John Morgan, the attorney for the two men who claim to have been shot by Brandon Meriweather in Apopka, Fla., called me back today to clarify those "doubts" he expressed on WEEI earlier today and to reiterate a few things — namely, that he's not saying that Meriweather shot anyone. He's not saying Meriweather did anything at all. He's just repeating what his clients told him.
"I'm not accusing [Meriweather]," he told me. "I've got doubt always. All I know is that two people came in, they lay out this elaborate story, there's a bullet hole in his cheek. They tell me what happened. The Meriweather people won't return our phone calls. We get nothing back from the Patriots. I hope [Meriweather] didn't do it....People do lie, but this'd be a big one. It'd be one thing to say, 'Hey, I was rear-ended.' But it's another thing to say, 'I was shot in the face by Brandon Meriweather who I went to high school with.'"
Morgan confirmed that both victims attended Apopka High School with Meriweather. One played football there. The case was brought to Morgan's attention by a former state government employee, Morgan said. After the victims were released from the hospital, Morgan sent a limousine to pick them up and bring them to his office. The man who'd been shot in the face writhed in pain throughout their meeting, Morgan said. The clients gave him a detailed account of the shooting and the events leading up to it.
"If it's a scam, it's elaborate as hell," Morgan said. "We want to give Brandon Meriweather the benefit of the doubt. I presume that he's innocent until otherwise proven guilty."
A little background on Morgan: He runs a huge personal-injury law firm with offices across the Southeast. Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist recently joined the firm. In 2010, one of Morgan's attorneys won a $46.3 million verdict in a lawsuit against R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. on behalf of a widow who lost her husband to lung cancer.
Earlier this morning, Morgan went on WEEI's Dennis and Callahan and expressed doubt that Meriweather was the triggerman:
I have a lot of doubt about that….That's that these fellas told me. But I don't assume that to be true at all. I assume nothing to be true until we get an investigation completed. Their allegation to me is...that one of the fellas was in a fight with someone else out there and their allegation is that Meriweather shot him and that bullet grazed that fella's head and hit the second client, went through the cheek and head.
This was taken by some as the lawyer undermining the very account he gave us, but the full context of his remarks suggests Morgan was being routinely cautious about a case he hasn't yet fully investigated:
What I gotta do is be very circumspect and make sure that I don't get out in front of this. I'm only responding to this morning. I've been sitting on this thing for a long time because if Brandon Meriweather was not in Florida or if Brandon Meriweather says I didn't do it then I need to take a step back and kind of let my investigation and law enforcement's investigation take its course because there's a lot at stake. This is a young man with a great future and responsibilities....We use the words 'rush to judgment' maybe too much but there's probably nothing more apropos, and I don't want to be the guy who's rushing to judge somebody based on a one-sided conversation with my clients. I'm assuming that what my clients tell me is true. And then I start picking that apart and doing my own investigation. Wait to hear from law enforcement. Take it from there.
Also, the legal guardian for Meriweather told the Boston Herald that Meriweather was in town at the time of the shooting but says accusations that he shot someone are "not true." The Orange County Sheriff's Office told other media that "Meriweather is not listed as a victim, suspect or witness" in any police report involving an alleged shooting.
The Patriots just issued a non-statement: "We are aware of the reported allegation, but do not have any additional information."