious matter. Reuben is aware that his place in our organization is under great scrutiny and will depend on what is learned through the legal process.”

The majority of players arrested or criminally charged since 2012 were handled during former general manager Trent Baakle’s tenure. John Lynch was named the team’s GM in January, 2017.

Jed York has served as the team’s chief executive officer since 2010.

The charges against Foster, a first-round pick in 2017, stem from an alleged attack Feb. 11 that investigators say left his 28-year-old girlfriend with a ruptured eardrum, according to a news release from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.

During last month’s NFL owners meeting in Florida, York couched his support of Foster.

“We’d love Reuben to be on this team, and we’d love him to participate for us,” York told NBC Sports Bay Area. “But if he’s not doing things off the field that allow us to be able to rely on him – or he’s doing something that we’re not comfortable with off the field and it’s proven that’s what’s going on — I think the guys have said then you’re just going to have to move on.”

The 49ers did not offer the same support to defensive back Tramaine Brock, who was released last April just hours after his arrest in a domestic-violence incident that left his girlfriend with “visible injuries.” Santa Clara County prosecutors declined to filed charges against Brock, who resumed his career with the Minnesota Vikings.

Brock was signed by the 49ers as an undrafted free-agent out of college.

Over the past few years, domestic-violence or sexual assault charges were filed against players who at the time were on the 49ers roster, including Bruce Miller, Ray McDonald and Ahmad Brooks.

McDonald played the majority of the 2014 season, including the team’s opening game in September, just one week after his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence. That November, Santa Clara County prosecutors opted not to file domestic-violence charges against McDonald, citing insufficient evidence and that it appeared the fiancee initiated the physical contact that led to his arrest.

But McDonald was cut by the 49ers in December, 2014, citing ” a pattern of poor decision-making” following a string of off-field incidents. At the time of his release, McDonald was being investigated by San Jose police on a sexual-assault allegation. Prosecutors later filed a rape charge against McDonald, only to drop the charge in April, 2017 when the alleged victim refused to testify.

In August, 2015, Santa Clara County prosecutors filed a misdemeanor sexual battery charge against 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks over an incident with an intoxicated woman at a December house party held at McDonald’s house. Brooks played in 14 games that season, and in 16 games in the 2016 season before being released in August, 2017.

In January, Brooks agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors, and sexual battery charges were reduced to simple battery after a defense lawyer claimed that a Santa Clara County prosecutor had made false statements about the case in a sworn declaration. The defense did acknowledge in a court document that Brooks “touched (the victim) intimately over her pants.”

When Miller was charged in May 2015 with misdemeanor vandalism following a domestic incident, the 49ers took a wait-and-see approach and stated they would “monitor these legal proceedings closely.” Miller eventually pleaded no contest in August 2015 to a misdemeanor disturbing-the-peace charge and was ordered to attend domestic-violence counseling. He remained with the team until September, 2016, when he was released by the 49ers hours after his arrest on suspicion of beating a 70-year-old man with a cane in a drunken assault at a Fisherman’s Wharf hotel.

The former 49er who endured the most legal trouble while with the team was Aldon Smith, who was drafted in the first round (No. 7 overall) in 2011 and was arrested five times during his tenure with the team. In 2013, Smith was allowed to practice with the team just hours after his arrest on suspicion of DUI in San Jose.

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