Dantrell Savage can get on with his life, now that a Columbus jury has acquitted the former NFL player of all charges stemming from a 2015 drug raid at a Hamilton Road gym he ran.
The jury deliberated about six hours before delivering the verdict at 1:40 p.m., finding the 33-year-old not guilty on charges of possessing methamphetamine, possessing meth with the intent to distribute it, and having a drug-related object.
After a police informant twice bought meth from a friend who was living at Savage Fitness Evolution, the department’s Special Operation Unit raided the business on Oct. 27, 2015, finding about 26 grams of the drug. One gram was under a desk and 25 were concealed in the battery compartment of a flashlight high on a shelf in a storage area.
Officers arrested Savage and his friend Jessie James Smith Sr., who during the trial testified the meth was his, and Savage didn’t know that he had it in the business, or that he was dealing it.
Defense attorney Stacey Jackson said Savage closed the gym afterward, and his life has been on hold ever since.
“Due to the nature of the charges, there were a lot of community service activities and a lot of different things that Dantrell wanted to do, to participate in the community, but obviously, with the charge pending, it held him back from doing that,” Jackson said.
“So, now that the case is over, he’s been exonerated of all charges, now he can get back to the business at hand.”
The attorney declined to specify what Savage plans to do next, in the realm of public service, but said he would like to open another gym.
“After everything unfolded, he just put all that on hold, for the time being, until the case was concluded,” Jackson said.
Savage still faces misdemeanor charges from a traffic stop March 23 at Manchester Expressway and the Warm Springs Connector, where he went live on Facebook to complain about the police. Officers brought a drug-sniffing dog to check Savage’s car before searching it.
They found no drugs, but charged him with misdemeanor obstruction for trying to stop the search, and with having a cracked windshield and failing to maintain his lane.
Jackson said the police Special Operations Unit conducted that traffic stop, and his client’s live online session was a result of his frustration at being detained by the same squad that raided his gym.
“You know they f—–g with me again,” Savage said on the video. “For what particular reason, I don’t know.”
Savage’s misdemeanor charges will be resolved in Muscogee State Court, Jackson said.
During the 2015 raid, investigators found a lot of cash in Savage’s gym: $44,500 in the desk and $1,448 in a wallet with Savage’s Georgia driver’s license in it in a black jacket. Police said they believed the desk was Savage’s, because it had an accident report and some hospital records with his name on them.
Jackson said those records explained the cash: Savage on Oct. 14, 2015, got a $100,000 settlement from being hit by a car. He had just gone through a divorce, and his ex-wife had access to his bank accounts, so he kept some of the settlement funds in cash to keep it out of those accounts.
Smith testified he and Savage had gone to the bank the morning before the police raid, and Savage had a box packed with cash when he came out.
Smith’s testimony likely was a key element in the not-guilty verdict, Jackson said:
“We were fortunate that Mr. Smith did come in and testify that he was responsible for the contraband that was found in the business, so that was helpful, because you don’t oftentimes see that, in a lot of different cases – someone willing to come forward and accept responsibility.”
Police initially charged Smith with selling meth, once on Oct. 7, 2015, and again the following Oct. 15, but those two counts later were dropped. He pleaded guilty Sept. 26, 2016, to possessing meth with the intent to distribute it and possessing a drug-related object.
Judge Ron Mullins sentenced Smith to five years in prison with 36 months to serve. Smith testified he served 18 months before his release.
Smith said he was homeless in 2015 when Savage let him live upstairs at the gym in exchange for helping maintain the building and guarding it against break-ins overnight.
Savage graduated from Columbus’ Jordan High School, and played two seasons with Kansas City after he signed on as an undrafted free agent from Oklahoma State. He played mostly on special teams before he was cut in March 2010.
He was signed to the Carolina Panthers the following August, but released before the 2010-11 season started.