Ex-FSU Kicker Janikowski Acquitted

Wednesday, June 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — With his legal troubles over, All-America kicker Sebastian Janikowski is headed west to begin his professional career with the Oakland Raiders.

A six-person jury needed only 50 minutes Tuesday to acquit Janikowski. He was charged with offering a Tallahassee policeman $300 to release his roommate after an argument with a bouncer who wouldn't let him into a local nightclub.

``You've just got to be careful,'' said Janikowski, who immediately left the courthouse with his father Henryk for a stop at his attorney's office, and then home to pack for an early morning flight.

``I haven't been to California much,'' the former Florida State kicker said. ``I don't know how it is out there.''

Janikowski, the first kicker in 21 years to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft, was scheduled to begin four days of workouts Wednesday with the Raiders.

``He can move on now with his career,'' Janikowski's agent, Paul Healy, said Tuesday. ``I think he's learned a very valuable lesson throughout this whole matter.''

Janikowski faced up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine and possible deportation if convicted.

The prosecution's lead witness, former Tallahassee police officer Chris Knight, said Janikowski tried to bribe him Jan. 23 with three $100 bills outside an all-night downtown club.

``He started counting it out to me, smiling,'' testified Knight, who recently left the Tallahassee Police Department and now works for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The defense argued that Janikowski, 22, was simply trying to help out a friend and never had any intention of breaking the law. They claimed Janikowski may easily have misunderstood what was happening because he's only been in the country for six years and is still trying to master the English language.

``My mom always told me actions speak louder than words,'' assistant State Attorney Lee Jantzen said in his closing argument. ``You don't just throw money at a police officer without some kind of an arrangement.''

But the defense said Janikowski thought he could keep his roommate, Aaron Silverman, 26, from going to jail by paying a fine on the spot.

``On that evidence, I just couldn't see how that jury could return a verdict of guilty with the doubt that permeated this whole thing,'' defense attorney Deeno Kitchen said. ``You'd have to believe he's a liar and a perjurer.''

Janikowski's agent was admonished by the court for a celebratory outburst following the verdict. Healy let out a whoop and began to use his cell phone in the courtroom, angering Circuit Judge George Reynolds III.

Reynolds, however, decided against a fine after Healy apologized.