SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, a young defensive star who was viewed as a key building block, was charged Thursday with felony domestic violence and possession of an assault weapon, prosecutors announced.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said the charges stem from a violent attack on his live-in girlfriend at the couple’s Los Gatos home on Feb. 11th.
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Prosecutors said Foster was charged with three felonies — domestic violence with an allegation that he inflected great bodily injury, forcefully preventing a victim from reporting a crime and illegal possession of an assault weapon.
The 28-year-old is also charged with misdemeanor possession of a large caliber weapon. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Foster appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court for arraignment Thursday afternoon.
“Our focus is on holding accountable those who hurt their intimate partners,” said deputy DA Kevin Smith in a prepared statement. “Our office handles between four and five thousand domestic violence cases each year. We only hope that this case illuminates the tragic regularity of the rest.”
The 49ers, who cut then starting cornerback Tremaine Brock in 2017 after he was arrested on domestic violence charges, said Foster would remain on the team roster for now.
“The 49ers organization is aware of today’s disturbing charges regarding Reuben Foster,” the team said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to follow this serious matter. Reuben is aware that his place in our organization is under great scrutiny and will depend on what is learned through the legal process.”
49ers’ cornerback Richard Sherman also attended the brief court hearing, telling reporters, “I’m here to support a teammate.”
Investigators said the alleged assault by Foster left his live-in girlfriend bruised and with a ruptured ear drum.
According to the DA’s office, on Feb. 11th the victim flagged down a stranger’s car driving on Shannon Road in Los Gatos and asked for help. When officers arrived, the girlfriend told them that Foster had dragged by her hair, physically threw her out of the house and punched her 8-10 times in the head.
She was taken to a local hospital and treated for her injuries.
A subsequent search of the couple’s home uncovered an assault weapon — a Sig Sauer 516 — along with a large capacity magazine. Both are illegal to possess in California.
It wasn’t the first time Foster — the 49ers first round draft pick in 2017 — has run into trouble with the law since his rookie season ended. he was arrested in mid-January while being back in Tuscaloosa, Ala. where he starred for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. He has been charged with second-degree marijuana possession.
Foster could face a six-game suspension from the NFL if he is formally charged with domestic violence. A second charge could lead to a lifetime ban.
Former prosecutor and legal analyst Steven Clark told KPIX 5 one big question mark is whether Foster’s girlfriend will testify against him in court.
“In the eventuality that the complaining party does not want to testify in court, you will see the DA proceed anyway because this is such an important case nationally because of the involvement of the NFL and the issue of domestic violence and athletes,” said Clark.
Foster is coming off an outstanding rookie season despite suffering an ankle sprain that sidelined him for five games. He was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for November and finished the season ranked second on the team in tackles (72).
The arrest was just the latest in a woeful recent history of 49ers players of former players running into trouble with the law.
Former 49ers All-Pro linebacker Aldon Smith was in a San Francisco courtroom on Wednesday. He allegedly showed up intoxicated when he arrived at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department last week to have a court-ordered alcohol detection device attached to his body.
Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, Smith appeared in a San Francisco courtroom before a judge who will determine if the former San Francisco 49er and Oakland Raider star can be released again on bail.
Smith has pleaded not guilty to assault, domestic violence, false imprisonment and vandalism charges in connection with an alleged domestic violence incident in which a woman was injured at a Nob Hill apartment on March 3.
Superior Court Judge Ross Moody had ordered Smith to be placed with an ankle monitor and a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM, which detects alcohol consumption through sweat, since Smith had been prohibited from drinking alcohol.
The ankle monitor and SCRAM were ordered because Smith allegedly violated a previous protective order, which prohibited him from contacting the victim in the domestic violence case.
However, prosecutor Courtney Burris said that when Smith showed up to the sheriff’s department on Friday to be placed with the SCRAM, his blood-alcohol content was found to be at .40.
Smith played for the San Francisco 49ers starting in 2011 but was released by the team in August 2015 following an arrest for a DUI hit-and-run in Santa Clara. He signed with the Raiders the next month, but was suspended for a year in November 2015 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policies.