Byfuglien pleads not guilty
Unlikely in court to face charges
|Dustin Byfuglien did not appear in court earlier this week. (Jason Halstead/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien pleaded not guilty to charges related to an alleged impaired boating incident, media outlets are reporting.
Hennepin County court documents show pleas of not guilty were entered.
Byfuglien, who was in Ottawa Thursday to face the Senators, did not appear in court.
A pre-trial hearing is set for Feb. 2.
Dustin Byfuglien’s watery eyes and a brown stain on his tongue were among the alleged signs that prompted police to suspect that the Winnipeg Jets star defenceman was under the influence of drugs while boating in the Minneapolis area in August.
Those indicators, as well as a high blood pressure, a fast pulse and a higher than normal body temperature were also found in the 26-year-old NHL player when a Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office drug recognition expert examined him, according to a police statement to a Minnesota district court.
The cops’ statement forms the basis for four charges against Byfuglien, who is alleged to have been under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while operating a Ranger boat and carrying four passengers on Lake Minnetonka in the Minneapolis suburb of Excelsior, Minn., on Aug. 31.
Word of the specific charges emerged Tuesday as the reborn Jets, with Byfuglien in their lineup, prepared to play their first pre-season home game hours later at MTS Centre against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“While we will continue to support him in this situation, we understand the severity of the charges involved in this case,” said Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and until the continuing legal process is completed, we will have no further comment.”
What police described as “a distinct brown stain on his tongue” was among the indicators that led officers to suspect that Byfuglien was “under the influence of a controlled substance and was unable to safely operate a watercraft.”
The native of Roseau, Minn. — a Stanley Cup winner in 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks — also faces charges of refusing to be subjected to a blood or urine test as well as boating without proper navigational lights and without enough flotation gear for the people on board.
One sheriff’s deputy told the court in the statement that Byfuglien’s “speech was slurred, he was unsteady on his feet, his eyes were bloodshot and watery and he smelled of a consumed alcoholic beverage” after his boat was pulled over.
Byfuglien, who showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.031% in a breath test, was taken to a police water patrol headquarters where the drug recognition expert examined him further.
“Mr. Byfuglien stated that he had taken a muscle relaxer earlier that day, but that he could not remember the name of the muscle relaxer. Mr. Byfuglien stated that he takes a ‘handful’ of supplements from 16 or 17 different bottles every day and that he does not know the names of the supplements,” says the police statement, which the Winnipeg Sun obtained from the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District.
Mitch Robinson, a Minneapolis lawyer representing Byfuglien, did not return a call for comment.