While Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien spends Friday getting ready for the Jets game against Carolina this weekend, his lawyer will be in a Minnesota courtroom entering a plea on Byfuglien’s behalf stemming from a strange boating outing last summer.
“Not guilty,” Minneapolis lawyer Mitchell Robinson said when asked this week how Byfuglien will plead. He did not provide further comment. The hearing is not expected to last long since it is considered a first step in the court process.
Police arrested Byfuglien in August on suspicion of driving his boat drunk on Lake Minnetonka, which is near Minneapolis. Byfuglien passed a breath test, but refused to submit to a blood or urine test. Police called in a “drug-recognition expert” who allegedly concluded Byfuglien “was under the influence of a controlled substance,” according to court filings obtained by The Canadian Press.
“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,” the documents added. Byfuglien also allegedly told police he takes a handful of supplements from 16 or 17 different bottles every day.
Byfuglien was charged with refusing to submit to blood or alcohol testing, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. He was also charged with three misdemeanours – boating while intoxicated, no navigational lights illuminated and insufficient number of personal-flotation devices. Those charges each carry a maximum of 90 days behind bars.
Byfuglien has not commented on the charges and the Jets have said they support him and are monitoring the legal process.
This isn’t Byfuglien’s first run-in with the law. Court records show the 26-year-old paid a $245 fine in 2003 for a misdemeanour charge of drinking underage in his hometown of Roseau, Minn. (Minnesota’s drinking age is 21). A year later he faced another misdemeanour in Roseau of “exhibition driving” and paid a $110 fine.
The Jets have been counting a lot on Byfuglien, who won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 before being traded to Atlanta after that season. He got off to a slow start this season and heading into Thursday’s game in Ottawa he had just two assists, both recorded in the Jets’ loss to Toronto Wednesday.