Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Byfuglien's case sets course for courtroom

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TAMPA, Fla. -- It appears Dustin Byfuglien is going to have his day in court.

Mitchell Robinson, the lawyer for the Winnipeg Jets defenceman, was unable to reach an agreement on his client's boating charges after a conference settlement meeting with the judge and Hennepin County district attorneys in Minneapolis on Thursday.

And while the two sides could still reach an agreement before their next meeting on April 19, it appears the case is likely heading to trial.

On Aug. 31 last summer, Byfuglien was charged with boating while intoxicated on Lake Minnetonka in Minneapolis. He was also charged for initially refusing to take a blood or urine test and for boating without enough flotation devices for the passengers on board and for operating without navigational lights.

He has pleaded not guilty on all charges, and it was Robinson's hope he could get the case reduced by having the boating while intoxicated and refusal to take a chemical test charges dropped.

"We're miles apart. We'll meet again to set a trial date unless we can settle the case in the interim but I'm not hopeful about that," said Robinson. "They want him to agree to the refusal charge and I want them to agree to the operating without lights charge. It doesn't look promising that we'll settle."

Byfugien, 26, returned to the Jets' lineup Thursday night in Tampa after missing 16 games with a knee injury and was not in Minneapolis for the meeting.

While logging a team-high 25:36 in ice time, Byfuglien registered an assist and two shots on goal as the Jets won 2-1 in overtime.

If the case goes to trial, it may not take place until June. Even so, Robinson is confident.

"I'll win," he said. "I'll beat the boating while impaired charge and the refusal to give a chemical sample. They might win on the operating a boat without lights charge because technically he was stopped 21 minutes after sundown. And they likely have a case on the charge of not enough life preservers on board."

In the police statement submitted to court in September, a sheriff's deputy said 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."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

jets report c3

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2012 C1

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