The boating charges against Winnipeg Jet defenceman Dustin Byfuglien will be decided by a jury.
Mitchell Robinson, the lawyer for the 27-year-old Byfuglien, met this morning with the judge and Hennepin County district attorneys in Minneapolis in a last-ditch chance to come to a resolution, but were unable to do so. As a result, the next step in the case – which stems from an incident last August 31st on Lake Minnetonka in Minneapolis – will be to schedule it for a jury trial on July 23rd.
"We’ll pick a jury then and let a jury decide," said Robinson Thursday when reached by The Free Press. "I’m not surprised. I mean, I’m always optimistic that we can settle these cases, but we’re still so far apart. The prosecutor sees this as a boating-under-the-influence case and I see it as a case of failing to have navigation lights on.
"We’re very far apart. We weren’t able to reach any kind of a fair settlement, so the next step is trial and we’ll see what a jury thinks."
Late last summer Byfuglien was stopped by police on Lake Minnetonka and charged for boating while intoxicated, for initially refusing to take a blood or urine test and for boating without enough flotation devices for the passengers on board and without navigation lights.
In the police statement submitted to court in September a sheriff’s deputy said that when Byfuglien’s boat was pulled over his speech was slurred and that "he was unsteady on his feet, his eyes were bloodshot and watery and he smelled of a consumed alcoholic beverage."
Byfuglien pleaded not guilty on all charges and Robinson had hoped to have the case reduced by having the boating while intoxicated and refusal to take a chemical test charges dropped.
"I remain confident in this," said Robinson. "This has been dragging on for almost a year. The offence date on this was August 31st and our trial date is July 23rd… 11 months. I can’t say that’s too unusual. We’ve had numerous court appearances to try and settle this and I’ve been optimistic that we would reach a settlement. But we haven’t so we move on."
Byfuglien will attend the trial which is expected to last about a week. The Jets, meanwhile, have indicated the organization will not comment on the case is it is before the courts.
Byfuglien is coming off a season in which he played in 66 games for the Jets, finishing with 12 goals and 41 assists for 53 points – second among NHL defencemen. He was to participate in the NHL All-Star Game, but an injury prevented him from playing.